Are You Afraid to Do Things Alone?

Waiting

Would you be willing to see a movie in a theater by yourself? How you answer this question can gauge how self-reliant you are and how willing you are to take social risks. At its basic core, seeing a movie in a theater is one of the easiest things you can do. But at the same time, seeing a movie by yourself is rather difficult to do for the first time.

The difficulty that lies in seeing a movie by yourself is just the beginning though. Many other fun, amazing activities seem to be harder when faced alone. This applies to travel, concerts and eating at a restaurant. So if you answered no to the question, how willing would you be to do any of these other things alone? Could you be missing out on doing some amazing things?

Doing Things Alone

I asked myself the movie question several years ago. A movie had just come out that I desperately wanted to see. However, I couldn’t find anyone willing to go. Initially I saw the problem resolving itself in one of two ways: I would wait until I could find someone to go with or wait until it came out on DVD.

Either solution to the problem would have required waiting. I’m usually very patient, but I thought it was ridiculous to put off something as simple as seeing a movie. The third solution of seeing it by myself became clear. But I would have to face down some doubts.

For some reason, movie-going is seen as a group activity. I thought I might be considered weird for going alone. Other thoughts started to emerge. Would I be considered a loser or would people stare at me and wonder what is wrong with me? I felt as if everyone’s eyes would be on me.

As it turns out, nothing would be further from the truth. I went to the movie theater and saw the movie I wanted with no trouble. The problems I associated with seeing a movie by myself were all in my head.

The Trouble with Groups

If I had a choice in the matter, I would have gone to this movie with another person. In fact, doing things with other people is almost always the better option. However, waiting to do something you want solely because you don’t want to do it alone causes a few problems.

When you have to do things with other people, you’re giving up control. Since you’re entirely dependent on if there is someone else, you’re limiting your alternatives. While it is nice to have other people to go with, going by yourself should always be an option. This is especially true with bigger things in life. Finding someone to go on that dream vacation you’ve always wanted might be tough.

There are also times when doing something with other people just doesn’t seem appealing. Alone time is great for the mind and soul and there isn’t a rule saying you need to spend that time in any particular place. Some of the best alone time I’ve had was at a rock climbing facility, another place some people wouldn’t go to alone.

What’s Stopping You?

The problem people have with doing things alone is that there appears to be social pressures against it. If a particular activity is generally seen as a “group thing”, you don’t want to seem abnormal by going against common consensus. But most of this social pressure is just illusory.

I don’t want to say that social pressure doesn’t exist. It does. However, I think most of what we call social pressure is really just internal fear. All this goes away though once you actually start doing it. I was uncomfortable seeing a movie alone at first, but it went away. And despite a few odd glances, no one seemed to care.

However, I realize social pressure dies down a lot in the comfort of a dark movie theater. So what would happen if you went alone to a nightclub where everyone is constantly looking at everyone else? Well, I have a friend who actually does that. He goes to nightclubs alone often so he can meet people while he is there. And he does. From the stories he tells me, he is quite successful too.

Social Pressure Shouldn’t Stop You

For the most part, I don’t have a problem doing things alone. So far I’ve gone to a concert, eaten at a restaurant, traveled and saw a movie alone. I must admit that I haven’t gone to a nightclub alone to meet people though. I almost did one night, but social pressure and fear overwhelmed me so I backed out at the last minute.

You shouldn’t let fear or social pressure stop you though. In fact, I think doing some of these things by yourself is a good challenge to see how self-reliant and independent you really can be. Once you open up to the option of doing things alone, you’ll have more freedom and control of decisions in your own life.
photo credit: Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas)

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Comments

  1. This is a great post. I’ve been debating trying a trip alone. I met several people who traveled alone when I was in Greece last year and just seeing how successful they were with it made me think it’s something I may need to try. Especially since one of my top destinations, Russia doesn’t get a lot of interest from my social circle – which I think that’s really more concerning than traveling alone. :)

    • I’ve met solo travelers all over the world and they all seemed to be doing just fine. I know you can have a lot more fun traveling with someone else, but for those times when you can’t find someone to go with, solo travel is all you’re left with. I think you should go. Russia would be a fun destination.

  2. You make some good point. I think it is important to be independent at times.

    I agree that social factor is a contributes largely to people not wanting to do things alone, however I feel there are many different facets to this discussion.

