Me, My Shell & I: The Journey of Solitude & Self-Reliance

by Lynn Wonders on October 30, 2015

snail

The metaphor of finding the importance of relying on oneself can be seen in the life of our mollusk friend the snail.

Throughout her life’s journey, the snail finds shelter and security for herself utilizing her entire body as a sensory tool for what lies ahead. Though she may encounter obstacles along the way and while she moves at a slow pace, she eventually does reach her destination. And it is a self-reliant, solitary journey.

When the snail feels threatened or wary of her surroundings, she spirals inward. She is vulnerable but mindful and capable of going inward as needed.

Let’s take a lesson from the snail and consider the gifts of solitude. Often loneliness is considered a negative experience. But what if being alone along the way is actually a great gift?

As the snail inches across the earth, her journey is measured only by herself, her shell and the earth beneath her. She needs no one outside of herself to tell her she is doing a good job or to give her direction. She trusts her instincts and has everything she needs along the way.

When we find ourselves alone, it is easy to internalize solitude as a form of isolation or emptiness. We tend to seek companionship of another being who can pick us up when we are down or tell us what we think we need to hear. Sometimes we are motivated more by what other people think or what they can offer and we then disregard what we can do for ourselves. But what if we could be the snail and find the opportunity within the experience of loneliness?

While loneliness can be associated with depression or a negative experience, being alone with yourself can actually be a beautiful opportunity. Solitude and self-reliance can go hand-in-hand. Though we may believe we need to go looking for what we need outside of ourselves, the snail teaches us that we have all that we need inside of ourselves.  Everything we need can be cultivated from within.

The snail has two different forms of mucous-like excretions that serve two purposes. The first helps her move along the surfaces she encounters and the other is strictly for protection and healing. She creates and manifests the excretion that moves her forward in her life; in other words, she provides her own motivational pull. She is also the source of her own protection and healing.

You and your purposes can be what propel you forward in your life and you can be your own savior. As Brene Brown says in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?” In other words, relying on the opinions of others doesn’t help us grow as much as turning inward for direction, self-acceptance and self-reliance.

The emotion of loneliness can tempt us to avoid what is happening in the present moment and lead us to seek a different environment or the company of another person. Instead of seeing solitude as a dreadful place to be, let’s look for the promise in vulnerability, mindfulness, awareness and pace.

Find courage in the face of who you are. Lean into the space of solitude. You can in turn be the self-relying, independent and secure snail in the company of your mind and body. With a shift in perspective and a self-loving nature, you will find that everything that you have ever needed and wanted is nothing short of what you can give yourself.

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