Let?s face it. It?s awkward.
Sure it?s easy to grab a quick sushi alone during your lunch break at work. It doesn?t feel as bad because other people are doing the same.
But to sit alone in a restaurant or cafe filled with couples, families, and friends laughing, cheers-ing, chatting, and sharing food?
And buy popcorn for one at the movies?
Only losers do that.
You?re definitely not one of those loners people will talk about: ?That poor girl. She obviously doesn?t have any friends.?
It?s social suicide.
The thought of everyone staring at you with pity makes you shudder.
That?s why you?ve either:
- Never dined alone: Screw it, I?d rather be home alone with a pizza and a movie. OR
- Have dined alone a few times ? and vowed never to do it again: I?ll just smile and type on my phone the whole time to prove I have friends – and a life.
So when you choose not to dine alone? and you?re home alone with your greasy pizza, drowning your sorrows over a litre of coke and shitty, rubbery, burnt garlic bread, you might wonder:
Was this really the night you had to have?
Why would we rather be alone in private than alone in public?
Worry 1: What will other people think?
We assume people think we?re losers. Or that we don?t have many friends. Or we?re depressed, sad, and lonely.
We?re afraid of what people will think of us. We?re egocentric.
?Spotlight effect?, a study by Thomas Gilovich found people adapt their activities because of what people will think. Such as when we choose to stay at home instead of going out to dinner or the movie on our own.
The study found people don?t even notice.
What difference does it really make to anyone if you stay home alone and unhappy instead of going out for dinner and watching a movie on your own?
Eleanor Roosevelt got it spot on:
?You wouldn?t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.?
BOTTOM LINE: Don?t worry about what others think. They don?t even notice! But you will.
Worry 2: We can?t have fun on our own
Doing stuff on our own can?t be as fun as doing stuff with our friends ? can it?
Rebecca Ratner at the University of Maryland?s Robert H. Smith School of Business summarised her research in a video: Inhibited about bowling alone (video).
She shares 2 fascinating findings:
- We don?t mind doing useful activities alone: For example, going to the laundromat, or doing groceries. These are practical, routine activities.
- We?re embarrassed about doing ?fun? activities by ourselves: We don?t think we?d have as much fun watching a movie, dining out, or going to a museum by ourselves because we assume people would turn down their noses at us. Or think we don?t have many friends.
What Rebecca found was this:
?If people were encouraged to go out on their own, they didn?t enjoy it any less than with others.?
Bottom line: You can have fun if you?re going out by yourself. Do it!
6 Reasons to go it alone
Having dinner alone can make us anxious. But as with anything that make us anxious or fearful, we can gain more than we ever imagine when we command and conquer.
Here are 6 perks of going solo:
We all like being with our friends, our families, and our partners.
But there are times when you want to shop without feeling rushed and worrying if the other person is bored.
There are times when you?d like to go to a concert even though no-one else likes the band.
Times when you?d like to travel on a whim without having to coordinate vacation leave, and accommodate someone else?s preferences in accommodation, activities, and budgets.
There are times when you want to do what you want, whenever you want? without checking to see if everyone else would like to do it too. It can be liberating to have total control over your own agenda.
Take for example Tania, a high school graduate who didn?t want to go onto posh colleges like others. She wanted to be a writer ? and she wanted to do it without going to college. She wasn?t convinced by those around her who kept suggesting she needed an expensive degree to be a writer.
Her father saw the passion and yearning for freedom in her ? and made her a seemingly absurd offer. He?d pay for a sailboat ? but she had to sail it around the world. And write a book about it.
With barely any sailing or navigation experience she departed on 28 May 1985 ? and successfully completed the circumnavigation, arriving in NYC on Nov 6, 1987.
Tania Aebi was the first American woman and the youngest person (at the time) to sail around the world. Check out more of her story in The Woman Who Left The Harbour (by The Mission).
??if I hadn?t taken my father up on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, I would have had to live with wondering what that road much less traveled would have looked like, with plenty of regret for not having taken the chance to find out.? (Interview with Valley News)
2. New people and new experiences
Being alone invites conversation from strangers that you may not have had otherwise. To experience things in your own unique way without having to worry about others.
It?s easier to chat up strangers and photograph details others may find weird when you don?t have to explain yourself or feel pressured to keep moving.
It?s nice to wander without an ulterior motive. So give yourself permission to explore and be open to going with the flow. You?ll be surprised at the depth of experiences and the beautiful spectrum of people you?ll meet along the way.
?Experience is the teacher of all things.?
? Julius Caesar
Having the courage to do things alone can give you a sense of freedom. It can also help you feel empowered.
It can help you realise you?re okay on your own. You don?t need someone else to enjoy something, do something you want to do, or be who someone else wants you to be.
After I finished university, I couldn?t wait to leave my home in Melbourne and go overseas. To set up a life from scratch in beautiful Boston: find an apartment to rent with someone, get a job outside my field, meet new people, make new friends, settle into a routine in a new city, backpack around the US. Alone.
There was something so appealing about this experience. I felt freedom. And as I made it all happen, I felt empowered. I could steer the direction of my life at will. And sometimes, of course, I did dine out alone.
I was alone on Christmas Day. I?d just arrived a few weeks before. My new flatmate was away on vacation with his partner. My few other friends there were also away. I wasn?t used to this. Back home, I was used to Christmases loaded with family and food at every turn.
