My go-to thought is to be more selfless and more caring but all this does is create a growing resentment inside of me for, well, pretty much everyone. What actually works is the most unlikely and counterintuitive approach imagined: Some call it selfish I call it spending more time alone. Here’s why it works. When I consciously allow myself to put myself first – which is no easy feat, (born from a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, I have the weighted blessing of the double guilt whammy) I actually become a better person. How do I know this? Did anyone tell me? No. Not one.
I feel it. I sense it through the extra long hugs from my kids, the extended smiles from strangers, and the increased helpful gestures from my husband. I realized that for decades I had been doing it wrong. Just like Jack Butler, Michael Keaton’s character in Mr. Mom, I had to shift my role. I had to start spending time “off”. I had to go in instead of out. I had to allow myself to be uncomfortable with knowing that I may be doing it wrong and being swarmed by self-doubt. I had to let myself settle into knowing that this frustration is really a fool proof scratch-off ticket that will lead me to the jack pot of having faith in the uncertainty of outcomes. Cha-freakin-ching!
Once I began being more aware of this I actually enjoyed myself a little bit more. I increased my self-compassion and decreased my self-criticism. I stopped telling myself that spending time for myself and showing myself more forgiveness was “letting myself off of the hook” and instead focused on the light release that I was feeling. I stopped raking myself over the coals for not doing or saying enough of the right stuff and stopped being so concerned with pretty much everyone but myself. I began to lighten up. Spending time with myself allowed me the luxury of reading more. A lot more. I now show up for meditation with anticipation instead of obligation. I write more consistently with less fear and more clarity. I loosen up if I miss a day of writing or meditating instead of repeatedly cracking the whip on myself for the rest of the day. I care less about saying the right thing to connect with people and focus more on being true and honest with myself – which, ta-da, connects with people. Spending time alone is the magic carpet ride to fulfilling your wishes and hopes for the people you love, the community where you live and the whole wide world for that matter (go big or go home, right?). The quality of time spent with loved ones and strangers is more vibrant and radiant than ever before because you put in the solid time for yourself. That inevitably will radiate out love like a champ! It’s fool-proof and easy on the wallet, if not free. Spending time alone needs nothing but you.
Reading, writing, walking, breathing, dancing. Take your pick!
As a true blue ENFP facing the fear of going in and spending more time alone was pretty terrifying at first. Then, you know what? I realized that I am so much more of a giver and lover when I have tapped into the introvert that is thriving pretty hard core inside of me. Even more, I learned from Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, that I’m actually an ambivert. You may be too. Who knows?
The great realization is that there’s no blame, shame or finger pointing (or raising) required to give yourself this time. What is necessary is an awareness. If you’re anything like me, awareness is tough. We like to think that it’s easy and simple and all it takes is a few deep breaths and “Voila!” we’re the Dalai freaking Lama. Not so much. It takes work to realize that 99.9% of the time we’re not aware (no research here just a wild, observational guess). It requires dedication and some big time self-reflection. Once again, Solitude is cheering “Pick me! Pick me!”
We live in a society that mocks doing the deep work. Thanks in part to Stuart Smalley, (yes, aging myself here) we mask the fear of failing to fulfill our potential with arrogant name calling and stereotypical labels. “That New Age trivial and cheesy positive self-talk is for suckers. sniff , sniff. What is that patchouli? Ugh, Gawd! Ya flakey hippie.”
Effort is judged as giving in and being exposed as un “gifted” and solitude is looked at as anti-social at best and straight up rude at worst.
News flash: effort and solitude are the key ingredients to tap into the most tingly dance in your pants creative endeavors ever! I’m not just talking artsy-fartsy creative here. I’m talking creative in the sense of you making life happen the way that you want to see it. Then relationships are cleaner, clearer and all around less crappy.
Collaborations and opportunities arise like never before and you actually feel less fearful of taking the risk of just goin’ for it. You re-learn yourself and realize that You and Self need to make date nights a regular occurrence.
So, just like Jack Butler, it’s time to own up that we’re all a little clueless and scared that we’re going to make fools of ourselves. Thing is, we won’t learn how to do it right until we do it.
You wanna beer?
It’s 7 o’clock in the morning.
No judgments! Your time is your time!
“Honey, you gave me some real good advice once, so let me give you some of my own. It’s real easy to forget what’s important, so don’t.” – Jack Butler, “Mr. Mom”