I’ve recently come back from holiday. Not something extraordinary in itself, but it was the first trip I’ve ever taken where I had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time by myself, and to do activities usually done with others, alone. And I loved it! The experience was really quite liberating, and it’s left me with a desire to do more things solo. It’s not that I don’t like company. I love spending time with friends and family, but exploring and hiking by myself for even that short time, left me feeling more confident in myself and gave me a tremendous sense freedom. Although it was challenging at first (and I’m speaking as someone previously too self conscious to sit in a coffee shop by myself), my anxieties soon gave way and I felt more relaxed and was able to completely lose myself in the activity.
Why don’t we do more things solo?
Having had such a positive experience exploring a little bit of Switzerland by myself, it got me thinking: why don’t we do more things solo? And not just coffee or short journeys on public transport, but going to the cinema, for a meal, or even travelling? After speaking to a few women about it and doing some research online, I came up with some possible reasons:
- We feel nervous and self conscious in public spaces, especially when engaging in activities typically regarded as inherently social.
- We don’t feel safe and worry about unwelcome attention. Not surprising given we’re bombarded with messages that tell us we aren’t safe by ourselves at night, on public transport, if we’ve had a drink etc.
- We feel embarrassed and worry about being judged negatively by others. No one wants to be thought of as a loner or a weirdo.
- We’re unsure how to fill the gaps in time without social interaction from a companion. What do you do with yourself when you’re sat alone waiting?
The benefits of doing things alone
There’s no arguing these are perfectly valid reasons why going solo might appear a less than favorable option. But I think by neglecting it as a possibility, you run the risk of missing out. A renowned social scientist, Bella DePaulo was quoted in an article for Cosmopolitan as saying:
“if you know that you can do things alone, that gives you a certain power”.
And she’s spot on with that. If you take the necessary precautions associated with an activity (we’ve all seen 127 hours), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t head off alone to do it. After my albeit brief experience of going solo, I can vouch that the benefits of doing it outweigh the negatives identified above, and there’s even scope to develop more as a person overtime through doing it as well:
- Options that were once closed, open up. You need not miss a film or exhibition you really want to see because you don’t have anyone to go with.
- You can try new and different things without justifying it to other people.
- You appreciate the actual activity more because your attention isn’t being drawn away from it by someone else.
- You have greater freedom to indulge yourself and your interests.
- It gives you greater control over your life which is empowering and makes you more independent as a person.
- It increases your self confidence and encourages you to be more assertive.
- You become increasingly comfortable in your own skin, and care less about what other people think, making you less affected by the negativity of others.
- It gives you a little kick and a thrill as you’re challenging the norm.
But there’s balance to everything. Being alone and doing everything by yourself without any company can be just as problematic as spending all your time with others and finding it difficult to be by yourself. Humans are social animals, we like being round other people and it’s important to maintain relationships with others. But it’s also great to know that you have it within yourself to be independent and most of all, to enjoy that independence.
Things to try solo
Time I spend with friends and family is very enjoyable, but after getting so much out of my solo experience, I’ve returned to the UK with a renewed sense of adventure and I’m determined to do more things alone in the future. Whilst there’s some negatives attached to going solo, the benefits of the experience seem to hold great promise. It’ll probably be hard at first, but I think the rewards make it worthwhile. To get me started I’ve been reading up a bit on the subject and found a few suggestions for things to try alone:
- Eat out – that one will be particularly challenging!
- Go for a drink alone.
- Travel, whether it’s a full holiday or a weekend away.
- See a films alone.
- Take day trips.
- Take up a new sport or exercise class.
I’m intrigued to learn more about other women’s experiences of doing things solo, so feel free to leave your comments.