How to be okay is a series that aims to help readers overcome a variety of life and relationship problems. It’s run by Ellen Nguyen, the founder of Tingly Mind.
For each article, a guest writer will start the conversation and offer their best insights on a given topic. Ellen will then add her opinions. The first article of this series was about ghosting.
Today’s writer is Yvonne Diep! Yvonne previously contributed to the site under the name Musing Mosaic. Her biggest purpose in writing is to connect with emotions, especially vulnerable ones, because she believes emotions are universal in human experiences and can bring us all together.
In this article, we would like to discuss: How to be okay when you’re all alone. We hope that readers can apply our insights to the current COVID-19 situation and know that we’re all in this together.
Being alone for some people may feel extremely daunting. The thought of it can be paralysing — the ticking seconds on the clock screeches to a standstill as you think of the upcoming days and weeks of spending all this time by yourself.
In your mind, being alone might have a direct association with being sad, lonely, and bored, but let this piece give you the strength to break that negative preconceived notion you’ve wrongly been led to believe.
There is a world of a difference between being alone and being lonely.
Ever heard of the cliche question, “Why is it that I feel so lonely standing in a crowded room full of people?”? The feeling of loneliness stems from being misunderstood or unwanted or an irrevocable desire to be with a certain someone. It means no matter where you are on this Earth, you’re not present in your current surroundings.
To be alone and present, however, can be empowering and doesn’t have to be lonely. These are the precious moments that you get to spend with yourself to discover who you are, clear out the voices in your head by listening to each and every passing thought, and explore what kind of internal dialogues is housed within your mind.
Being alone gives you the strength to realise that your own company is indeed the most rewarding and insightful; that no one knows you better than you know yourself and no one in this world is responsible for your own happiness and health apart from you.
So how do you actually learn to be okay when you’re all alone? How do you go from fearing that dreaded idea of sitting on your bedroom floor with no one to turn to to embracing the concept of untangling the world within you and bringing to light who you really are?
The first and most important step of this is to face the fear of being alone.
Immerse yourself in the presence of you and only you. Understand that this is your foundation. Your mind, spirit, and body are always connected as one, and failing to accept who you are in entirety is only going to cause chaos and fractures for your future and those close to you.
Burying these anxious feelings of being alone by seeking toxic relationships or yearning for possessions or beauty or status is only going to widen the distance between who you appear to the world and who you truly are at the core. Learning to be by yourself is, in essence, allowing yourself to confront everything you try to run away from and everything you are uncomfortable about yourself.
The second step is to practice.
The more time you spend by yourself, the easier it becomes and the more you learn about what you like and dislike as well as how you might behave in different situations.
When you remove the influence and presence of other people, you come to learn your behaviours and your preferences because there is no one else to make decisions for you and no external factors to influence your thoughts. When you’re alone, there is no one else to please other than yourself.
Thus comes the final and most important step: Learn to rely on yourself for happiness.
The more you spend time alone, the more you’re able to fine-tune and learn what you like and don’t like — whether that be a simple thing or a challenging problem. That’s the beauty of it all — you’re in the driver seat and there’s no one else telling you how or what you should do. This is where the wonderful foundation of your self-development journey gets built.
These are the moments you get to choose your coloured building blocks of Tetris and layer them exactly the way you want them to be. This is where you finally get to see that being alone is actually the complete opposite of feeling anxious and sad and lonely — it’s empowering, marvelous, and incredibly liberating.
The strength of independence is wildly attractive because once you’ve mastered the art of being alone, there is no more void inside of you to fill with material possessions or superficial relationships that don’t genuinely fulfil you. When you have successfully learned to be alone, any person who comes along will be able to see you and love you for everything you are — all the things you have discovered about yourself and bravely surfaced to light.
I agree. Being alone doesn’t have to be sad. It can be a beneficial time for you to discover yourself and do things you didn’t have time for in the past. However, if you’re feeling sad, there are a few ways that I would deal with it.
First, I would ask myself whether I could take any actions to resolve the problem. In this case, that might be contacting my family and friends, chatting to people online, participating in internet forums, or saying hi to my neighbours (while keeping a safe distance in the era of COVID-19). If there’s nothing I can do or doing any of the aforementioned doesn’t help, then I would learn to change my attitude towards being alone as Yvonne has suggested.
If this doesn’t work either, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in the way you feel. It’s okay to feel lonely. I understand. I have been there and I personally know many people who are currently feeling lonely and sad. If you’re feeling particularly depressed, please know that there is help available, there are numbers to call, there are people to talk to who want you to feel better.
During the last eight years practically alone in a foreign country, I’ve relied on crisis helplines and mental health professionals. I have learned to open up myself and let friends and family — and sometimes even strangers — to take care of me. I have learned to be alone with myself too. The last one is the most important. It’s a life-changing experience that will give stability and meaning to all other experiences.
After all, I believe in our ability to adapt as humans, in our resilience and passion for life. This hard time will pass. We will be okay.