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Jay Shetty believes in intentionality. The former monk and host of one of the world’s most-downloaded podcasts, On Purpose With Jay Shetty, shares insights and wisdom that are intended to coax and challenge each of us to explore the purpose behind anything we do. Through interviews with experts and celebs, Shetty brings to the forefront thoughtful conversations and questions that prompt us to better understand—and change—how we show up to work, love, self, and service.
Perhaps the underlying message beneath all his lessons? Awareness. As he explains on his website, “Self-awareness can change how you see everything.” It challenges the assumptions, beliefs, and stories that contribute to our current state of being. And, in so doing, it can bring us back to our truest intentions. Shetty artfully addresses this around the construct of love in his recent book, 8 Rules of Love. In the excerpt that follows, he explores awareness in the context of loneliness. —YJ Editors
The Benefits of Solitude
Paul Tillich said, “Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”
The difference between loneliness and solitude is the lens through which we see our time alone, and how we use that time. The lens of loneliness makes us insecure and prone to bad decisions. The lens of solitude makes us open and curious.
Solitude is not a failure to love. It is the beginning of love. During the time we spend without a sidekick, we move through the world differently, more alert to ourselves and the world.
By itself, solitude doesn’t give us the skills we need for relationships. But if we use it to get to know ourselves, there are many ways in which it prepares us for love. In solitude we practice giving ourselves what we need before we expect it from someone else. Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you emotionally available to yourself? Are you supportive of your own efforts?
You don’t have to answer these questions right now. The more time you spend in solitude, the better you’ll know how to answer them. People determine how to treat us in large part by observing how we treat ourselves. The way you speak about yourself affects how people will speak with you. The way you allow yourself to be spoken to reinforces what people think you deserve.
A relationship with someone else won’t cure your relationship with yourself. Therapy and friendships and a partner might help us understand and address the sources of our sadness, but many people still feel like their partner doesn’t understand them. Our culture often encourages us to put the responsibility to unpack our feelings on someone else. We expect them to understand our emotions even if we don’t.
Other people can help you, but if you’re not trying to understand yourself, nobody else can do it for you. Hoping a partner will solve your problems is like trying to get someone to write your term paper for you. You need to take the class, learn the material, and write the paper yourself, or you won’t have learned anything.
This is what solitude is for. When you come to a relationship as a whole person, without looking for someone to complete you or to be your better half, you can truly connect and love. You know how you like to spend your time, what’s important to you, and how you’d like to grow. You have the self-control to wait for someone you can be happy with and the patience to appreciate someone you’re already with. You realize that you can bring value to someone else’s life. With this foundation, you’re ready to give love without neediness or fear.
Of course, relationships do heal us through connection, but you are giving yourself a head start by making the most of the time you spend in solitude. You want to go on a journey with someone, not to make them your journey.
This stage of life is designed to help us learn how to love ourselves. But if you don’t learn the lessons of love, then you won’t know how lovable you are and what you have to offer. This is an everyday practice of preparing ourselves to be in a relationship while staying true to who we are. It is one of the hardest rules in this book, and the most important.
Any step toward knowing yourself in solitude will help you love others because in addition to knowing what you bring to the table, the very process of learning to understand and love yourself helps you understand the effort required to love someone else. The work it took to understand ourselves teaches us that even when we’re with someone we care about, it will still be hard to understand them.
Perhaps the most important lesson solitude offers is helping us understand our own imperfection. This prepares us to love someone else, in all their beauty and imperfection.
Excerpted from 8 Rules of Love: How to Find It, Keep It, and Let It Go by Jay Shetty. Copyright © 2023 by Jay Shetty. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.