Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Do Things By Yourself (And Actually Enjoy Them)


Sometimes, I'm a bit of a quirky alone Even though I have piles of awesome friends and a rather packed social calendar, I love puttering around the house, pawing through racks at the thrift store and poking around tiny towns all by my lonesome.  I've traveled through 28 countries, often by myself, and given the choice between a mediocre party filled with bad conversationalists or a comfy bed + a good book + a nice hunk of cheese, I will joyfully choose the latter.

Despite my partial quirky alone status, there are still things I don't like doing sans friend.  Going to shows.  Or bars.  Or eating in fancy, couple-y restaurants.  But I'm slowly getting over it! 

Why?  Because doing stuff by yourself is totally effing awesome.  You don't need to worry about anyone's time frame/budget/relationship status other than your own.  No waiting for your friend while she flirts with that douche!  No feeling rushed because your buddy didn't find any clothes she liked!  No feeling guilty for splurging on the truffle risotto in front of your unemployed friend!  It's all you, all the time.

Want to enjoy doing by stuff by yourself?  Here are a few tricks I use when I'm feeling a bit unsure.

1) Realize that nobody's looking at you and nobody cares that you're alone
I think most of our 'alone' related hang-ups are that we'll look like a loser eating/dancing/movie or show-going alone.  And the thing is?  Nobody cares.  Nobody's looking at you.  And if they are looking at you and noticing the fact that you're alone - there's a 99% chance it's someone who's about to come over and flirt with you.

2) If you really hate it, you can always leave
If you're (very nervously) headed to a party or show on your own, remember that you can always leave if you hate it.  Whenever I force myself to attend an event, I give myself a time minimum.  "I have to stay at this networking event for at least an hour! And then I can go home and watch the new episode of Parks and Rec."

3) Allow yourself an 'alone-vice'
If you really want to try that new restaurant but it's out of your friends' price range or you're determined to see Ireland and nobody will go with you, it's okay to have an 'alone-vice.'  An 'alone-vice' is something that you do when you're in public alone and feeling a little bit weird or awkward.  Of course, you can play games on your phone, but you can also write in a journal, read, take photos, or sketch if you're particularly arty.  It gives you something to do if you don't want to make small talk with strangers and you're sick of staring into the middle distance while you wait for the server.

Do you do things by yourself?  If you feel self-conscious about it, how do you get over that?

photo by kelsey_lovefusionphoto, creative commons liscense

26 comments

  1. I went to a movie theater, alone, for the first time when I was 17 to see American Beauty. I cherished the experience but 13 years later and I've yet to see a movie alone again since! I think a Wes Anderson film would be perfect for solo viewing.

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    1. A Wes Anderson movie is perfect for solo viewing!
      I saw Moonrise Kingdom alone about a month ago, at the matinee showing. It was a great day.

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  2. Ah I love being by myself, altho I don't do a lot of things 'out and about' on my own, but the first point is a great one that I use - I don't really mind eating out etc by myself but that reminder really helps! :)

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  3. I've moved I to several new far flung places in the past four years, and getting over the doing things by myself hang up was imperative at first because I literally knew no one. If I wanted to do that tourist thing, check out that new restaurant, explore those new hiking trails ...I was doing it solo. And I loved it ! Yes it's still great to get to know people and have partners in crime, of course, but planning your own adventures is so satisfying. Also, speaking to the " going to the show/concert" item. I've now done this three or four times, and Im quite sure I prefer it now. Going to a concert with a friend or a group of people...you have to find spots for HOW many people down in front ? But wait your one friend doesn't like it too loud, so shed rather stand in the back? And no one else wants to wait after for the band to sign your tshirt at the mer h tale? Awkward. Going to see music live is such a personal, visceral experience anyway, it almost seems better experience it on your own. ( well you and the thousands of other people at the sow ). That's just my two cents !!

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  4. I'm a huge fan of doing stuff on my own. I'm still not the best at it but I've been working on it for years :) I think it came from travelling alone/moving to new cities and initially not knowing anyone - when you're in a situation where you want to eat, or see a film you just have to get over it otherwise you'll always end up with fish'n'chips and a dvd at home. Besides, you're right - there's a massively high chance that the only one that knows you're alone, is you. I now go to the cinema alone a lot (although in fairness I try to go during the day or at times when it's less likely to be packed) and go for breakfast/lunch (still haven't quite worked up to dinner), as it's easy enough to read a book (thank goodness for eBooks on iPhones!) or grab a newspaper. Happy days!

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  5. I like doing stuff on my own. If I've had a very socially busy time, I usually need a break from people and seek out opportunities to be alone. I've seen films alone, gone to cafes and I definitely prefer to shop alone, but I've yet to eat out at a proper restaurant alone. I am impressed by anyone who travels alone (I've only ever done it for work) and I love the idea of seeing music alone, as Mary says above, it's such a visceral experience it's hard to compromise if your companions have a different idea about how it should be done.

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  6. I would also choose the good book, comfy bed & cheese over a party atmosphere! I'm a big fan of going to coffeeshops or restaurants to read alone. I love going to an art museum by myself to just be taken in by the experience and not have to discuss with people what I feel or think I am seeing. I rarely shop with someone else, though if I do I prefer it be someone who knows me and my preferences well so we don't doddle around aimlessly. I think it takes a special kind of grace and awareness of one self to be able to spend time alone, especially out in public.

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  7. I love this post! My husband is out of town on business a lot {and since I've gone car-less for the summer its harder to get together with a lot of my good friends from the burbs} You've just inspired me to stop waiting and bike over to a few local restos I've been wanting to try out for months now but haven't been able to due to waiting on everyone else's schedule. Thanks!!

