We Need to Talk About the Stigma of Doing Things Alone

It was Thursday afternoon. I’d been invited to the soft launch of a new restaurant that evening, and I’d invited a guy I’d recently met through online dating to join me, only to have him cancel last minute.

As someone who tries to live her life with a “no regrets” mentality, the choice was clear: I’d go alone. NBD. Did I mention there were going to be tacos? But, about 20 minutes into the event, as I sat sipping my drink, listening to a Mariachi band, minding my own business, an older gentleman approached me, and asked with a tone of utter surprise:

“Are you here alone?”

Shots fired. As if this wasn’t already clear enough from the context clues, thank you sir for pointing out the obvious. Taken aback by his question, I quietly nodded, tried not to roll my eyes as he proceeded to ask a series of probing follow up questions about my personal life, including whether or not I lived alone, and counted the minutes till I could walk away. But, the more I thought about it, the more upset I became. I should have said, “Are YOU here alone?” I should have said, “Did you ask the man my age standing in the corner if he is here alone as well?

Instead, I stood silent in a moment when I should have owned it: “Yes, I’m here alone.”

If I had to wait around for someone to do everything with me, I would have missed out on so many life changing experiences.

Society has created this double standard. When a man goes to an event alone, it’s fine. He’s “prospecting” or “spontaneous.” Yet, when a woman goes alone, there is something off about it. Either, she must be socially awkward and deserves pity because she had to succumb to going it solo, or she is brave. We need to stop applauding women for going alone, and spend more time encouraging young women to do things on their own until it becomes the norm.

If I had to wait around for someone to do everything with me, I would have missed out on so many life changing experiences, from a conversation on a Meetup.com hiking trip that turned into a great friendship to moving to Taiwan to teach English. Believe me, the naysayers will make you believe otherwise: You can’t go alone; it’s not smart, it’s too dangerous, it’s…insert deterring adjective of your choice. But, I can honestly say I have found nothing more liberating and empowering than traveling alone. Learning to be completely self-dependent, physically, and emotionally, in novel situations is an invaluable skill that will pay dividends far into the future in both your career and your personal life.

But how do you start? If you’ve made the mental commitment to stop letting the fear of doing something alone hold you back, how can you actually make it a reality? Well, I believe it comes back to that solitary moment of decision-making. Go. Take the risk. By just showing up, you never know what opportunities will open up for you or who you’ll meet. Or, maybe the only thing you’ll earn is the satisfaction that you are a “Bey-awesome” independent woman who can do anything she sets her mind to. And even all the free tacos in the world can’t compete with that.

5 Ways to Get Started Going It Alone 

 

1. Start by attending events with a lower barrier of entry.

If going solo sounds intimidating, start by attending events or classes that are intentionally designed for people to come by themselves, rather than with others. Exercise classes, like those offered through ClassPass, can be a low pressure experience where you can show up alone and confidently know that there will be other attendees who are in the same boat. Similarly, networking events and organizations can provide a safe space to test the waters. Many cities in America have women-only “junior leagues” that gather together women from all backgrounds to support each other and give back to their communities. Single sign-ups are highly encouraged!

You’ve made the commitment to go to something by yourself. Fantastic! Now, put down your phone.

2. Use social media as a catalyst, not a crutch.

You’ve made the commitment to go to something by yourself. Fantastic! Now, put down your phone. Don’t undo the power of the experience by spending the whole time on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, wishing you were with friends, ignoring those around you, and trying to remain under the radar. Instead, use social media proactively, not reactively. Check out weekly event newsletters in your city, scour Eventbrite for everything from lectures and career building sessions to concerts and comedy shows. Even Facebook has a robust “Events Discovery” section where you can browse events by date and location. Pick a few that sound intriguing and use the powers of social media to see who else has RSVP’d so you are ready to chat once there!

3. Challenge yourself to make one new friend.

Rule number one of going stag: There will be awkward moments. However, giving your evening purpose and a defined goal can help ease anxiety and the impetus to retreat to wallflower status when awkward encounters happen. For example, whenever I enter a bar or go to an event, I won’t let myself leave unless I’ve talked to at least one new person. Questions like “Is this your first time here as well?” can be a great way to connect with people in the room who might be in a similar situation, or asking for someone’s opinion on the event speakers, food, etc. can easily break the ice. And, if all else fails, just approach a stranger and introduce yourself with, “Hi, I’m X.” Trust me, it works. The stakes are low but the reward can be limitless.

Doing things by yourself can be incredibly empowering. The value of self-love and discovery cannot be understated.

4. Allow yourself to be bit by the travel bug.

If you’re looking to do some traveling outside your city but aren’t quite ready to make the leap going alone, consider signing up as a solo traveller on a group trip. Companies, like G Adventures, run thousands of excursions all over the world that bring together diverse groups of about 12-15 men and women to travel together. It’s a great way to go by yourself but have the security blanket of having people to stay, eat meals, and talk with after a long day of exploring.

5. Just do it. For you.

Like practice makes perfect, there is no better way to get started going it alone than jumping right in. Doing things by yourself can be incredibly empowering because you get to do exactly what you want, when you want. Sometimes the goal of attending a class or event alone is not getting to know other people, but rather getting to know yourself better and having a fantastic time in the process. The value of self-love and discovery cannot be understated.

How often do you go it alone? What have your experiences been like? Share with us in the comments below!

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