I was tempted to stay in my apartment watching re-runs of Seinfeld stuffing my face with Ben and Jerry?s Chunky Monkey while it snowed gorgeously outside. My first white Christmas.
But if I don?t go out, I won?t have a new experience. I won?t meet anyone new. I won?t know any more of Boston then inside the apartment walls.
But it?s so sad going out alone on Christmas Day. When everyone is with family and friends. It?ll be lonely and depressing.
The thoughts battledon strongly.
I chose to go out. I chose the lure of new experiences at the risk of looking like a loser ? rather than be stuck at home, where no-one would even notice I was miserable.
I went on a trolley tour and had long conversations and plenty of laughs with the friendly owner Gideon???and the jolly, warm, trolley car driver, Ron.
I left them with a 1 year trolley pass (for the price of 1 trip!), a job offer ? and an invitation to Castello?s Tavern in Jamaica Plain to watch Ron play in his band on a Thursday night.
From another bus driver, I got a rockstar drop off, directly in front of the church I wanted to visit for the Christmas service???although the bus stop was a block away.
I ate Christmas dinner alone.
But instead of feeling lonely, I felt lucky. I felt alive. I felt grateful for making the choice to be here. For creating the opportunity to be here. Alone. I was excited for many more of the incredible experiences I knew was ahead of me. I felt empowered.
Years later, I realized this experience gave me the courage to quit my corporate grad job. And every decision since then has involved me taking the reins of my own life ? rather than wondering why things aren?t working out in life, and constantly depending on circumstances and people to make me happy.
?Don?t let anyone define you. You define yourself.?
? Billie Jean King
4. Strengthen relationships
Spending time alone can give us freedom. Empowerment. Introduce us to valuable new people and experiences. Give us a stronger sense of worth.
Spending time on your own nurturing your soul is also great for relationships.
It?s tempting to make your partner your purpose ? however, time apart can strengthen the relationship.
In The Way of The Superior Man, David Deida explains:
Every man knows that his highest purpose in life cannot be reduced to any particular relationship. If a man prioritizes his relationship over his highest purpose, he weakens himself, disserves the universe, and cheats his woman of an authentic man who can offer her full, undivided presence.
When my husband takes time out on his own, I?ve noticed he returns in a more positive, playful mood. He has more patience with our daughter. He?s more caring and thoughtful than usual.
He has a better understanding of what he wants in life ? and that flows onto a stronger appreciation and love in our relationship.
Treasure your time alone ? your relationships will be stronger for it.
5. Love yourself more
Giving yourself time doing what you love is a way of caring and loving yourself.
When you love yourself, you?ll respect and treat yourself well. And that will affect how you let other people treat you.
?No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.?
?Friendship with ones self is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.?
? Eleanor Roosevelt
6. Break out of the mould
Spending time on your own will help you feel more comfortable with breaking out of the mould.
To go our own way is difficult. You may have experienced challenging situations like these:
- Start a new business
- Decide not to get married (or have kids)
- Tell your conservative family you?re gay
- Change careers or return to study as a mature-age student
- Stand up for what you believe in
- Create what has never been created and fight to be heard
Stepping outside norms and expectations requires courage, determination, strength? and a strong sense of self.
And when left alone, these are the times when creativity can best flourish. When possibilities are imagined. Andopportunitiesaretaken.
Take Patrica. A woman alone out of medical school, without mentors to help her forge her path. She made the life-changing decision: to figure out how to give blind people sight.
She ploughed herself into five years of research, prototyping, testing.
She endured scepticism from colleagues that a woman ? a black woman ? who spent her savings and her time to invent what had never been invented, could achieve what had never been achieved.
Yet she went on to help the blind see ? with a more precise and less painful method of performing cataract surgery.
Patricia Bath?s new technology and procedure received four patents. What?s more, she was one of the first women pioneers in entrepreneurship, telemedicine, technology, and medicine. (The Woman in the Eye Of The Storm: The Mission).
?Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by the majority thinking.????Patricia Bath
7 Ideas to help you through solo dates
It?s tough to dine ? or do other activities alone. Here are a few ways to get through a solo date:
1 Do what you love
2 Bring a book or a notepad
3 Know you can leave anytime
4 Remember: You don?t know them and they won?t remember you
5 Give yourself a time limit
6 Pretend you?re gathering ideas for a book
7 Ease into it: eat breakfast or lunch alone, then try dinner
Summary: How dining alone can transform your life
Many great people have lived extraordinary lives by going down the path less trodden.
We worry about what people will think of us ? and that we won?t have as much fun. Yet research found people don?t notice you as much as you think when you?re alone. And you can actually have fun.
But of course, it?s not that easy. Changing the way you view time on your own takes time.
However knowing how much you have to gain can help: time alone can give us freedom, help us feel empowered, introduce us to new experiences with new people, boost our sense of self, and give us the confidence to go our own way.
And that all sounds great theoretically???but all good things take time, don?t they?
Just don?t underestimate yourself (and miss out on the good stuff) if you think you need others around all the time:
You are more confident than you think you are.
You are more courageous than you imagine.
You are enough (and always have been).
If you knew the direction of your life could be changed for the better by spending time alone???would you do it more often?