As an introvert, I’ve always been comfortable spending time by myself. That being said, “time by myself” generally meant sitting in the safety of my room, surrounded by my collection of houseplants (all 30+ of them!), Harry Potter playing in the background, and a stack of books sitting next to my bed that just happened to be calling my name.
Going out by myself was an entirely different battle. I wasn’t bothered by common solo activities like stopping at the grocery store or picking something up from the library, but going alone to concerts, museums, or restaurants brought a level of discomfort I never really understood.
Here’s what would happen more often than I’d care to admit: I would make plans to go to yoga with a friend, only to have them cancel last minute. Even though I was so excited to do some sun salutations and already fully dressed in my workout clothes, I would stay home, disappointed that I was missing out on what I was hoping would be a sweaty, endorphin-filled afternoon.
Or on my way home from work, I happened across a cultural festival with food trucks lining the street, but I knew my foodie friend was out of town with her boyfriend and thus couldn’t join me. So instead of stopping at one of the brightly colored trucks, I went home and poured myself a bowl of cereal, daydreaming of the walking tacos I saw while walking home.
When situations like these would pop up, I knew I’d be disappointed if I ended up missing out on new experiences. But the minute I considered going alone, tons of questions would immediately come to mind:
What if I got lost on my way there?
What if I got bored, since I had no one to talk with to pass the time? Or maybe lonely, because everyone else seemed to be there with friends.
What if people actually thought I had no friends and silently – or not-so silently – judged me for it?
No matter the circumstance, I was convinced people would end up laughing at me the entire time, for some reason or another. Once these doubts started swirling in my head, it was easy to convince myself that it was a horrible idea to partake in whatever outing I was considering. So time and time again, I stayed home, held back by my own insecurity and fears.
Introvert, can you relate?
Going Out Alone Is Beyond Freeing
This cycle of looking forward to an experience, considering showing up alone, and then immediately convincing myself not to go happened so often that I started to get fed up with it. I was missing out on life experiences and memories just because I wasn’t confident enough to go anywhere alone. At this point, I decided something needed to change; I knew I needed to start showing up.
At first it was hard. I felt a hefty initial pang of discomfort, along with the pressing urge to check my phone for probably the 17th time that hour to distract me from this discomfort. But then I would look around and see if anyone seemed to be finding any amusement in my solitude, like I had always worried. Oddly enough, nobody was paying attention to me at all. In fact, they often all seemed to be looking at their own phones!
After this realization, I felt relieved, and continued to push myself more and more. After going by myself to a handful of shows, restaurants, and movie theaters (and nervous-checking my phone only a couple more times), I learned what I now wish I had discovered years ago. Doing things by myself, on my own, without company, is beyond freeing.
Why Introverts Should Get Comfortable Going Out Alone
I think every introvert should get comfortable going out alone. These are some of the biggest things I realized:
1. Going out alone is less draining than going out with friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my friends. But as an introvert, socializing can just be exhausting. By going out and experiencing parts of the world on my own, I have energy leftover to socialize with my friends in a more intimate setting — where it’s easier to catch up than try to talk over a noisy crowd at a concert, anyway.
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2. You know your limits and have the freedom to adjust accordingly.
Sometimes I leave home in the morning prepared to tackle a full day’s worth of adventures, but find myself overly exhausted two hours in. When I’m with other people, I feel like I owe it to them to not go home part way through our plans. Sometimes it’s hard to say no, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. When I’m out by myself, if I get tired, I can go home without a second thought! If I’m hungry, I stop to eat without worrying about other people’s food preferences. If I still have energy and want to stay out longer than planned, I don’t have to ask anyone — I just stay.
3. You get to go in the single rider line at Disney.
Yes, I realize that most of us will not spend our Friday nights at Disney World. But the idea still holds. When you’re a party of one, sometimes you can cut in line. The wait at a restaurant can be cut in half when you’re by yourself and not with your three best friends. You can weave your way through masses of people without worrying about losing your friends behind you. Overall, it’s often just easier and quicker to do things alone.
4. You get to know yourself.
When I’m not locked into a conversation — and especially when I’m surrounded by strangers who I feel minimal inclination to pick up a conversation with — I find myself with precious time alone. I consider this solitude the perfect opportunity to get to know myself better.
As some would say, you can go on a date with yourself. Contemplate your own meaning of life, replay that awkward conversation you had last week over and over, debate how you should better allocate your time outside work in order to reach some of your short-term goals, or realize that maybe the reason your stomach has been hurting lately is you’ve been eating a lot of ice cream and you have a slight dairy sensitivity.
Going on adventures by yourself can be intimidating — the world doesn’t always seem to welcome introverts with open arms. But if you push through the hesitation, you never know what you’ll discover and what great experiences you’ll have on the other side. Introvert, you’ve got this.