In my last blog post, I briefly mentioned how I travel, and go other places, alone and how it doesn’t scare me or make me feel lonely (most of the time!), partly because I’m outgoing and I get to know the locals, but also because I know how to enjoy my own company and not feel bored. While that was simply the exposition of the topic I was getting into, that is the part of the blog that I got the most response on. Several women reached out to me and told me of similar experiences or reasons why they couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. Others asked if I ever worried about my safety. Even more asked me for tips on how to start doing activities by themselves. So I started to look into the subject of going out alone as a woman and was amazed and intrigued by all that I found. So I have decided to do a three part series on the subject titled Solitary: Finding Satisfaction In Aloneness. As you can see above, part one is about stigmas surrounding the topic, while parts two and three will deal with safety and satisfaction. I have used my experiences, comments and stories from others, as well as articles from different sources to properly prepare myself to write on this topic. However, at the end of the day, this is me simply sharing my heart with you and I’m not here to assume people’s motivations or judge the actions of others. I am not a psychologist-I DON’T KNOW ALL THE THINGS. Nevertheless, I desire to be transparent and authentic with myself and my readers and I hope that you leave encouraged! Okay, let’s dive in…
Everyone knows the normal stigma and perception of a woman dining alone, or out by herself in general. She’s either waiting for someone, she’s been stood up, or “aww so sad, she’s unwanted and unloved since she couldn’t get anyone to dine with her.” Uggghhh. This fear of judgement often keeps us from venturing out and doing things we enjoy just because we are by ourselves. Even with the rise of feminism and the concept of the modern woman (Tanya Rad is doing a great job on this topic of the MW btw), the insecurities still creep into our minds and plague our thoughts, crippling any chance of confidence that we had hoped to embrace. It doesn’t help that the entertainment industry also backs this stereotype. I remember a conversation on an episode of Friends between Rachel and Chandler about this stigma, and while it was amusing, it still holds some truth (and insecurities!) in it, even today. This is how that conversation went:
Rachel: “I wish I was one of those people who could eat in restaurants alone.”
(when asked why she didn’t): “I just think that I’d feel really self-conscious, y’know? Like I was on display or something.”
*cut to a later scene where she comes back home after dining alone and says that her experience was liberating*
Chandler: “Although, I must say that I totally judge any woman I see eating alone.”
Monica: “What’s wrong with eating alone?”
Chandler: “Well, obviously something- she’s eating alone!”
This has been the mindset that we have grown accustomed to, despite invalidating the assumptions of old, but nevertheless there is usually a bitter mix of anxiety and insecurity that comes with the thought of going out in public by ourselves. Speaking for myself, I know that at times dining alone can feel as dramatic and exaggerated as this Steve Martin clip from Lonely Guy shown below. Take a gander at it:
Funny and exaggerated, but I know it can still feel true to us. Often times we feel like we have to look busy, either by being on our phone or reading a book. (Steve Martin’s character later acted like a food critic, taking notes, to deem it “acceptable” why he was there by himself.) We’ve forgotten, or rather have never discovered, the beauty in just sitting and experiencing the joy of doing nothing. For some of the women I’ve talked to, this is the hardest part about going out by themselves; they feel anxious when encountered with their own thoughts, a feeling I have experienced many a time, and even discussed this fear in one of my previous posts Spinning Lights. The other reasons I found were loneliness, too scared, or simply not being able to get past the stigmas and negative perceptions put on women being alone. I did an Instagram poll for my female followers and this is what I discovered:
57% of women said they didn’t go out alone because they were too scared (safety/insecurity wasn’t specified)
The majority of women said if they went out alone, they felt lonely and/or anxious. I had the stats but then guys started answering and threw off my percentages lol, although ironically, every guy chose “No, I enjoy the freedom” instead of the former choice.
76% of women answered yes when asked if they would do more things by themselves if there wasn’t a stigma or negative perception of women going out alone.
(a few more people answered after I took this picture, bumping the % up)
I was amazed by the amount of women who weren’t fully living the way they wanted to because of how they expected people to think of them. It made my heart hurt, because I have definitely been there, and even though I do a lot of things by myself now, I still have moments of doubt and worry if people are judging me. My advice to you if you are a gal who worries about this is to do the old “reverse thinking” that I used to do in high school whenever I got a pimple. Sounds weird, but bear with me here.
