Why It's Okay-Even Fun-To Do Things By Yourself
After college, I moved into a one-
bedroom bungalow tucked back in the woods along a river. The setting was idyllic and I imagined all the peace and quiet I was about to enjoy. The problem was I had no idea how to spend time alone. I’d gone from my parents’ home to the dorm to an apartment full of girls, and now I’d come home from work to deafening silence. Within ten minutes, I’d be pacing the floor. Fifteen minutes and I’d be on the phone looking for someone to hang out with. Twenty and I was out the door again, not coming home until bedtime.
Then a funny thing happened. Over time, I learned to enjoy—nah, to cherish time in my own company. Now I work at home alone all day while my husband’s at the office and our four kids are at school. I’ve even learned how to enjoy a solo trip to the
100 cinema, a meal out, or a museum tour with no one in tow but little old me.
CULTIVATING YOUR OWN COMPANY
At a time in this country when many are working longer hours, marrying later, and finding themselves with smaller chunks of free time, the
idea of doing something alone— particularly something in public—still seems odd to many. They worry what others must think about them being alone. Surely they’d rather have company as they do yoga, fish, hike, go bowling, take a trip, or enjoy a little retail therapy.
Maybe not? While doing all of the above with a friend or partner can be great, going it alone is special. Here are some reasons to push past your resistance and find some activities— even public activities—you enjoy doing solo.
YOU CAN SET YOUR OWN ITINERARY There are some things I enjoy doing that my friends find boring. (Historic home tour, anyone?) Likewise, there are things they like I’d just as soon avoid. Rather than drag a girlfriend to geek out over yet another plantation home with me or endure a five- hour thrift store session with my sister, what’s wrong with each of us enjoying our favorite activities solo at least some of the time? If you like the symphony but your spouse doesn’t, if you could stare at the jellyfish at the aquarium long after your friends have lost interest, try going alone. You’re freed up from worrying that you’re boring them and freer still from being bored by what they like that you don’t. Then when you’re together you’ll have something interesting to tell each other.
YOU GET TO MOVE AT YOUR OWN PACE The more people you include in an outing, the slower things are able to move, because you spend half your time just trying to get everyone in sync. You’re convoying in cars with one speed demon and one Sunday driver. Half of your group skips breakfast. The other half can’t do without it. Each walks at a different pace, and do you really need to take another selfie right now? Traveling or doing other activities solo frees you up from trying to synchronize everybody’s pace, diet, bladders, and preferences into one experience. No more waiting for others. No more worrying when others are waiting for you.
YOU LEARN TO EMBRACE LONELINESS Even for the most social of social butterflies, there are times when being alone is inevitable. So it’s important to master the art of enjoying your own company—not only to be by yourself, but be perfectly happy and contented that way. By practicing a little alone time now and again, you’ll be ready when those times of isolation occur. You may even find yourself looking forward to them.
YOU’LL FEEL MORE INDEPENDENT Once you learn to enjoy being alone, you’ll feel more confident in your ability
to actually be alone. And that can lead to feelings of independence. You’ll no longer feel the need for constant interaction with other people, or the anxiety associated with realizing you’re about to be alone. You’ll
learn to trust yourself more and your independence will grow exponentially.
YOU’LL ENJOY RELATIONSHIPS MORE It may sound counterintuitive to say being alone helps you enjoy being with people. But as you spend more time by yourself and as you begin enjoying that time, you may find you also enjoy your relationships with other people more. It could be compared to eating a meal after a time without food. You enjoy and really experience the flavors and textures more, because of the time you’ve been without them. Moreover, time spent alone can offer you a greater appreciation of yourself and what you have to offer.
You may also become more discerning about who you spend your time with and how you spend that time. Spending time with other people, because you can’t stand being alone, can foster an “any
port in a storm” mentality. Spending time with others, as just one viable option, can feel completely different and offer a fresh appreciation of the things you enjoy about a certain person, relationship, or group of people. Getting to know yourself helps you get to know and appreciate others more.
So in the end you’ll realize there’s much more to do alone than binge on Netflix at home in your sweats (not that there’s anything wrong with that from time to time). There’s a whole big world of solo activities out there waiting for you to enjoy them. Why not make a date with yourself this weekend and try one?.