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The Fear of Being Alone

‘All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.’ ~Blaise Pascal

A surprising number of people fear being alone. Maybe just about all of us do to some extent.

We fear being without a partner, or friends and family. We fear traveling alone in strange places, lost without anyone to ask for help. We fear taking on life without help, for fear of failure.

This is natural, this fear of being alone. We’ve all felt it, deep within us, though we try desperately to avoid this fear.

And this is the cause of our misery: to avoid this fear of being alone, we will socialize endlessly, including on social networks and email. To avoid being alone, we’ll end up with someone who isn’t really good for us, just to have someone to cling to, someone to rely on. We’ll eat junk food or shop to comfort ourselves, because these things are replacements for love.

But here’s the secret: being alone is empowering. The quiet of being alone is joyful.

We tend to see aloneness as bleak, depressing, scary. But it can be seen as freeing, as an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to get to know yourself.

This is something I’ve been learning the hard way. I had the fear of aloneness for many years, but learning emotional self-sufficiency is one of the best things I’ve done.

Sit quietly for a minute, now, and turn inward. Who are you? What are you capable of? What do you think about?

Can you accept yourself, when you look closely at yourself?

Can you see the beauty in yourself, as you learn something new? As you contemplate life?

This is nothing to fear, but to celebrate. Aloneness is beauty.

Traveling Through Life Alone

But isn’t it scary to travel the world alone? To go through life alone if you feel unprepared?

Yes, it can be scary. That’s the reason to learn to do it.

Don’t know how to find your way in a strange city? Start with the place you live — get lost and find your way back. Learn to use Google Maps, then learn to find visual landmarks. Now branch out into nearby cities. Now take a trip armed with your new skills. Ask for directions. Learn to be OK with getting lost.

Don’t know how to pay bills and manage your life? Start with one bill. Teach yourself life management skills one at a time. Become self-sufficient. It’s better to learn to stand on your own two feet than to have to rely on someone else. If you can be self-sufficient, then relying on someone else is an act of strength, not of weakness.

Don’t know how to protect yourself? Learn to avoid bad situations. Learn to be aware of your surroundings. Learn how to get away. Learn how to defend yourself, at least enough to call for help. You’ll feel more confident in going places alone.

Traveling through life alone is a learning process, but you become stronger as you go. It’s like a child who can’t find his way home alone — doing it the first time is scary, but he’s safer and better off having learned the way.

Relationships and Aloneness

Does learning to be OK with being alone mean you can’t be in a relationship? Not at all — but if you aren’t OK with being alone, then being in a relationship is going to be fundamentally flawed.

Why? Because you become dependent. You need the other person, not only to pay bills and help you manage, not only to protect you and provide for you, but for emotional needs. You need the other person to pay attention to you, to give you validation and comfort and love. Now, all of those things are nice, but needing someone else for them means you become needy, desperate, and those aren’t attractive qualities. Who wants to be in a relationship with a needy, desperate person?

Much more attractive is confidence. And self-sufficiency. And strength.

So learn to be OK with being alone. Learn to provide for all of your emotional needs. Learn that you are OK, just as you are, without anyone else to “complete you”.

What if you’re already in a relationship? This is what I’ve been dealing with myself — it’s still doable. It means noticing when you’re being needy, and backing off. Taking care of your needs yourself. This is a slow process, but it works.

Once you’ve got that down, you are in a much better place to be in a relationship. You’re now two whole people, coming together for the benefit of the both of you.

The Joy of Being Alone

Aloneness can be a scary thing, but it can also be a joyful thing.

You can celebrate the times when you’re alone. Get to know yourself. Do things that rely on very little — reading a good book, writing, playing music, dancing alone, sketching, learning a new skill. Go for hikes, discover the world without needing to instantly share it online.

Be alone and be happy with yourself.

You deserve it.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
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What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
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A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
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Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
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Love Notes
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The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
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The Habit Action List
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My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
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A Month Without Coffee
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The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
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A Year of Living Without
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The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
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The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
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5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
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A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
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Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
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How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
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Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
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12 Rules to Live By
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The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
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The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
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The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
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Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
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Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
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