Recently, I made the decision to go to dinner alone and confided in a few close friends about the experience. I was told that it was “sad and pathetic” and that I should really “focus on making more friends,” delivered with a look that you’d often see from one looking at a lost puppy. This made me think: why is spending time alone so stigmatized?
The problem is this: we always see people who do things alone as “lonely,” rather than thinking they love their own company. It’s quite normal to think this way, but it’s high time we challenge the idea. Going out alone might be a nightmare, judging from the lost looks people give you, and the “Are you waiting for someone?” question. There’s always some kind of judgment being thrown at you — but hey, it’s the best way to get to know yourself. It’s the easiest way to understand who you are, which then leads you to know what kind of experiences you’re looking for from the company of others.
As someone who spends quite a bit of time experiencing things by myself, constantly travelling alone, who loves spending time inside and outside to keep myself busy, I just don’t understand why everyone thinks it’s so terrible. By doing things by yourself, you’re not only teaching your mind to feel comfortable with your own company, but taking a step back to focus on you. I get to order pineapple on my pizza because no one is here to stop me. I get to make my own decisions, albeit small in the moment, that give me confidence to become a better decision maker in other aspects of my life.
According to Rebecca Ratner, professor of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, “People decide not to do things all the time because they’re alone. But the thing is, they would probably be happier going out and doing something.” Many online blogs emphasize the benefits of this practice. By loving the time you spend by yourself, you almost embrace the time you spend with others. Once you get used to both types of experiences, you value the ones you have just a little more — and that’s great.
Because sometimes, you just get tired of the small talk — and that’s okay! And no, it’s not like the old, romantic Hollywood movies where the Eiffel tower stands gloriously in the background and you meet your soulmate across the street. It’s usually just sipping some coffee and reading a really good book. Or watching the same movie thrice because Dev Patel looks amazing in it. Or even just listening to music on that long hike no one else ever has the energy for.
The point is — alone time rejuvenates you. You begin to feel important, because you get to choose what you do. No one gets to control your life or your decisions. Spending time alone can put you in the mood to feel at ease in other aspects of your life as well! I found myself having more confidence in my abilities after taking a hike to think and reflect. This not only helped me become a better writer, but also pushed my GPA up a little bit because I was no longer afraid to speak up in class.
Yes, it can be overwhelming, but as you begin to spend more and more time with yourself, you begin to embrace this feeling. You’ll begin to see the benefits and watch them affect your personal life greatly. You can differentiate between your thoughts and actions, which has been proven to decrease anxiety. You won’t have to burden yourself with unnecessary conversations because this is your time. No one else has a say in how you spend it!
My small piece of advice to you today is to take that break for you. Don’t be afraid of judgment.