Everyone knows that gut-wrenching moment when you wake up and see a freshly risen, bright red, and undoubtedly swollen zit in the very middle of your forehead (OH THE HORROR!). Of course, you try to cover it up with concealer or your bangs, but unfortunately, your zit’s Broadway-esque “Look at me!” type of attitude makes it impossible to hide. Then you start to worry about how everyone is going to stare at it all day, maybe even point it out in the hallways between classes, and then your friends won’t let you hang out with them anymore, and you’ll have nowhere to sit at lunch and…I think you get my drift. We worry and are self-conscious about things that people most likely aren’t even going to notice. So the reverse thinking trick that I always made myself do in high school upon such occasions was to think back to the day before, and ask myself if I remember noticing anything like that on my peers. Did I remember what shirt that guy in my English class wore? Did I notice that my Spanish teacher was sporting two day dirty hair? The answer…no. I didn’t notice, remember, or even care!
Now take a second to do that in regards to a woman by herself, either dining alone or at the movies or anything really. Did you one, notice her, and two, if you did did you make assumptions or even spend ten seconds of your time thinking about all the reasons why she could be out by herself? Again, the answer is most likely no! NO ONE CARES! We live in such a technological, self-absorbed society now that people barely look up from their phones, much less, spend an adequate amount of time thinking of someone else and their dining situation. I don’t mean that to seem rude or negative, but it’s kinda true, and I often have to remind myself of this mindset in order to shake my own shoulders, so to speak, and realize that people really don’t care that much why I’m eating dinner alone on a Thursday night.(no, I didn’t eat this whole thing by myself, but it was DELICIOUS!)
Before I began researching this topic a little more, I thought the only stigma was the typical “aww so sad, she’s alone,” but I came across an article that introduced another stigma and it genuinely frustrated me so much. It was by Elite Daily and it discussed the 9 Divine Qualities of a girl who goes out by herself, and it was the exact opposite of the aforementioned stigma, yet still was so off base in my opinion. I’ve linked the article below, but some of the qualities that were listed were:
I’m not saying that a woman can’t be those things- what I’m saying is that a woman doesn’t have to be those things in order to go out by herself. Everyone is insecure and has their melancholy moments; in my previous post, right after I talked about enjoying my own company, I mentioned how I spent an evening on the beach crying by myself!! Everybody has those days! You can be confident and sad, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is also no dress code for a date with yourself- wear what you want and what makes you feel good. Now, I also don’t want you to be afraid to dress up and take yourself somewhere nice; you shouldn’t have to miss out on good food and a great time simply because you are by yourself. (Yes, I talk a lot about dining alone, what can I say I just love food). The last point about being “satisfied with her own fascinating thoughts” frustrated me because as I mentioned above, sometimes that is the hardest part of going out by ourselves. If we are intentional about not being on our phones or trying to look busy, and instead trying to sit and enjoy the solitude, time alone with our thoughts can take time getting used to. I shared my fears about being alone with my thoughts in the post titled Spinning Lights and I said:
“At the end of the day, I want to come home to peace and quiet- not my inner critic reviewing all the ways I screwed up that day, how I have so much farther to go to accomplish my dreams, and reminding me of how hard I am to love.”
I imagine other women feel this way too whenever they are left alone with their thoughts. Once we stop running around and take a break from our jobs or families, often times our focus shifts to ourselves in a negative light. So this article upset me because I felt that all it did was add a whole other layer of doubt and insecurity to this new idea or perception of what a woman had to be in order to enjoy her own company.
The other article I read, I enjoyed and agreed with more than the previous article. It was by The Every Girl, and it was also dedicated to the stigma of doing things alone (read full article here)
“We need to stop applauding women for going out alone, and spend more time encouraging young women to do things on their own until it becomes the norm.”
This quote from the article stood out to me, but at the same time, I found myself saying,”But this isn’t the norm; that’s a great goal to set, but we should be applauding women! That will help progress the norm faster.” We’ve got to work with what we’ve got, and some women enjoy being alone but surrounded by people, so they should be able to go out by themselves and experience that. The hardest part is to accept that you are by yourself and to own that without being self-conscious. In an article by Huffpost, the writer said, “Doing things alone eventually dissipates the feeling of self-consciousness in public places and fosters self-awareness instead.” (read full article here)
Don’t let being by yourself limit you and your experiences. Break the stigma and break down those walls of fear and insecurity!!
Sometimes aloneness is what it takes to experience your beautiful unfolding. -Allison Fallon
I will be addressing safety of going out alone in the next post, and then satisfaction and tips/ways to start trying new experiences by yourself in part three. I would love to hear from you on any of these topics, whether it be comments, questions, or even suggestions! Feel free to leave a comment, email, or message me on instagram (jessipallen). I so enjoyed hearing from my readers and exploring this topic with you all, and I can’t wait for the next parts!
Live fearlessly authentic -J