In my Mastering the Art of Aloneness workshops — attended by singles and people in relationships — I ask participants what they associate with the word "aloneness." I hear the same responses over and over. "Lonely." "Unwanted." "Afraid." Whether single or part of a couple, many people perceive aloneness as something to avoid rather than embrace.
This mindset is no surprise. From childhood, we're conditioned to view aloneness as something to pity, fear, or feel ashamed of. Parents become anxious when their children don't have play dates. Teenagers' self-esteem is based on how many friends they have. And, all too often, adults measure each other's well-being by whether or not they have a significant other.
Mastering the art of aloneness is not about being alone. It means living a life in which you feel whole and happy, and can take care of yourself emotionally and financially. It involves embracing aloneness as an opportunity to develop the self-awareness and life skills needed to live a full and gratifying life — whether you're living it alone or with someone else.
Pursuing self-mastery not only enhances the quality of your relationship with yourself, but it changes your relationships with others. Instead of expecting another person to make you whole, you engage in relationships with a sense of being complete on your own. Self-sufficiency builds self-esteem, allowing you to participate in relationships with others out of conscious choice, rather than out of neediness or fear of being alone.
By actively embracing your aloneness, you create new results in every aspect of your life. Below are a few of many steps you can take to strengthen your relationship with yourself and use the state of "aloneness" to develop greater self-esteem, personal fulfillment, and financial security.
Learn about and develop who you are. Imagine how life would be if we all put as much energy into developing a healthy and loving relationship with ourselves as we do in our relationships with others. Personal development work (coaching, workshops, therapy, etc.) allows you to better understand your strengths and passions, the influences that have shaped who you've become, and to live life by deliberation versus by default.
Develop an inner support system. Deploy stress-reducing strategies by getting enough sleep and exercise, meditating, scheduling leisure activities, extending compassion to yourself through supportive "self talk" ("Great job!", "You're magnificent!", etc.), and maintaining a diet that supports your well-being.
Develop an outer support system. Build friendships with people who support who you really are, and utilize external resources to help you achieve your full potential (a holistic physician, nutritionist, fitness trainer, etc.).
Take financial control. Make a list of your monthly expenses and income. If you live beyond your means, you need to alter your lifestyle or develop a plan for earning the money to support it. Being financially dependent on another person is a risk; if that person disappears from your life, so does your financial security and quality of life.
Do work you love, in which you can excel. The smaller the gap between who you are in your personal life and who you are at work, the happier you will be. A job aligned with your strengths and passions makes going to work a joy, versus a daily source of frustration.
Create and live your ideal life. Write the book you long to write, buy your dream home, start your own business, interview for your dream job. Instead of waiting for someone else to provide the life conditions to which you aspire, take action to bring them to fruition.