There are a lot of people who are struggling with the isolation of quarantining. Every day the news is filled with depressing numbers. We know people are dying. Some are losing their jobs. Many are just plain afraid. The uncertainty, the isolation, the change in the every day routine is affecting everyone in different but profound ways.
Some are finding working from home is not as much fun as they once thought it would be. Some are struggling because much of their identity was possibly wrapped up in their social world.
Who they are at work?
Who they are with their friends?
Who they are with the neighbors?
We know that many concoct a magazine cover look to their social media in order to present the best possible version of their life. And without that same level of social interaction, without the same distractions – some are catching their reflection in the mirror and it is giving them pause.
And that is exactly what we should be doing during this time. A good, objective look in the mirror can help center us. Bring us back to who we are without filters and distractions.
We lose ourselves when we become attached to the external and the feelings that come from without. We must look within.
We control only what is within. We must know ourselves. What we value? Who we are? And that doesn’t come from anyone else.
The noise of others can help us feel lost. And so being alone with yourself as your companion, you can become anchored again in who you are.
You can never really be with anyone else if you can’t be with yourself fully.
Take this time alone to reconnect with you.
I can say this with some assurance because I’ve been there.
A year ago I had to take a real hard look at the decisions I’d made and what my next move was going to be. I could choose to continue down the same path. Do the next thing that made sense. It’s what we all do most of the time. One decision and then another and another, one link after another in the chain.
I know it probably sounds crazy but I’d gotten to a place where I didn’t fully recognize myself. I was working all the time. I wasn’t really any fun. I wasn’t having any fun. But wow was I working hard, and every time a new issue came up, I worked even harder. And when things didn’t go well, I would double down and work even harder.
Like a new pilot flying through clouds, I kept making course corrections that seemed right. One on top of another, until I flew out of the clouds upside down.
In the end, I was fortunate enough to fly out of the clouds. I know some people never do. But there I was totally upside down and out of control, and I had never noticed it. All I could think was to keep flying and course correcting.
I stopped. I sat quietly. And I listened to myself. I could barely hear that small voice that had been buried underneath other people’s expectations. Or rather, what I had created in my mind as other people’s expectations. My voice was so small against the ringing and pounding in my ears from the obligations and responsibilities. Responsibilities that I created for myself from the choices that I had made over a lifetime.
I worked through a process of deep introspection I had the tools I had learned over a lifetime of working with others, and put them to the test.
The first thing I started with was being alone. Living in that place where nothing and no one else distracted me. I went for walks, I listened to music, I wrote, I traveled the country visiting more than 30 states in 34 days.
It was hard to look at myself and realize that I’d strayed in some ways from my personal golden circle. – Those were some tough days of soul searching.
Being alone allowed me to reconnect with myself. I could never have done the work – if I hadn’t gotten real comfortable with being alone. This does not mean you have to physically be alone. You certainly don’t have to do the same things I did. It will be different for each of us.
What it means is being able to do some soul searching without distraction. Being able to put out of your mind anyone else’s expectations of you. What you think they want you to be doing. That a tough one, but it is key to making this work.
Right now, is a perfect time to take a good look in the mirror and reconnect with the real you. Once you do, and only once you do can you start to make some meaningful change in your life.
Otherwise, this time and opportunity will slip right on by. Life will return to a version of normal. Full of distractions and obligations. Don’t let this pause in the world – while everyone is collectively holding their breath – go by without making a change. Start with getting to know yourself again.