Take yourself Out: five tips to going Solo
A recent study stated that 49% of Americans have less than 3 close friends, yet the average number of online connections on places like Facebook is in the region of 338.
I spend a lot of time on the online networking site LinkedIn, at the last count I had 3,513 connections. The truth is I rarely connect with most of those connections, it’s simply not possible to have meaningful relationships and friendships with so many people.
I have a group of 20 or 30 people I check in with regularly and engage with. To try and do that with 3,500 would be far too time consuming, I’d never get any work done!
I have a relatively small social circle in ‘real’ life too, between working for myself, maintaining my home and other life admin tasks, I don’t really go out that much.
Pre-Covid, when I worked for a large organisation, I was more sociable, drinks after work, social gatherings even organising the Christmas party for hundreds of people, but now I work for myself, I tend not to be quite so gregarious.
When we’re younger we spend a lot of time with people our own ages, we naturally form large peer groups, join teams, clubs, join bands and participate in activities where friendships naturally develop. As we get older, life happens and it’s natural for friendships to drift a little. Interests change, we get jobs, meet partners, travel, start families and as a result, some of our friendships fall by the wayside.
Of course, there are exceptions, I’m best friends with someone I went to middle school with, despite living in different counties and not speaking that often, I know we could call each other anytime of day and we’d pick up where we left off our last conversation.
But whether you have a handful of friends or hundreds, there will be times that you want to go somewhere or do something that nobody else does, so you have a choice, go and do it anyway, or let the opportunity pass you by …
I did something pretty radical at the weekend, well, it was for me. I went out – out by myself. I’d normally go with a friend, but she was busy, and I wanted to go. I got ready really quickly and left the house before I changed my mind and talked myself out of going.
I’m a naturally confident person but going to a venue other than the shops or the supermarket by myself initially felt quite daunting- but it actually turned out great and I had a lovely time.
Here’s what I realised, giving yourself permission to do what you want to do without needing someone else by your side is so liberating!
Too often we put what we want to do off or on hold because we can’t find someone to join us. We’ll make an excuse to rationalise not going to the cinema to watch the new film we’ve been looking forward to for so long – it’s weird going to the cinema alone or eating a slap-up meal at that new restaurant because our friends or partner doesn’t enjoy Chinese food, or we cancel gig tickets because a friend got sick.
We won’t book a holiday to our dream destination because we can’t find someone who wants to go too. We lie and say we aren’t bothered; it was just an idea, or we’ll go another time. Sadly, most people won’t ever do the things they truly want to do in life unless they can find someone to do it with them. And that’s a shame… Why put your life on hold?
Here are my 5 tips to building confidence and going solo…
1. Take Small Steps
If you’re not used to going solo, take small steps. If your goal is to travel by yourself start by doing some research online so you know what to expect from the culture of where you want to visit. Join a chat room or look on TripAdvisor for real life accounts of people’s experiences, accommodation, safety, money, local travel and food.
Knowledge isn’t just power, it’s confidence. If you know what to expect it releases some of the doubt and worry.
2. Join a Club
Lots of clubs are perfect for people who choose to go alone. Find something that suits your interests. Salsa dancing, walking, cycling, running, gym classes, crafts, book clubs, business networking or fishing. None of which require a plus one.
Call or email ahead of time to confirm the venue and that the club is on, arrive a few minutes early so you can introduce yourself to whoever is hosting or running the club in person. Hopefully they will assist with the introductions when the other members arrive.
Ease your mind and body into a calm state by meditating and breathing slowly. In your mind’s eye see yourself confidently achieving your solo pursuits successfully. Repeat this visualisation daily or as often as you want, put as much detail around what you want to achieve as you can, once you know what you want, write it down and refer to it.
The brain will begin to accept what you tell it as fact and won’t be able to differentiate between what is real and what is visualised, making your actual real-life experience far easier when it happens.
4. Distraction Tactics for Dining Alone
If you’ve taken the plunge and gone somewhere by yourself for the first time and you feel a bit uncomfortable, take a small paperback, notebook, or magazine to leaf through, it will distract you for a little while.
As you begin to feel more comfortable about going solo, you’ll need the distractors less. Try not to use your phone as a distraction tactic, it can act as a barrier to people striking up conversation with you. If you look too busy, people won’t want to disturb you.
5. Remember nobody really cares that you are alone
You might think they care, but honestly most people are far too busy and interested in what they’ve got going on to notice or judge the person over there doing their own thing. Keep your body language lose and relaxed take some water with you if possible.
When you’re tense or agitated you won’t enjoy your experience, doing something you want to do should feel like a pleasure not a self-imposed punishment, if you’re not enjoying yourself, give yourself permission to leave. It’s OK. Try again another time.
If you’re thinking of going solo for the first time, it’s always a good idea to leave your contact details with a loved one.
Shannon Humphrey is a Youth and Adult First Aid for Mental Health Instructor helping people overcome anxiety, stress and overwhelm. Find out more about her work at www.pathwaysforpositivity.com