There’s a lot to be said for being happy in your own company.
If you’re contented in isolation and can function successfully in daily life without being propped up or surrounded by others, it feels good. When you have others around you, that feels like an added bonus rather than an essential of life.
Company becomes the icing on the cake rather than a necessity for existence.
I’m a father of four, a husband, an actively participating member of team at work, and a guy with an averagely-sized circle of friends. It just so happens that I also spend large periods of my daily life quite alone, by choice, and I love it.
I fill all these roles to the best of my abilities and invest myself in strengthening and nurturing each of those relationships.
Crucially though, I don’t rely on them to provide support or comfort over and above what I can provide for myself. I don’t lean on them. I don’t depend on them in order to feel a sense of certainty.
I love my family and appreciate my friends and co-workers, but I don’t need to be around them all the time in order to feel contented and settled.
“We should devote ourselves to being self-sufficient and must not depend upon the external ratings by others for our happiness”
This piece is about the joy that comes from being okay with being alone, from being self-reliant and self-sufficient and able to live successfully in the silence (or at least without being reliant on the presence of others).
I’m not advocating a life spent hiding from others or avoiding interaction. Social contact is a human need and we thrive as part of a tribe or pack.
What I do believe is that relationships with others are formed on a more solid foundations when we are individually self-reliant and complete in ourselves first and foremost and seek contact out of desire for enrichment rather than need.
Here are some ways in which this has manifested in my own life to illustrate how I’ve arrived at this view.
I routinely live in one of two separate homes; one with my wife and step kids, and for alternate weeks in an apartment, with my daughter from my first marriage. My eldest daughter flew the nest and went to University over a year ago and I see her even less frequently.
My two-centred life means that I live much of the time out of a suitcase and am always apart from some of my nearest and dearest. The constant that I rely upon wherever I am and whoever I’m with, is in being self-assured, capable and comfortable with my own company and my own thoughts.
For half my life I’m around my wife, and the other half I’m not. It’s always been that way since we met after we’d both divorced from our first marriages. We each had established structures in place for the raising and schooling of our respective kids and have chosen to maintain those.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and while we miss each other when not together, we’re both fully self-reliant and self-sustaining in our daily lives when apart and when together. Perhaps it was in parting from our first marriages that we learned how to be truly comfortable with being alone, certainly as single parents?
For much of the time in either home I spend my time alone, and solitude is an important and valued part of how I choose to live my life.
I work from home, and it’s an arrangement that I love. I’m empowered by my main client to keep flexible working hours and my team is distributed around the country and the world. I communicate with them regularly by phone, instant message groups and email and feel a part of the team as a result.
My working time is free of distraction and I can work in silence or with music in the background as a I choose. To work in isolation might be unpalatable for some, but it’s my optimal state. I don’t rely on being around others for motivation, support, conversation or to keep me accountable or to be productive.
I start each day with an early morning walk in the countryside, rarely seeing another person. The quiet and restorative feeling of being out in nature is refreshing, and gives me a chance to prepare myself mentally for the day ahead, to work through thoughts and ideas in my mind. Such isolation is beneficial in lifting me up out of the noise, away from the distractions, alerts and interruptions that barge into my life, demanding attention.
For many, isolation gives rise to loneliness and the desire for social contact becomes a need for company. When this becomes the norm, it erodes the ability for the individual to thrive in their own company and burdens their relationships with a sense of attachment to the people around them. They believe they can only be happy when in the company of others.
Self-reliance is a skill that requires practice and courage. To be disciplined without supervision demands effort. To be self-dependent but to open your soul to be loved is a delicate balance to strike.
The efforts put in to attain all these states are well worth putting in for the effects they can bring to your life.
“Everyone wants to be strong and self-sufficient, but few are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve worthy goals.”
I don’t need the company of others to feel relaxed, safe or at peace. Certainly it’s welcome, but not relied upon as a crutch or support for feeling those things in myself.
I know that I’m part of many social groups, a family unit, a tribe, a team at work and a community. I don’t need to be constantly around others in order to be reminded of this or to believe in it.
I don’t need to be in the same physical office as my co-workers in order to remain disciplined in my work or to maintain my place in the social hierarchy.
I don’t need to constantly be around my wife in order to love her and to believe she loves me in return. I’ve written before that I believe the critical trait to possess in order to enter into a successful relationship, is to be self-reliant and attuned to our own needs.
This comes about from being comfortable alone and in ourselves first and foremost, before becoming involved with others.
Self-reliance doesn’t demand that we isolate ourselves, hermit-like from the outside world. It’s not about hiding from others, avoiding contact, or negating the enormous benefits that come from social interaction. We are all enriched through our interactions with others and we enrich the lives of others through our contact and through our mere existence.
As I live my life and raise my kids I become ever more convinced of the power of being comfortable in my own skin, self-reliant and emotionally self-sufficient. I hope that I’m equipping them to be the same way, as feeling happy and complete in myself is one of the things for which I’m most grateful.
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