    I’m big on self sufficiency but life is just better with other people involved. I think anyone that doesn’t agree with that is lying to them self, or they haven’t developed any close relationships.

    I can talk from experience that there have been times when I didn’t want to do things by myself because I didn’t want to be alone. Not because of social pressure, but because I often enjoy the company of others.

    I’ve travelled alone and although I had a great time. Nothing could have been better than to have someone close to share the experience with. There are some things that you just can’t share through language to the extent you feel it.

    I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that.

    This is great topic and you definitely gave us all something to think about. I just thought I’d add the other angle.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Doing things with other people is almost always my first option. Part of the fun that comes with experiences is the socializing that can come with them. Plus, you have shared memories you can always talk about with each other. It just makes it more fun.

      But I think doing something alone should be an option for when you can’t find someone to do something with. Like when I went to a concert alone because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Instead of passing up on seeing one of my favorite bands, I went alone.

  3. Great Post. Many years ago I vowed to never let “being alone” keep me from an experience I wanted to have. There have been times when it has been difficult, but I have eaten at restaurants, been to happy hour, seen movies, went on road trips and taken attraction tours all by myself. Some of the best times I have ever had have been alone!

  4. Ok, this is something that has amused me for awhile. A lot of people have “see a movie alone” on their list. I can’t remember how old I was when I first went to see a movie by myself…maybe when I was a sophomore in college? I LOVE being by myself, doing stuff by myself, going to concerts, eating at restaurants, shopping, traveling. Even when my husband and I travel, we still go off and do things by ourselves. Touring Tulum as a loner garnered much surprise by the rest in my little tour group but I just shrugged my shoulders and said “I wanted to come and he didn’t” Do you think it’s selfishness on our parts that we choose to do what we want over being with one another? Either way, we’re a lot happier than people that get dragged along doing things they don’t want to do. And what a waste of time! Doing things you don’t want to do when there are so many things you could be doing!

    • I’ve noticed seeing a movie alone on a lot of bucket lists too. It seems easy for me to do now that I’ve done it, but many people I know who haven’t just have a hard time about it.

      You make a good point about seeing separate things while traveling. I almost always travel with other people, but there are some days when I want to see something that the other person doesn’t. In those cases, we just plan to meet up later. Doing it alone is a good option in those cases. I see what I want and they don’t get dragged to something they don’t want to see.

  5. This is always a dilemma when traveling in a group. How do you also get some alone time? I’m traveling with 2 other people at the moment. But a few days ago, on a whim, I decided to walk around Hanoi by myself and just read a book by the lake. I met a Laotian girl and enjoyed taking photos around town without anyone having to wait for me. It’s always fun to travel with friends but sometimes, we all need some alone time. Thanks for making us think about this Steve!

  6. Steve,

    To be honest with you I am terrified of doing things alone. I have never done anything by myself. I grew up in a close nit family and we did everything together. We did so much when I was growing up that I now have added the same practice into my own family. Instead of allowing my wife to go shopping all alone because I hate it I will spend precious hours of my day walking from store to store being tortured. This can’t be good for our relationship. :-) In return I make her watch Man vs Wild with me for hours at a time.

    I have found a tremendous amount of value in this post because as you can see this is an area that I need to explore. Today is the day I do something cool, alone. Great post.

    • Hey Frank, thanks for sharing your experiences on this. I can imagine how growing up like that would make doing things alone scary. I hope you can explore doing things alone more and get comfortable doing it. Hopefully it will help you get out of all those hours of shopping.

  7. I don’t go out of my way to do things alone, because I enjoy experiencing things with other people. It’s always nice to share fun moments together! But if I really want to do something and can’t find anybody who is intested in joining… why not?! Just this weekend I went to a Dude Ranch in Texas by myself because I thought it would be fun. And it was! Plus, you get to meet more people when you are by yourself. Years ago I explored D.C. by myself and really enjoyed walking everywhere with my little guidebook and learning about the places I was visiting. Life’s too short not to see things or places you want to see just because nobody else has the time or interest to join you…

    • I can imagine going to a Dude Ranch alone would be fun. There are so many interesting people you could meet there.