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  8. Thank you for this article, as I just moved to a new city where I barely know anyone, and I'm feeling a bit bummed about doing so much on my own. I've gotten good at it through the years, and I've traveled alone, gone to movies alone (which I think is awesome, btw), ate alone, shopped alone, etc, but it does get a bit old after a while.

    I love the idea of having an "alone-vice". When I had my little Nokia phone, my alone-vice was playing snake. Loved that game! Now it is reading a good book.

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    1. I'm about to move into my own apartment on my own after living with various roommates (both good friends and randoms) over the past few years. I'm actually more excited than scared - that's what door bolts are for :) http://btdubs-skorbs.blogspot.com/2012/08/thrust-into-real-world-month-3.html

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  9. I feel as though everything you wrote came from my mouth! I dig alone time more than anything. When I was pregnant, I told my mom I wasn't afraid of anything except not being able to go enjoy a lunch by myself at a new restaurant or solo vintage shopping. My mom has been more than happy to watch our little lady while I have some alone time every once in a while, and I'm presently surprised to find out that our daughter likes new food and good vintage as much as her mama. Thanks for the great read!

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  10. Thanks for all the great comments, guys! Happy to know y'all are so independent! :)

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  11. I get a lot of flack from my friends for doing things or saying I will do them alone. I went and saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo alone and everyone that I was weird. I also almost went to a concert I'd been waiting all my life to go to alone and then my mom bought a ticket last minute (I'm not sure if she thought it was pathetic or unsafe for me to go solo haha). I feel the same way about traveling abroad. A lot of times the things I go to alone are things that I don't want other people ruining for me (this goes more so for concerts and trips than movie/restaurant outings). I really don't think it's a bad thing and I think people need to embrace it more and stop being so socially needy!

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  12. I have the biggest desire to do things alone but have done very few. I don't have a car, I do have a bike however our city is not very bike friendly. Not to mention biking anywhere these days means instant buckets of sweat. But now that fall is coming i'm planning to just get. over. it. and bike to the movie theatre and see a film by myself as well as eat somewhere nice.

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  13. I love doing things alone! I'm also an only child, so I HAD to enjoy doing things alone when I was growing up. I wouldn't have had half of the awesome life experiences I have had if I always had to have someone with me. Currently saving for a Maccu Picchu trip next year and an Antarctica/South America adventure in 2014, both with me traveling alone and meeting up with other groups. Boyfriend isn't as into travel as I am, so I'm thankful he's okay with me galivanting off and having adventures without him. Someone has to stay home with our pug, right? :o)

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  14. I feel awkward doing some things alone, but I'm almost always a solo moviegoer, mostly because my friends love to talk in movies and I can't STAND that. :P I think movies are probably a good stepping-stone solo activity. Dark room where no one will notice if you're alone or not! Built in distracting activity to keep you from feeling awkward or forced to talk to strangers! :D

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  15. Yes love this post! It's me all over

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  16. Such a timely post for me! I am soooo uncomfortable doing things on my own - because of exactly what you wrote as reason one. It's time for me to start "building a life" outside of my work... and going at it alone is part of the package. Don't get me wrong - I am great with alone time - at home or out shopping - but going out to eat? Not brave enough there! (and I too, as others have stated, would take a good book and a comfy couch any day!)

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  17. I have never been uncomfortable doing things on my own - especially traveling to Ireland solo :) which I plan to do more of ASAP!

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  18. I often have whole stretches of time on my own because most of my friends now have boyfriends and I remain resolutely single. They all plan coupled up weekends and no matter how hard I try, I end up having stretches of days with no plans. I've always liked doing certain things alone (like shopping) but have started doing more (like going to the cinema/theatre) on my own. I do still struggle with feeling like I'm being watched with pity if I eat on my own but always carry a book so I have somewhere to look! I struggle most with having a full day where I don't really end up talking to anyone- that's the hard bit!

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  19. I really love this post - it's really got me thinking about the time I spend alone

    I always make a point of not sitting and playing on my phone when a friend leaves the table in a restaurant or pub - there is a weird awkwardness about being alone in certain social situations

    It's inspired a post - http://makedoandspend.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/do-alone-time/

    (And another to follow!)

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  20. I love this! I always used to think that people were staring at me whenever I ate alone (although to be fair, sometimes they were) but now, I really don't care. I think I actually prefer travelling alone because, as you say, there's no worrying about anybody else. And no judgement if I splurge my daily budget on a block of cheese and cut off huge hunks of it sitting in bed and watching Gossip Girl because it's the only English language show on TV.

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  21. i looooooove being by myself! especially traveling. there is nothing more freeing than being able to take a bus to nowhere in particular, no set agenda, no strict plans or guidelines made. i never regret a solo trip :)

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  22. I am an only child and growing up both my parents worked so I got used to entertaining myself. I enjoy going to shows and movies and museum exhibits alone. Restaurants took some getting used to but here's my trick - take a good book, order a glass of wine and just own the experience. If you look nervous or awkward or play with your phone too much, people will notice you more. But if you sit there with confidence like it's the most normal thing in the world, no one will pay any attention to you, and if they do look at you, it will be in admiration. This has helped me through countless business trips when I refused to hide in my room eating hotel food.

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  23. Over the past few years, I've forced myself to get used to doing a lot of things alone. I love to travel, but usually have no one to do it with. And traveling alone means doing lots of other things (eating, shopping, sightseeing) alone, too. I still do feel awkward at times. But whenever I anticipate a potentially-awkward solo experience, I just make sure to bring my Kindle along. That way, resorting to burying my nose in a book is always an option.

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  24. So true! I always feel self-conscious when I'm on my own and my phone is glued to my hand but writing would be such a good distraction! Also, if people are noticing you being on your own its probably because they're not having a good time themselves! Love this so much a brilliant confidence boost.

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