Do you enjoy your own company?
This is your life—are you loving it? Living a happily single life means getting comfortable with doing things on our own and enjoying our own company. Given the circumstances of the last two years, we single folk have had a crash course in spending time alone. There’s a difference, though, between marking time alone and enjoying your own company.
While not exactly the same, what I’m getting at is akin to the difference between being lonely and being alone. Loneliness crushes us, and it can become a self-perpetuating destructive cycle. Being alone is simply not being with other people. Being alone can be a joyful experience, if we like ourselves and do things that make us happy. In this post, we’ll cover three steps to help us do this.
It's hard to know if you enjoy your own company if you're never actually in it
The entertainments are here to keep us from ever spending time with ourselves
The last couple of years all but took that option away from us, unless we did it over Zoom, and our gatherings in person have been tinged with risk and fear. And, so, we turn to the entertainments—how many streaming subscriptions do you have? I have several. A friend got me obsessed with Wordle, and I know that I’ve taken my dad and at least three friends with me.
All this is to say that I love the entertainments. I also spend a lot of time on social media, too much, really, but I’ve allowed myself more during this time as an inferior way to spend time with people. It’s hard to know if you enjoy your own company if you’re never actually in it.
I have experienced loneliness, too
From time to time over the course of this pandemic, I have experienced some loneliness. In particular, Delta broke out, I had just gotten back into the swing of being out in the world again. Sure, many of my activities were things that I did alone—I went to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum and on a whale watch by myself. I had a blast.
However, I also started going out to dinner and drinks with my friends. I hugged my friends for the first time in a year and a half. Heck, I even hugged nearly all of my coworkers at an after-work event. I had an actual social calendar again that didn’t involve a ton of risk calculation.
And, then you know what happened. That hit me, like it hit a lot of us. While I have cultivated a lot of inner reserves and genuinely do enjoy my own company, I felt lonely and angry. I wanted my life back, and I was sick of being alone all the time. The first time I really cried over the impact that Covid had had on my life (as opposed to all of the suffering in the world) was over the summer. I think that was a pretty normal reaction, but I couldn’t stay there and live a healthy life.
Being alone can be absolutely awesome, if we know ourselves and feel that we are deserving of doing things that make us happy
I called on my inner reserves
My inner reserves kicked in, and soon I was back to enjoying my own company again. Mostly. When Delta receded, I had started venturing out more again, and when I got my booster, I figured this was it for feeling at risk.
I certainly do feel less at risk personally, but, given the severity of the Omicron outbreak here in my community, I’ve turned back inward for a time. I’m really sick of wearing masks and not meeting up with friends out in the world, but, if you’re going to have a little time indoors, January’s a time when I become a bit of a hermit anyway. Cases are heading straight down, and, if the trend continues, I’ll feel more comfortable getting my boosted self back out into the world in a limited fashion.
Even in that joyous time, though, I’ll still spend much of my time alone, and I’ll enjoy it. For being alone can be absolutely awesome, if we know ourselves and feel that we are deserving of doing things that make us happy.
3 Steps to help you learn to enjoy your own company more
If we want to enjoy our own company, we need to learn how to do things that make us happy on our own. This exercise is designed to help us identify things that we love to do but that our friends (or, for those non-single folk playing along, significant others) do not. There’s three steps:
- Make a I Love to Do This List
- Take time to think and reflect
A note before we begin
Before we begin, now seems like a good time to say that if you are experiencing serious loneliness, this isn’t the cure. If you need professional help, please get it. I have professional help, and I think that everyone can benefit from it no matter how well we’re doing, but it’s critical at points in our lives.
This exercise can stir things up. Along with excitement over the idea of getting to do things we want to, it’s possible to that this might stir up feelings of regret, anger and resentment, among others. While possibly difficult to face, it’s important that we do this. We need to recognize where we’re holding ourselves back so that we can do something about it.
1. Make a I Love to Do This List
Remember when we talked about lists being magic? We’re going to cast another spell.
This time, instead of places we want to go, you’re going to make a list of things that you love to do that your friends (or, for those non-single folk playing along, significant others) do not. Then you’ll circle any activity that you could conceivably do by yourself and check ones that you aren’t currently doing.
For the sake of making this list actionable, at least one activity on this list should be something that you could do in the next day or so by yourself.
It’s time to stop waiting. This is your life.
