Have you ever gone out to dinner by yourself? Taken yourself on a date? I can think of some reasons why you haven’t…
This year, I have waged a war on my fears that have prevented me from being as social as I’d like to be.
To do this, I have committed to going out at least once a week for leisure. On many weeks where I don’t hear from friends, I will go out for dinner alone. Yes, by myself. When I told my family, they thought I was crazy. When I told my friends, they muttered approval but gave looks of confusion. I think it’s something many people don’t understand because of the fear it provokes. I know this, because I was afraid, too.
The first time I ventured into Camden to get a chicken schnitzel by myself, I was petrified. I was nervous and didn’t even know how to place an order for the pretty waitresses behind the bar.
I was worried that I’d say something stupid, that I wouldn’t know what to do, or that people would think I was a loser. Two of those fears undoubtedly came true. The third might have but it actually doesn’t matter. I’ll get to that in a moment…
Saying Something Stupid
Firstly, my fear of saying something stupid or acting dumb was inevitable. It happened numerous times. It didn’t have to happen as much I made it happen, though.
I have a funny habit in uncomfortable situations of trying to act like I know what I’m doing and then becoming really embarrassed when the situation doesn’t go as I expected it to. My face goes bright red and my articulate English becomes a fast and stuttering mess. Not very cool. Whenever I tried to act like some ideal perfect human that I know wasn’t me, then I was doomed to make a fool of myself.
That’s not to say I haven’t messed up when being genuine, though. There were times when I went to make an order and I meant to make a compliment to someone and they didn’t hear me properly, leaving me embarrassed. I have accidentally been abrupt in giving a tip to the waitress and she was taken aback by my well meaning gesture. But I’ve had many great conversations aswell when I stopped trying so hard and just paid attention to the people around me. The mistakes simply do not add up to the good experiences I’ve had.
Not Knowing What to Do
Secondly, that fear of not knowing what to do. It hit hardest the first time I went. Sure, you can go and order dinner, but for how long can you sip your drink while you wait and what do you do once your meal is finished. And ontop of all that, how to do occupy yourself all throughout that time? I wasn’t content to stare at my plate or the table top the whole night! It was at these moments where curiosity of a discontented mind begins its fight with an identity afraid to step outside of its comfort zone. I forced myself to look around, to meet the eyes of strangers. Even more confronting was learning to talk to the staff. I’m usually afraid to talk to people so this was really hard. I’d start by simply being polite, the way I’d been taught by my parents. Simple things as “Yes, please,” “no, thankyou,”, “the food was lovely,” were all I could communicate initially, even though I wanted to convey so much more. But as I came back each week, my confidence grew.
I began to ask the waiters and waitresses their names and to find out about them wand what makes them interesting, so I can pick up where I left off the next time I return. I take books with me to read. I people watch now. I am utterly fascinated by people and trying to work out what they’re saying or thinking just by observing their body language is a great way for me to pass time. I can read articles on my phone if I am truly at a loss. But I find I actually have a lot to do now. Sometimes I like to just sit and listen to the retro music chattering in the background, or breathe in the cool evening air. I can do all of these things now. I couldn’t do them before with a friend because I never had time to appreciate these things.
The bottom line is, you will be lost at first if you haven’t experienced it yet. But trust me, once you dive in to those unknown waters, you’ll find ways to swim. All it takes is a little time splashing about.
Does it Make Me a Loser?
This is that third question that I wondered when wrestling with the idea of going out alone in my head. Will people think I’m some sort of loner who cannot make friends and is so lame he can’t get anyone to be around him?
The answer is yes. And no.
The REAL answer is, there’s only one person you need to convince: you.
The truth is, people judge without even meaning to. You do it, too. And everyone has different opinions on anything and everything. The topic of going out alone is no different. So yes, there are people who probably think I’m a weirdo for going out by myself. I’ve heard as much a couple of times. But I have heard how people admire the courage it has taken me to do this about five times more often. The hard thing about this was learning that no matter what I chose to do, there would be people judging me. The bottom line is, I wanted to do it and I was doing it for the right reasons. I wanted to go out alone to learn to stand on my own and to learn about other people. I wanted a refuge from the difficult work life. I just wanted my damn chicken schnitzel! I knew I wasn’t a loser for doing it. I had my reasons and that’s always good enough.
Should you do it?
Yes. If you feel like it’s something you’d want to try, pick a place and go. You will feel uncomfortable and scared and you will probably do stupid things. People might look at you funny, but that might be just because they’re too afraid to do what you’re doing. If you stick it out, though, you will likely meet some cool people. You will be able to try some good food and develop social skills much better than a meal spent alone at home. I learned how to talk to others better and to feel confident in myself. That’s a very big deal for me.
I can’t wait to go back next week.