04/20/2012 03:46 pm ET Updated Jun 20, 2012

Turning 'Lonely' Into Happily Solo'

We make many bad choices when we're scared of being lonely. When I was a people pleaser, the idea of being alone for any period of time seemed like torture. Since I didn't like myself, I couldn't imagine being happy in just my own company, which drove me to make everyone around me happy. When I got divorced and my married friends disappeared, my lifestyle focused on making and keeping new friends.

People knew I was an easy mark for favors and took advantage. I willingly allowed them to. Often when I'd ask someone to go to the movies or out to eat, I'd get excuses about not having the money and usually treated them, which bought me company. Doing something solo seemed too lonely for me to consider.

Alone and loneliness were synonymous in my mind until I woke up and smelled the cappuccino after the synchronicity of three incidents. My friend Kim came to visit and accompanied me to go out with a group of "friends." They began ordering me around as usual and I jumped to do what they wanted. Afterwards, Kim sat me down and said that people were disrespecting me and was angry that I let them.

Then Kim said something that made me pay attention -- I was a good person and DESERVED a lot better than I was getting. She lectured about what a wonderful person I was and why I needed friends who appreciated me for the right reasons. It got me thinking. That night I heard from a friend in the UK who I'd confided in about how hurt friends made me feel at times. He said almost the same thing as Kim -- that I DESERVED a whole lot better and should only be with friends who treated me with respect and as a special woman.

Sam threatened that if I didn't get rid of these people and start to appreciate the woman I am, he'd fly to NY and pull me away from them. I was stunned. Who was this woman that Kim and Sam saw? I had no idea who I was apart from other people. As I pondered this, synchronicity continued. The next day I left to spend a week being loved and spoiled by my parents.

That gave me time to think in a different environment. Many people stopped by and were happy to see me, just for me, unlike my NY peeps who seemed mainly happy to talk down to me while I did them favors. Looking back, it sounds pretty pathetic. Yet living it, I felt helpless about how to change. During my week in Florida, Kim and Sam's words sunk in, fueled by the love I got during my visit. By the time I returned, I knew I had to face the idea of loneliness head on.

I stopped calling people and decided to fly solo. While I talked to people at work and occasionally saw family, for a year, my social life was just me. It began in winter and I watched every movie made to have something to do. When spring arrived I began taking long power walks and enjoyed the solitude. Then I got brave and went out for brunch with a book for company. Slowly, I planned whole days of walking, stopping to eat and doing enjoyable activities.

About nine months into my solo living it hit me -- I was enjoying my life a lot more than I did before. It was fun to choose the time to go somewhere and not have to worry about someone else's needs. I could spontaneously take in movies that I wanted to see and loved going to restaurants during quieter hours with a book or magazine.

As I embraced the pleasure of my own company, I had a big revelation. I felt less lonely being alone than I did when I danced to do favors and treated to keep friends around. It felt good to not feel like a door mat and to have freedom to do what made me happy. And it was a relief not to always feel anxious about pleasing everyone and stifling the reality that I was being used and didn't feel like a real friend of most people I pleased.

By the end of my year of isolation, I'd begun to have great appreciation for who I am. I stepped out and made new friends who only knew me as someone who valued herself. To this day, I continue to enjoy lots of solo time doing things on my own. I don't need anyone -- not a man or friends -- to complete me. You can be alone with lots of people around you. Today I'm never alone because I consider me such great company. The greatest gift you can give yourself is yourself!