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Using Loneliness to Get Comfortable in Our Own Company

This Q&A was on Cheryl Richardson’s Instagram story feed.

I have loved Cheryl Richardson’s work for decades.

In fact, her book “The Unmistakable Touch of Grace” was perhaps my first-ever exposure to the idea that grace, intuition, the divine, benevolence, whatever you want to call it, was actually aware of my existence, let alone willing or even eager to help me out.

I have read and re-read that book until it started to wear out. One of my particular favorite stories involves a phone call she got when she was just starting to launch her (now world-famous, thanks Oprah) coaching business. She was feeling that awful feeling so many of us get when we go to put ourselves out there and no red carpet appears.

Then she got a phone call – on her land line – and she actually answered it (this being pre-smart devices, let alone texting). The stranger on the other end politely asked if they could speak to “Faith Richardson.”

Of course, it took Cheryl a bit to figure out this was an unmistakable touch of grace. But once she did, and after it began happening regularly, she wrote her book. And then I found her book and read it dozens of times. And now here I am today, still learning from her because (thank goodness) she is still writing and teaching.

Unlike with most of my social feeds, I’m pretty picky about my Instagram feed, because I use it to stay connected to my highest priorities of living a conscious, connected, intuitive, joyful life of service. And I need a lot – a LOT – of help to keep working on this, and Instagram is often where I go first thing in the morning and last thing at night to rediscover what I’ve forgotten in the long hours in between.

So my feed is full of mentors – Don Miguel Ruiz, Yung Pueblo, Sonia Choquette, and of course Cheryl Richardson.

Recently she answered a question from a reader who asked about how to deal loneliness by replying:

It’s important to distinguish being alone from being lonely. Often we must go through a period of ‘loneliness’ to learn how to be in our own company.

I will admit I was familiar with the first bit – yes, there is a difference, and quite a distinct one, between being alone and being lonely.

But the second part was a big surprise.

It had never occurred to me that being lonely might serve as a prompt for me to dig deeper to discover how to get comfortable in my own company.

I just thought being lonely meant I was doing something wrong or living my life wrong or something like that. I guess this comes from being raised from a very extroverted, socially comfortable and competent mom who really has never met a stranger.

My mom is a marvel that way. She has been president of nearly every organization she’s ever joined and was even a founding member of a new sorority on her college campus. She is always throwing parties. When her yoga teacher had to be absent from class, guess who was asked to fill in as the substitute teacher?

She and I are are just really different this way. Along the continuum from introvert to extrovert, you will find us where we have always been, standing squarely at opposite extremes.

But even though I find being by myself more comfortable or at least less anxiety-producing that being with other people, this doesn’t mean I always enjoy the experience of being alone. Loneliness can creep back in even after a whole lifetime of practice keeping company with myself.

This has especially been happening lately, as I’ve tried to “get back out there” after the parting from my longtime love early this year. Meeting strangers that I hope might become new friends or even more is not at all the same experience as meeting people who are already friends.

Strangers requires small talk, which is far from my favorite sport. Strangers who do not turn into new friends or more also requires a thick outer skin, an essential accessory I am still trying to locate. When I’m trying to get to know someone new and it isn’t going well, I can easily feel lonely even when I am not alone.

But once again, Cheryl Richardson has inspired me to take a fresh look at when and how I feel lonely, seeing it not as yet more proof that I’m just not cut out to be social and instead asking myself how I can include being with myself as part of my greater social life.

And of course, I can always count on help and support from my inner flock, whose company delivers reliably large doses of unconditional love that sends loneliness packing as quickly as you can say “cuteness.”

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever viewed the experience of feeling lonely as a possible pathway to deepening your comfort with spending time in your own company? 

Using Loneliness to Get Comfortable in Our Own Company

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). Using Loneliness to Get Comfortable in Our Own Company. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Aug 2019
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