      Doing things like that by yourself forces you to be a little more social than normal. That’s why it is a good option if you can’t find someone to go with. You’ll be doing what you want to do and meeting people along the way.

  8. The first time is always the hardest. After you’ve done a couple of ‘group things’ by yourself, your confidence goes up and it even gives plus points to other people when you know you can stand on your own feet and stop relying on others. I don’t mind doing things alone, I got used to the idea already.

  9. I think I mentioned a similar thing to one of my previous posts. Some people are really challenged to go to the cinema alone or to eat in a restaurant by themselves. I am already used to the idea since I am the type of person who learned to be independent in a young age. No one can also stop me in watching the movies i love in big screen and that pushed me to my first cinema trip alone. I feel good that I am brave enough to do it, although it is not really a big deal.

    • It really isn’t a big deal to see a movie by yourself, but some people seem to think it is. I know I thought it was a big deal when I first did it. But I really didn’t learn to be that independent at a young age. I’ve learned it as I’ve gotten older.

  10. Interesting concept for a post Steve. Even though I have a large circle of friends and family, I am a bit of a loner and do enjoy my own company from time to time. It sounds a little weird, but I just enjoy getting into my own head space and thoughts.

    That said, I will never knock back the opportunity to socialize, but I do put my ability to being able to spend time on my own came from spending many years on my own traveling the world through out my twenties.

  11. i use to be afraid of doing things by myself but as time goes by i learned to face my fear one activity at a time… start with baby steps i guess… :-)

  12. Hey Steve,

    I love how relevant your post ideas are. The hardest part of doing things alone is the social pressure.

    I actually went to a nightclub by myself once. It was in Vegas, of all places. I was there early for a psych conference. So I decided that night I could sit in my hotel room by myself watching TV or I could go experience Las Vegas, a city with endless stories.

    I hit the strip, walked in a night club, and after paying a ridiculous 9 dollars for a budlight, I tried to figure out what my next move was going to be. As I stood there, I felt like all eyes were me, this kid standing by himself holding a $9 budlight (they weren’t).

    I got the courage to go upstairs, lay inhibition to the wind, and just dance. I did. And I noticed myself slightly shifting from fear of being perceived as a loser to just a kid living life.

    I didn’t have a huge revelation. This is not a story where I became the social highlight of the place. For most of the time I was still scared to death, but I did it and I couldn’t be happier. It let me know that even the scary things are doable, and worth it.

    Cheers!

    • Hey Chris, I think you illustrated really well how when you think everyone is looking at you or judging you, it’s usually just in your head. I’m glad you could get past the social pressure and just have fun. Once you can get past social pressure it’s easier to relax more and let loose. It beats staying in the hotel room watching TV.

  13. This was the perfect blog to read today. I’m in Spain, traveling alone. I arrived in Barcelona this morning and I haven’t eaten yet. I really want some Thai food but I don’t want to go to the restaurant by myself. I’ve been eating sandwiches for almost a week now, just to avoid being in a restaurant alone.

    I found a Thai place near my hotel and I’m going to go eat there as soon as I finish this comment!

    Great subject. Thanks! :)

    -Rene.

  14. I used to think people were crazy for going to restaurants alone – and when I would see them – I felt sad – where were their friends? Did they have any?
    But as I get older, and as I meet people who are fine doing things alone, I am a fan.
    I haven’t done a dinner alone in a restaurant, but I have for lunch, etc.
    I prefer to do many things alone – like shopping, museums, etc. But maybe I need to be a bit more adventurous!

  15. I do most everything alone just because I really like to be by myself. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m at the point, though, where I’d like to start hanging out with people more. I’ve settled down in northern Israel for the long term, where people are similar to me but not enough so that I think I can really easily make friends with any of them. Their native language is Hebrew, some of them don’t speak any English, and this is a nation of Jews, while I’m Christian, so that puts a little bit – not much – of a wedge between us. Still, I’d like to try to make friends while I’m here so at least I’ll have a choice of whether I do things alone or not.

  16. I definitely think it’s all in your head. If you go watch a movie by yourself, no one is going to be talking about you the whole time and pointing out the lonely person sitting there. However that’s how some people will think. I watch movies by myself all the time.

    Last October I travelled the country on JetBlue by myself and loved exploring new cities on my own.

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