I’ve previously talked about codependency but this time I’m going to cover learning to be alone. Feeling fulfilled and happy whilst being alone is one of my biggest struggles. It’s not that being alone makes me specifically sad or anything, I just feel sort of off when I’m not in a relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how fucked up that is. And I’ve been actively trying to deal with it for a while. Not half-assing it but truly trying to find out what’s causing my issues and how to overcome them. No matter how painful it may be in the moment. I’m still working on it and have a way to go, but here’s what I’ve learnt so far.
Affection VS Attention
One of the biggest helps for me has been learning to differentiate between affection and attention. In general the differences are pretty clear, people are affectionate to those they care about, and people give attention to things that intresting. However the differences between the two are a lot harder to discern if you’re desperate for one or the other.
Suddenly the lines between the two are blurred, leading to settling for vague (often sexual) attention when what you want is affection. The attention is hollow, without meaning behind it, and when it fades you’re left with a sense of emptiness. It’s pretty easy to fall into a cyclic pattern here: seeking attention, being sad it isn’t enough, then seeking even more attention.
This is totally avoidable though! It just requires a lot of trust. You have to trust that people give affection to those they care about. That if someone is interested in you they’ll show it, and if they can’t then they’re not worth your time. This process of trust involves building a genuine and open connection with people, instead of falling back on old habits out of fear.
In the long run differentiating between affection and attention can only be a good thing. You’ll be able to notice when someone is seriously interested in you, and be more aware of when people are trying to show you love.
Recognise Your Patterns
Our behavioural patterns are what dictate the majority of our lives. For the most part we all stick to our regular patterns of behaviour, if these are good patterns then that great. But when those patterns are destructive or unhelpful it can be a massive pitfall.
In order to be comfortable being alone you should put time into learning your patterns. By that I mean focusing on the different negative actions you take when feeling alone. For example, I used to go pretty far out of my way for male sexual attention when I’d feel alone. If that meant making impulsive and risky choices that I knew would end poorly then I often wouldn’t care.
Thankfully I’ve managed to stop doing that. But it took recognising the patterning, and understanding how unhappy it made me, in order to overcome it. Whilst you’re patterns might not be as dramatic you’re sure to have some. Getting them under control and learning to focus on other things is the main way to move forward. Being alone is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about the consequences of your negative actions.
Focus on Yourself
This is the fun part that can be made into a movie montage! Start focusing on yourself, improving your life in whatever ways you want one- step at a time. The biggest positive of being alone is that you have so much more time for yourself. It might not seem fun at first but you can really get a lot of shit done with that extra time.
This doesn’t just mean looking at the big picture either, take the time to practice mindfulness and really get to know yourself. In order to learn to be alone you have to be comfortable in your own company. Maybe get a new hobby, meditate, read more- but learning to spend comfortable time with yourself is key.
Don’t worry, you don’t suddenly have to live in total isolation, or avoid seeing new people. You just need to be confident and comfortable enough with yourself to handle genuine time.
So those are my best tips for being alone! It’s by no means a complete list but it should give you a starting point for getting to know yourself, valuing and understanding your relationships, and breaking negative behavioural patterns.
Being alone can feel like shit at times, but really it’s not all that bad.
You just have to learn to like yourself more.