Conversing, networking, building rapport, socializing… sleep…. repeat.
It’s proven throughout studies that humans are wired to connect. Humans thrive off social interactions and connections. And after learning (thanks, UCSB) all about theories of communication, the meaning of communication, and why humans need to communicate, it’s only normal for me to love being socially connected.
Heck, the majority of my career passions (and experience) lie in public relations. In sum, that’s talking and maintaining relationships for a living.
Well, something changed when I started traveling. Rather than meeting more people and pushing myself to socialize even more, I began to spend lots of time in solitude. In peace. In quiet. Just me and nature, me and the birds, me and the sweet sounds of train tracks in the far distance or ocean waves crashing. Forgive me if that sounds a bit anti-social, but there’s a backstory to this.
And yes, I really am the biggest advocate of solitude. It can change your life… it did for me, at least.
In all honesty, I’ve never had time to myself before I left California. Ever. I’ve always been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by plenty of loving, amazing and inspirational friends my entire life. I also made it a point to fill up my schedule to the brim, whether intended or not, during and after hours of school or work. It was basically the norm for me (and for many others I know, too).
But in reality, it’s really tiring to just talk – constantly. Countless happy hours, dinners, catch-up sessions, hangouts, etc. I loved it, and I always will – but I don’t think I realized just how much I needed time to myself until I left the country and actually focused on myself for a change. I was so used to hearing all about other people’s careers, lives, joys, sorrows – that I basically didn’t pay attention to myself.
Thanks to my one-way ticket, I’ve morphed into someone who seems rather selfish now. Sometimes, being selfish is the most selfless thing you can ever do for yourself. Selfish is a good thing – yes, that’s possible. It’s when you take time to yourself because you need – and deserve – it.
I disconnected from people (to an extent) in order to connect with myself. I believe that only a small percentage of Americans have the ability to be “selfish.” We live in such a busy, workaholic culture with only two weeks of annual vacation (sigh), that it’s understandable. But it’s a beautiful thing when you let go and just put yourself first.
Here’s what happens when you’re selfish and proud of it:
1. You learn little-known secrets about yourself.
I don’t think I could have re-ignited as many creative passions in the past months if I wasn’t selfish. By honing in on what truly makes my heart soar, I’ve learned what impresses me, what makes me tick, what creeps me out, and what keeps me going like an Energizer Bunny.
2. You do YOU.
Slurpee and fries for dinner? Sure. Silent dance party in your room with your stuffed animal? Nothing better on a Friday night. Sure, I sound pathetic writing this, but to be selfish is to be comfortable in your own skin. It’s liberating to do whatever the heck you want – you’re your own boss.
With this one, you’ll also realize that you’re given more time. Where did all the extra time come from? More time to relax and focus on your inner chi, thoughts, everything. Doesn’t everyone want more time in the world?! Now that’s a beautiful solution – just be mindful of yourself!
3. You don’t judge as much – or at all.
Overall, you care less about the little things that tend to irk most others. You’re too busy doing what makes you happy, you don’t have time to care about complaining or scoffing.
4. You find joys in simple things.
Bird watching. Walking around a lake. Watching someone play the piano. Being present with yourself almost allows you to see the simplest things in an even more beautiful light than they already are.
5. You become more self-aware.
When you put yourself first, you realize what your true needs, wants and desires are. What do you want to accomplish today? This week? The next month? Are you content with yourself in this moment?
The point of my travels, adventures, gap year, whatever you wish to call this – has become clear to me at long-last. I left “home” to feel more rejuvenated by life. And through all of my journeys so far, some unexpected, I’ve definitely become more aware of who I am, why I am the way I am, and all the ways I can push myself to grow. When you believe in yourself, everything is possible! The world is your oyster.
6. You become at peace with yourself.
I’ve been more present with myself than in all my years of living when wandering off on my own to unknown territories. While it seems terrifying at first to do things on your own, you adapt to being one with yourself. You get used to eating out alone and going almost everywhere on your own (well, I did, at least). And it’s actually really neat (depending on your personality type).
7. You give your mind a break.
Let’s be real – there’s only so much that your brain can handle at times. It doesn’t have to work as hard when you’re just doin’ your own thang.
8. You stop caring about what others think of you.
I’m a perfectionist – and a damn good people-pleaser. But after 9+ months of solitude, I’m realizing that it really shouldn’t matter how others view you. The expectations you place on yourself, the worry stemming around how others view you – that’s all in your head. Much aligned with Kina Grannis’ song, “Little Worrier,” just remember that life is better lived when you push worries aside, no matter how big or little.
9. You learn to be more compassionate than ever.
In spending time with yourself and learning to say “no” to social affairs and “yes” to solitude, you open your heart up to the world. Most of the time, it’s unknowingly and unconsciously. And in the darkest of times, the only person who can really help yourself is you – you need to be the change you wish to see. Always.
Take Ellen for example. Her struggles didn’t define her; instead, they shaped her ability to see the love in the world (and herself).
I thought if I could find a way to be famous, people would love me. And then you get all that stuff and I worked really hard to earn all that and it sounds crazy, but I got the biggest, [most] wonderful blessing I could get, which was I lost my show, and I lost my entire career, and I lost everything for three years … But I got to learn how to sit back and watch other people and learn what judgment was and have compassion. And learn that not only was I strong enough to make it in the first place, but I was strong enough to come back and make it again. How lucky am I to have learned that? That took a lot. I wanted to crawl up in a ball and climb in a hole and hide forever; I was embarrassed. That’s why I look at it as a blessing.
10. You’ll be stronger than ever before.
I never thought that I needed “alone” time because I was raised as an only child. But in realizing just how much more I do – how much more I see, how much happier I am – when I do things on my own here, I’ve become stronger. I push myself harder because I’m more in tune with my emotions, energy levels, and passions.
Some of today’s most successful influencers are selfish. By this, I mean that they put themselves and their goals first and foremost. They nurture their minds, bodies and souls rather than stretching themselves too thin. They understand that being selfish is actually the healthiest element for your personal growth.
And most importantly, they all know that their best friends will always understand why they need to be selfish sometimes. Selfish for the right, beautiful reasons.
The people who have made (and continue to make) me strong:
Do me a favor and be selfish for your own sake. You should be your most positive influence. Once you inspire yourself, you can inspire anyone.
It’s only up we go, up we go.