As a younger millennial, I pretty much grew up with social media. I had an MSN account in middle school, and I got on Facebook just as I was starting high school. These were the days when you had one family computer, in a designated room in the house, and you could only use it for an allotted amount of time. Cell phones were extremely basic and were solely used to send text messages or make phone calls, and you’d have to lug around your digital camera everywhere you went if you wanted to take pictures. So if my pre-teen-aged self could see my iPhone today, equipped with a full keyboard (*casually shivers while thinking about T9*) and a far better camera than anything I had ever used, or if she could grasp the fact that I don’t have a heart attack every time I accidentally press the internet icon, then she’d probably think I had made it BIG. That I was living in some sort of dream world and things couldn’t possibly get any better.

What I wouldn’t have realized at the time, however, is that this constant connection would quite literally mean… constant connection. A world where you could receive instant gratification and validation at the touch of a button. Which sounds fun, until you realize that it means we’re very rarely alone. If we’re out for dinner and our date gets up to use the washroom, we can fill our time with scrolling through other people’s lives. Or if we go to the washroom, our phone comes too so we don’t need to be alone. This isn’t to say that social media is all bad (in fact, I think it’s created some amazing opportunities for so many people), but it does mean that it’s becoming harder to be alone, which can make the times we are alone much more uncomfortable.

Aloneness and loneliness are two different things. Loneliness is a negative and painful emotion – you can be in a room full of people but still feel lonely if you’re feeling ignored, neglected, or disconnected. Aloneness, however, is the physical state of being by yourself. You can be alone and happy, or alone and lonely. When your date gets up to use the washroom, you likely are going to dealing more with aloneness than loneliness. However, if you’re feeling excluded by your coworkers or neglected in your relationship, then you may feel lonely.

The reason why it’s so important to get comfortable with being alone is that it’s important to get comfortable being WITH yourself. There’s a depressing yet eerily accurate quote that goes: “even your shadow leaves you in the darkness”. People will come and go, sometimes in the most surprising ways. We may find that some people disappear when we’re struggling, whereas other people are nowhere to be found when we’re thriving. Everybody has their own story – their own internal demons that seem to manifest in strange ways. These feelings are often buried in their own subconscious brain and are entirely unknown to the person. When they see you going through something, whether it’s positive or negative, it can trigger specific feelings in themselves. Regardless of what happens in life or who else is around, you will always be by your own side. And while it’s amazing and encouraging to have the support of others on your side, it’s also important to feel that for yourself, too. The goal we want to achieve is to become comfortable being alone so we rely on our own internal validation for our self-worth.

External vs Internal Validation

When we were children, weessentially relied on external validation for our survival. We quickly learned to look to our parental figures and guardians to navigate what is right and wrong – what is safe and what is not. As we grew, so did our external validation. When we were told we did well on a test, we may have believed we were both smart and worthy of good grades. When we were told we were good at soccer, we may have believed that we were great at sports and a good team player. When we were told we could draw well, we may have believed that we were creative and artistic. 

Receiving external validation isn’t necessarily all bad. We are social creatures, and hearing we’re on the right path can be the push we need to keep going. Or, having someone sympathize with our struggles can validate that it’s safe to feel these feelings. External validation isn’t necessarily the problem on its own, the problem is when it replaces our own internal validation altogether, or when we use other’s validation to manifest our own struggles or fears.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have our own limiting beliefs. These beliefs are often held deep in our subconscious brain and try to tell us that we are not good enough. When we rely too heavily on external validation, not only are we fighting against our own limiting beliefs, but the limiting beliefs of those around us, too. We also often do this without even realizing it. If you’ve saved up and decided you want to buy a new designer purse, but your best friend, who is always struggling for money, meets you with a ton of negativity and criticism, you may begin to second guess your decision. Hearing things like “why would you waste your money on that,” or “wow, I could never afford something like that, must be nice,” can make you start to believe the same things, too.

Being alone, doing things on our own, and making our own decisions teaches us to learn how to trust ourselves. It forces us to shift our validation internally to begin relying on ourselves. The more we get comfortable trusting ourselves and validating ourselves, the more we can believe in all that we are capable of.

Let’s talk Self-Worth

Your self-worth is how worthy you view yourself. When you feel loveable and have a sense of belonging, your self-worth is likely high. On the contrary, when you’re thinking poorly of yourself and feel undeserving of good things, your self-worth is likely low. How you view yourself impacts virtually everything you do. From the jobs you apply for, to the events you say yes to, to the opportunities you seek. When you think you’re worthy of it, you’ll have a much easier time going after what you want.

Having high self-worth differs from cockiness. Cockiness can come from a place of lack, fear, insecurity, and a need to prove to themselves or others that they deserve something. Subconsciously, however, someone who is cocky may not believe they are good enough or worthy of what they want. When we don’t spend time alone working on our own needs, identifying our limiting beliefs, and getting comfortable with who we are, our insecurities can manifest in unhealthy ways for ourselves, and potentially off-putting for others.

When we get comfortable with spending time alone, we allow ourselves to work through our limiting beliefs, and we can think more highly of ourselves. The more highly we think of ourselves, the more confident we can become in our choices, beliefs, and ourselves in general.

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How to be alone

We’ve gone over why you should be alone, but now let’s talk about how. Since many of us aren’t used to being alone, where to begin may feel confusing. Spending time alone doesn’t necessarily mean jumping straight into a 10-minute meditation and beginning a complete spiritual journey. Spending time alone can look like taking up a new hobby by yourself (whether it’s in a group setting or alone), exploring your interests, or going to the art gallery by yourself. It can look like going for a walk in your neighbourhood, taking yourself to the movies, or taking yourself out for dinner. Being alone can also look like going to therapy and reflecting on what you’ve discussed after your session. Regardless of what you do, just make sure you’re safe. If you need to tell someone where you’re going ahead of time, do that. Being alone and working on yourself does not mean ignoring safety concerns or your personal wellbeing.

Our world is moving to a more digital space: how we learn, work, and socialize have all drastically changed. It can be so easy to find ourselves sucked into everyone else’s lives, that we forget how to be alone. Spend some time on your own, learn who you are, what you like, what you need, and who you want to become.

Spending Time Alone May Be Exactly What You Need