“You must learn to be alone.” “You must love yourself first.” “Learn to be happy alone.” We hear these well-meaning words of advice all too often. They come when we’re post-breakup, when we’re heartbroken, when we’re struggling to find our feet again. They come when we don’t quite know how to be comfortable with the mess around us, or when we’re exhausted by the weight of simply being. And so we grab ahold of these words, keep them close to our chests.
But are they building us? Or are they making us feel that every time we don’t love ourselves both fully and first, we’re somehow failing?
“You must learn to be alone.” There is truth to that statement. When you learn to be alone, you learn that you have always been sufficient and strong. You learn that there is not a thing you can’t do, can’t achieve, and can’t reach. Most importantly, though, you realize that your worth is not dependent upon another person, which is, perhaps, the greatest lesson of all.
Yes, the truth is, learning to be alone is essential for self-growth. But the journey to that place does not always come easy, or by choice. And we must remember that.
Sometimes we learn to be alone when the people we love leave us. Other times we learn because we’ve acknowledged that fighting to redefine ourselves is better than staying where we are no longer welcome, or where we no longer have worth.
But this process is painful. It’s rediscovering parts of ourselves that we’ve long abandoned. It’s changing the way we move through our days. And it’s trying to re-write our story, this time without anyone else playing a major role.
There are countless articles, positive blogs, podcasts, and posts meant to encourage us on this journey, but it’s essential to remember the truth—when we make the conscious choice to get comfortable with ourselves, we will struggle. But this is where we’ll grow.
We don’t have to love ourselves first—it’s not necessary. We don’t have to have our hearts in the most perfect, patched-together place. We don’t have to know where we’re headed or what we’re doing after our breakup or loss. We don’t have to be anything other than what we are.
The process of rebuilding happens when we acknowledge our imperfection, our individuality, our place—right here, right now—and accept it. Then we step forward, pick up the pieces one by one, and start listening to what we want, rather than considering someone else’s perspective before our own. Then we close our eyes, let what happens happen, and continue on, knowing that we will be okay—even (and especially) outside of a relationship.
When we are lonely, heartbroken, abandoned, and empty, we must acknowledge that we are beautiful works in progress. And yet, we must remember that we have always been whole.
Then our solo journey becomes less about learning to be alone under the assumption that we don’t know how, but learning how to return to the way we were before—self-confident, self-focused, self-aware.
In the end, the well-meaning words of advice are right: it is life-changing when we put our self-journey before our relationships, before our heartbreak, before our pain. But we just must remember that this is a process, a challenge, a struggle that will take time and effort.
There will be days want to give up, mornings we wake with tear-stained pillows, and nights we cry ourselves back to sleep. But still, we keep going. In time we will find our place again. In time we will look back and understand that all those difficult moments led us here.
And here, we are whole, full, and strong.