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Lifestyle & Relationships

How to be Alone: Mastering the Art of Self-Reliance

Country of Origin: Ireland

(Audio recording by Julianna Wages)

Throughout my life, I have always been scared of being alone. I would avoid lone bus journeys. I couldn’t sit still, constantly needing the company of others to occupy my anxious mind. I got addicted to socializing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it became a problem when I was doing it to escape myself. 

I broke up with my boyfriend a few months into the start of the pandemic after almost two years of an extremely toxic relationship. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only did I have to adjust to being newly single, but I was single during a period of complete social isolation.

An extreme feeling of loneliness overcame me instantly and I craved company and constant reassurance from my friends and family. 

The worst part about this was that it happened to be the final year of my undergraduate degree, so I was pretty much confined to being alone. This is most likely how I landed myself in a toxic relationship in the first place. The honeymoon period of the relationship satiated my need for closeness and companionship. When it was all over, my long-forgotten fear began to materialize, and I could not run away — I had to face my loneliness head on.

My journey to self-reliance

In this sense, the breakup kick started my journey to self-reliance.

At first, the feeling of loneliness was just too overbearing and heartbreaking. I lived in a state of constant fear and anxiety. I compared myself to others who seemed happier, more confident and less alone.

Hand writing a letter
(Photo courtesy of Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

Then, something changed.

I embraced being alone; I fell in love with it. 

I had the opportunity to learn who I was as an individual. I had time to fall in love with writing again. I had time to pamper myself. It was basically a time of well-needed, much-deserved rest.I learned that being alone is not scary or bad. I learned that being lonely and being alone are two very separate entities; being alone is being your own best friend, and that it does not mean that you are lonely.

The confidence to soar

I learned to step outside of my comfort zone. I applied to a master of arts in literature and culture in a new university and got accepted. I completed it by myself, making friends and connections with the new-found confidence I had acquired. 

Image of Rebecca Pollard with an excited look on her face
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Fennelly)

I let go of other toxic relationships and environments  that I had been too afraid to quit. I said goodbye to friendships that did not serve my growth. I left my underpaid and underappreciated job. By overcoming my fear of loneliness and isolation, I was able to rid my life of the pain I had learned to endure and opened myself up to more positive opportunities and connections. 

I learned to pour myself into my work and my passions rather than into my fear of loneliness. In turn, I was able to pour life and passion back into myself. I picked up my pen again. I not only wrote passionately in assignments, but I also wrote for my own creative pleasure. I did it for me, and I did it alone.

This time alone gave me a chance to think about what I wanted for my life, where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do and achieve. 

Of course, this did not mean that I spent all this time in complete social isolation. I did spend time with family and friends, and I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. However, I did not cling to them like before. A new sense of independence was born in me.

Two years later, I am planning to move away from home — something I used to fear. I don’t find myself waiting for others or relying on them to do something I want for myself. I get up and I do it for myself. 

It may still be daunting sometimes, but the art of self-reliance is an ongoing process. Although it is more comforting to cling to others for safety and validation, it is far more exciting to experience life on your own terms. I urge every person to do it and watch your whole life change for the better. You’re not alone when you have yourself. 

Takeaway points from me to you

  • Do not fear being alone. You are never really alone when with yourself.
  • Invest time in your hobbies and passions. Investing time in yourself is time not wasted. It is a necessary part of self-care and personal development. Only good can come from this.
  • Let go of what no longer serves you. Leave your toxic people and environments behind and watch space open up in your life for more positivity to enter. 
  • Pamper yourself; you deserve it! Take care of yourself through small rewards such as buying yourself new clothes or getting your hair done. It is true that money can’t buy happiness, but treating yourself when you need it is important for showing yourself the respect you deserve. 
  • Do something that scares you—it might be the best thing you ever did! Go for lunch by yourself in that cafe you always wanted to try, or book a solo trip to somewhere you have always wanted to go to or visit.

Thank you to Brooklyn Riepma and Julianna Wages for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Lifestyle & Relationships team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Rebecca Pollard is a freelance creative writer and editor with a BA in Literature and Philosophy, and MA in Literature and Culture. She is an insanely inspired writer and ever-curious learner. Writing about self-development, spirituality, relationships, and more. Get in touch on LinkedIn here: www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-pollard-a01aa7221/

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