How to be Comfortable Being Alone

We’ve all been there before; there’s something you want to go to, like a concert or an open mic night or a new restaurant. The problem? None of your friends can (or want to) go with you. And for most people, I think the automatic response is to just not go and instead sit at home alone, wishing you could’ve gone, if only one of your friends had been able to go. This has happened to me too many times, if I’m being honest.

My first year of university, I really struggled making friends. And what that meant for me was that I pretty much never had anyone to do any of the things I wanted to do with. I spent all my time in my room, never going out to parties or school events, or almost anything. I’m high on the introversion scale, so it’s not that I minded being alone; I preferred it, actually. But I only wanted to be alone on my own, not alone in a crowd where no one else was. The problem is, you can’t live your life waiting on someone else. If you want to do something, you should be able to do it. 

If you think about it, there are so many things we do alone every day, whether that’s walking somewhere, or going to the grocery store, or studying in the library. Why is it that other things seem scarier to do alone? I remember the first time I did something alone that I normally would see as a social event. There was a haunted amusement park near the campus of my American university, and students got free tickets for one weekend. I was so excited to go, but the friend that had told me she would go with me ended up getting sick last minute and cancelling. I contemplated not going. But I really wanted to, and I knew I needed to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so I did. And you know what I learned?

There are so many things that we don’t notice when we’re with other people. I didn’t bring headphones, because I didn’t want to get snuck up on by some guy in a vampire costume, so instead, I observed. I overheard people’s conversations (some interesting ones, too), looked at my surroundings a lot more closely, and just took time to be alone with myself and my thoughts. When I returned to my room that night, far from feeling sad and lonely, I felt… peaceful. I was not only proud of myself, but I realized I had actually enjoyed myself.

I’ve done many things alone since then, things that some people might be scared to do by themselves, like going to the movie theater alone, taking day trips alone, and just generally enjoying my own company. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and become a lot more confident, too. This past year, I think a lot of people have had to sit with themselves more and simply be alone. The thing is, you have to be with yourself all day, every day, for the rest of your life. Far from feeling daunting, this should be exciting! You should be your favorite person.

Start with the small things. Take a walk by yourself, without headphones in if you’re feeling brave. Listen to the sounds of your environment, pay attention to all the little details you might not notice if you were with someone else. I’ll never forget standing in the middle of a crowd by myself, watching a fireworks show. So many people around me were talking and not even looking up, but there was nothing like just giving my entire attention to one thing. Try to be present in your own life, instead of watching it pass by because you’re preoccupied with someone else.

You don’t always have to sit in silence. Take a book with you to a cafe, and just sit there by yourself. In a post-pandemic world, hop on the bus or a train and go somewhere by yourself for the day. You’ll find that when you don’t have to factor in someone else’s opinions on where you should go and what you should do and for how long you should do it, you’ll be able to spend your day exactly as you’d want to.

In this age of phones and the internet and social media, it can sometimes feel like you’re never alone. Put down your phone in another room (on silent) and take time to sit with yourself and your own thoughts. Practice the art of being present and enjoying your own company. You might find that you like yourself better than you thought.