Why You Shouldn't Fear Going Solo

You may miss a lot if you refuse to venture out without company.

Posted Apr 27, 2015

Shots Studio/Shutterstock
Source: Shots Studio/Shutterstock

A new study in the Journal for Consumer Research looks at how people feel about doing things alone. Jesse Singal, who wrote about the study for New York magazine, said that he's OK with eating alone, but going to the movies or a concert alone sounded uncomfortable.

And yet the research—which admittedly is still pretty limited—has found that although people fear they won't enjoy doing some things alone (in this study, it was taking a spin around an art gallery), they end up enjoying themselves just as much as someone who has company.

This does not surprise me in the least, but then, I've never had trouble doing things alone. Admittedly, eating dinner in nice restaurants alone took some getting used to, but I'm OK with that now, too. It's necessary if you're going to travel solo, which is one of my favorite things to do. (I do have my strategies, however. For example, I try to eat early so that I'm not the sole solo in a crowded restaurant. If nothing else, I get better service that way, rather than being resented for taking up a whole table on my own. Maybe that's not right, but it's reality.)

Museums and art galleries alone? No problem. I love losing myself in the exhibits. Movies alone? Absolute bliss—it feels deliciously indulgent. Hiking alone? Yes, please. (Nowhere dangerous, though.) Concerts alone are not my favorite thing, but I'll do it if it's a choice between going alone or not going at all. I'm also not crazy about being in bars alone, although one of my dining tactics when traveling solo is eating at hotel or restaurant bars, which are often comfortable and convivial. 

But here's what puzzles me: A lot of people dislike doing things alone because they are afraid others will judge them and assume they are alone because they have no friends.

This has never crossed my mind.

When I see someone alone, if I think anything about them at all, it's that the individual is self-possessed, confident, adventurous, even worldly. If the person manages to do it without hiding behind a book or phone, I'm even more impressed. The only people I might think are lonely are those who are trying to strike up conversations with anyone and everyone around them. Perhaps I'm just projecting, though; I do occasionally get lonely when I travel alone, and those are the times I'm most likely to try to meet people. 

And, worst-case scenario: Suppose someone across the room does think I'm lonely and friendless? Who cares, unless they point and laugh, in which case, they have much bigger problems than I do.

I have nothing but positive thoughts when I see people who are OK with doing stuff solo.

In fact, once I was on a lovely vacation in Greece with my lovely husband having a lovely time. One afternoon, as we dined al fresco in Athens, a young woman was seated alone at a table near us. When the waiter set a cappuccino in front of her, she took out a camera (this was pre-smartphone) and took a few photos, unselfconsciously crouching by the table for one angle, moving to the other seat for another. She was, I assumed, capturing her own lovely moment in her solo adventure in Greece.

Sophia Dembling
Source: Sophia Dembling

Did I feel sorry for her? Not in the least. Actually, I was a little envious.

What do you enjoy doing alone? What scares you about doing things alone?

Check out my books, Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After; The Introverts Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World; and 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go. Support your local independent bookstore; click here to find an indie near you.

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