Why we need to be more comfortable in our own company

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By Mary Hollamby, Third Year Psychology

The Croft Magazine // Many of us have a fear of doing things on our own; one student tells us why it's time for that to stop

Why do we have a fear of going to things in public on our own? I don’t mean life’s mundane activities like grocery shopping or going to the library; I’m talking about going to the movies or eating at your favourite restaurant. Sometimes experiences are more fun to share with your friends, but how many friends do you need to look at some art or watch a film?‌‌

Surely in such an individualist society which champions independence, we should feel comfortable stepping out of our comfort zone and doing things because we’ll enjoy it, regardless of whether our friends can make it or not. ‌‌

I think the main reason we’re so afraid of going it alone is a fear of other’s negative evaluation. I mean heaven forbid you were seen having lunch alone for your own enjoyment, and not because you’re doing important uni work. Because let’s face it, we can all admit that there’s some weird social stigma about ‘going it alone’.‌‌

It's good to be alone | Unsplash / Brandi Redd

The cultural norm is to attend public activities or events within the safety of our ‘in-group’, so this naturally makes it harder to motivate ourselves to step out of this comfort zone. But if we’re all being honest, I don’t think anyone would truly judge you for going to an event alone. If anything, I know I’m more likely to admire a person for not giving a shit rather than assuming they were an un-likeable loner. ‌‌

But I also think another reason for our resistance is that we’re uncomfortable in our own company. I’ve recently realised I constantly distract myself to avoid being fully alone with my thoughts (I mean that in a non-emotional cry for help way). Even whilst sleeping or walking down the road I have to have music on. Perhaps the constant distractions and chaos of our lives leave us inherently uncomfortable in our own company; something which we have to try and remedy. ‌‌

The whole reason for writing this piece was this picture, sent to me by my recently widowed Grammy (Nan, Grandma, you get me). She’d just booked her first solo holiday - in spite of my whole families’ concerns -  because she felt it would be the first time she could relax and only have to worry about her own enjoyment. I mean have you ever seen someone happier to be in their own company? It made me realise how empowering unaccompanied adventures can be and how much I avoided them. ‌‌‌‌‌‌

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My Grammy living her best life in Spain | Epigram / Mary Hollamby

The exhibit at Redcliffe Caves‌‌

With my Grammy’s ‘f*ck it and do it’ attitude in mind, I made the brave decision to go to an art installation at the Redcliffe caves, a 15-minute journey away from my house. Alone. Please hold your gasps. In short, an artist had taken over the normally closed caves and put hundreds of little lights within the dark rocks, accompanied by sounds and voices of 130 women of Bristol aged 8-80. This was a tribute to the voices of women who had been silenced, 100 years after UK women were allowed to vote.‌‌

If I’m being honest, I got much more out of the experience than I would have if I went with others. I was able to spend as much time as I wanted to take in the atmosphere, and could immerse myself in my own thoughts about the exhibition, without worrying about anything but me. ‌‌

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All the lights at Redcliffe Caves | Epigram / Mary Hollamby

But most importantly, there were about 3 other girls at the exhibition who had come on their own and no-one batted an eyelid! I’m frankly embarrassed at the amount of effort it took to go alone compared to what I got out of the experience and the obvious truth that no-one gives two shits.‌‌

Ultimately, we should look at solo activities as an act of self-love, by proving to ourselves that we are worth spending time with, without need for validation from others. At the end of the day you could miss out on something valuable for the sake of irrational fears.

Featured: Epigram / Mary Hollamby


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