Know Thy Self

The Art of Spending Time on Your Own
Photo by James Killeen, taken during a mid-summer sunset in South Manchester, 2020.

“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”

Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker

I’ve heard this statement said many times by many different people. Some famous, some people I actually know or have met over the course of my life so far. I agree with it somewhat too. I think with regards to cutting ties with people who suck our energy dry, bring negativity into our life or are bad influences in general to us the above statement is absolutely crucial.

However I think it can also have the opposite effect than initially intended. Yes, if I choose to spend my time with people who are more successful than myself, who are ambitious, who inspire me daily and dare I say it but even people who are millionaires, does that increase my likelihood of being all of those things too? Yes!

That’s why “millionaires hang out with millionaires”. Here’s the thing though, I don’t particularly like “hanging out”, and although financial freedom is certainly something I would appreciate in my life, it’s not the highest on my priorities list. It was once, and that was one of the loneliest, most lost and empty times of my life.

I believe spending time with people who inspire you to do better is 100 per cent important. I equally believe limiting the time you spend with those who don’t is just as important too. But this statement, for me, misses a huge factor which I consider to be imperative… spending time with yourself!

I know some people, or at least I used to, who used to say the statement we are discussing here to me on a regular basis. I have seen these people go from group to group, friendship to friendship, business partner to business partner, and every single time they have “levelled up”! I have to take my hat off to them. They’ve done fairly well for themselves from the outside eye.

But the other side of this is that the people who they were once close with, have almost all been left with a bad taste in their mouth in the long run. You see when your personal levelling up, means stepping over others, hurt along the way is unavoidable. Now these particular people aren’t too phased by that, because they have done what they believe will get them to where they want to go next. And most of the time it does! But essentially, they have just used people.

They have used who they needed to get where they wanted to be, then dropped them for those who they intend to use next. Constantly evolving and progressing up the ladder, swapping the people in their chosen 5 for those who bring more to the table (for them). It really is a method for success. But it is the least pure form of success one could ever have.

A number of years ago now I had to do a lot of work on myself. It meant spending less time with certain people for a while (or at least in certain environments), and it did mean that naturally I began to spend more time with a few different people in new environments. I’ve always kept my circle fairly small, so the new people I let into my life were few and far between. However as I began to grow, I found myself relying less and less on the help and guidance of others and becoming more and more self-sufficient.

I began to really enjoy the time I spent with myself. So much so it became hard to adjust when I started a new relationship a few years further down the line. I valued that alone time I had begun to give myself more than anything else. Had I of been obsessed with finding new people to spend time with who would inspire me to do better and bring me into their circles so I could begin to dip my toes into some of the things they had going on, I would of completely missed this vital stage of getting to know myself.

Spending time with myself allowed me to find what I truly enjoyed. Some of the things I enjoy the most today are things I do with other people like walking in the mountains and music (although I write alone I create with others). But I discovered my love for these things (or rediscovered if you’ve read ‘Be Yourself’) by firstly spending time alone, without the influence of anyone else to direct my thoughts for me.

One huge thing I realised was I don’t enjoy being in big groups doing things, so the things I do with other people I do with literally one other person. Even training, I love training alone, I enjoy training with a close mate, but ask me to join you and a group of others at a gym and I probably won’t attend. When I’m in the studio I don’t want a load of people in there, I don’t need to feed off their energy, I create my own with my producer, anyone else can just be a distraction to what we are doing unless they are contributing musically to the project at that time. When I’m walking in the country I like going with one friend or my girlfriend, I’ll go in a three now and again but mostly, threes a crowd. That’s not easy to explain to people though without them getting offended.

By spending time on my own I began to accept that I am an extreme introvert. That doesn’t mean that I cannot be loud when I need to be, or have confidence, perform in front of others or even be a laugh at parties. What it does mean is I much prefer my own company. Usually I prefer to tackle things alone, I don’t need appreciation from others (although that has been worked on), I do what I want because I want to, not because somebody else has pressured me to or because I want to impress them by mimicking their every move. Introverts aren’t weird hermits who cannot speak in large groups and shudder in nerves every time they are outside of the house. They are just people who prefer to do things alone. My kind of people!

Spending time with others is great but if you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with where do you become you within that? If you’re constantly being influenced and inspired by others (which I think is a great thing to be), where do you learn the skill of being able to step back and go purely with what you’re feeling rather than the suggestions of others? If you aspire so much to be like those you choose to spend your time with, when do you aspire to be just you? How do you even know what being “just you” is?

I’m not saying the statement at the beginning of this article is wrong, but sometimes spending time with people for the purpose of upgrading yourself can be the worst possible thing you could do. Spend time with yourself, get to know yourself, then you can be ready to go anywhere, with anyone, and remain true to who you are!

I think before ending this article it’s important for me to point out that for some people, spending time alone may not be the best thing. For those that are prone to isolating and struggle with an array of mental health issues, support from others is not only critical but invaluable. I have a select few people I choose to check in with whenever I feel I need to (and sometimes even when I don’t as that’s when I need to the most). I utilise their amazing listening skills, their wisdom around living I have yet to gain and I am also fortunate enough to be able to give, some of which I gain, back to others who occasionally need me too.

A strong support network is priceless in this life, even if it is just one great person so please don’t assume I am neglecting any of that either with what I have wrote here. I’m just sharing my experience of how becoming comfortable in my own skin stemmed from me becoming comfortable enough to spend time on my own. There was a time when being alone with my own thoughts was nothing but torturous. Now, providing I’m spiritually well, it’s bliss!

4 thoughts on “Know Thy Self

  1. I enjoyed that read Rob.

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this essay. I spend a lot of time on my own these days, perhaps too much. But I’ve never learned to embrace it, although my natural inclination is to be solitary – so there’s a contradiction there. Interacting with people, especially an audience, leaves me exhausted, wrung out. I need to cultivate the art of just being. I live alone now, with my dog, and the nights are long, and that’s when fear, doubt, regret, can inade my walls and me. Life isn’t easy, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternative! Maybe I’ll never be entirely comfortable with, and within, myself, but this article helps me to try, to accept myself, to not fear the future quite so much. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an on going process. I don’t get it right all of the time. But spending time on my own has certainly helped me to find out what I do and don’t like. Something which leads to feeling comfortable within myself.

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