Is there something that makes you happy that you aren’t doing?
What aren’t you doing? Often, as we grow older, there are things that we have stopped doing, or never started, because we’ve been waiting for someone to do them with us. Or maybe waiting for approval or permission.
It’s time to stop waiting. This is your life.
It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that you love it
Maybe it’s music that makes your soul sing and your best friend can’t stand. Or art. Or stupid schlocky comedy. Hiking.
Art house cinema. Dance. Macrame. That new restaurant.
It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that you love it. Write it down.
My example: dance
There are a lot of things that I feel perfectly comfortable doing by myself. I’ve flown all over the place to countries where I don’t speak anything more than pleasantries. I go to the movies. I’ve taken myself out to Michelin starred restaurants. Concerts. Museums. There’s very little that gives me paused when faced with the option of doing it by myself or not at all. Many things I prefer to do by myself.
Here’s one that I still haven’t really mastered yet—dancing.
I love to dance. I’m pretty good at it, too. I took lessons as a child and teenager, and I spent a lot of time in clubs. I used to take classes. I love it.
I talked myself out of doing what I love to do
Somewhere along the line, I stopped. Many of friends like to dance, and, in the happy Befores, I used to join them sometimes at shows. However, we dance to different beats. They don’t like mine.
I’ve made a bunch of excuses. I live on a third floor, and it’s not neighborly to dance (fair). Clubs are a young person’s game (which does not have to be true—I have friends who still do this and they are way older than I am, and they do it in a healthy way). I’ve lost some moves (true, but that should not matter, and I could get some of them back).
I added “Dance” to my list
When I wrote about my little game for remembering to do my favorite things, a friend on Instagram made her own deck. One of her cards: Dance to loud music. Brilliant! I replied. I am stealing that one. That’s a card I pass by most days. I’d like to change that.
So, as part of my own I Love to Do This List, I wrote down and circled “Dance to music I love” and then checked it.
You deserve to do things you enjoy, and part of this involves doing things that you love to do, even if no one else wants to do them with you
You have a list of activities you love to do that no one else in your life does. Excellent. We’re going to have us a think. Sit with your list in silence for a few minutes. If this really unnerves you, set a timer for yourself, maybe for ten minutes.
Why aren’t you doing the things you love to do?
Think about why you aren’t doing things you love to do. You deserve to do things you enjoy, and part of this involves doing things that you love to do, even if no one else wants to do them with you. Sit with your feelings for a few minutes.
What would it feel like to do them, even if you have to do them by yourself?
Try, however, to also picture yourself doing the things that you love to do, as well, and how that would make you feel. My friend and coach Emily suggests trying to engage all of your senses while envisioning things that you desire. Much like writing the list, it’s a little magic. I’ve tried this, and it works. Envision doing them on your own. It might take a little doing, but my guess is that would feel empowering to you.
My example: dance
I thought about the real reasons why I left dance off my list. A big one is that dancing by myself means that no one is dancing with me. This is a last little outpost. I engaged in self-destructive behavior at points in my life that involved dancing (see clubs in my youth above), and it stemmed from loneliness. In my mind, dance has become a third rail.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m not the same person I used to be, because I have worked hard on accepting myself and enjoying my own company. I’m healthier now.
So, I pictured myself dancing, just me, getting down to music that I love. I remembered what it felt like in my body to dance, the muscle memory of it. I remembered how I would just get lost in the music—in a good way, the best way, sometimes—and just move. I remembered smiling, laughing. I remembered feeling joyfully alive.
Do an activity that you love to do, and do it by yourself
So, we have a list, and we’ve had ourselves a think. It’s time to act. Perhaps you have reached that blissful state where there is nothing on your list that you aren’t doing already, but my guess is that there’s something. It’s time to act.
Do an activity that you love to do, and do it by yourself. Even if it is just for a few minutes. Play that music, do that macrame that’s been sitting in your closet for years. If it’s safe where you are, go get that dinner.
For me, I put on some electronica, and I got down for twenty minutes last night. I felt self-conscious at first, but then I felt absolutely alive. I’m going to do it again tonight.
What did you do? How did it feel to you? Please let me know in the comments
Continue to sit with your list, asking yourself the same questions. Try to envision ways that you might try another item on it. Keep going. We’ll talk more about how to take on bigger challenges on our lists in the coming weeks.
This is your life. You deserve to enjoy your own company.