Doing Things by Yourself
How often do you see a movie by yourself in the theater? Do you go to exhibitions or concerts or readings alone? And have you ever traveled solo? I usually don’t—and by that I mean I don’t do any of these things without others if I can avoid it, even to the extent that I may miss out on something I am interested in, just because I didn’t find anyone to come along. That’s a bit … stupid, right? Or let’s be a little less judgmental and say, self-limiting.
I feel like there’s enough stuff that limits us, so I always try to do my best to not be in my own way too much and also to help my clients see where they hold themselves back so that they can work on overcoming these limitations. If you, like me, have a hard time doing things by yourself and consequently miss out on things you’d really like to do, there are a few things you can look into.
Investigate your Why
Everybody has their own reason why doing things solo may be hard for them. But the common denominator is the discomfort, insecurity and/or fear we feel when we leave our comfort zone. All the examples I have given above involve stepping out into the open, by ourselves, for everybody to see that we are doing a thing alone.
So the first question is, what’s so uncomfortable for you about taking this step?
You may want to take some time and just write down whatever comes to mind when you picture yourself doing these things.
I found my unwillingness to go solo puzzling, to say the least, for a long time as I am an only child and very much enjoy me-time without other people around me, but usually at home or in the park with a book. So I used to say that I didn’t do stuff by myself because not being able to share the experience made it almost as if it hadn’t happened. Seriously, I believed that for a long time. I know I process a lot by talking about things, but this is a pretend-reason I put over my discomfort that just sounds better than the truth.
So, what’s the truth for me? I don’t do a lot of things by myself because the mere thought of being perceived as lonely makes me cringe. I feel it makes me look pathetic, like a loner who doesn’t have friends. Being an only child at a time when almost everybody around me had siblings taught me early on how to make friends. I’ve always been pretty popular and I’ve always had a good-sized circle of close friends and tons of casual friends on top. So for me, not finding someone to share an experience with me, feels like I have failed at relationship building. That’s a big one.
This may resonate with you, or maybe your Why is very different. But investigating it is the best starting point. I usually do so by journaling (there’s tons of info on why and how to journal on my blog and on YouTube), but if you are more comfortable using a tool like meditation or visualization or talking to a trusted partner, that can all help you too.
Let’s say you got to your Why, now what are you supposed to do with it?
Reframe your limiting belief
Maybe your Why sounds as wrong as mine when you look at it in black on white. That makes it easier. If your reasoning feels on point to you, this step may be a little harder, but bear with me, okay?
I reframed my limiting belief—“I have failed at relationship building when I have to do stuff by myself.”—into a positive statement, an affirmation, that’s a little out there, but something I can achieve, which is, “I enjoy doing things on my own sometimes, and I rock at building relationships anyway.”
Try phrasing an empowering statement that starts with I and is written in the present tense, as if it were already true—even though you’re not there yet. That really helps you wrap your mind around it. When you have a phrase, say it out loud, preferably when standing in front of a mirror to see how it feels. If it’s really uncomfortable, try changing it a little without losing the main message you have identified.
Changing your thinking the way I just explained it is a crucial first step, but it only gets you halfway there. Changing our thoughts is a gamechanger, but to manifest the change and build new habits, we need to take action. That means, to go out there and do the difficult thing. And please don’t wait until you feel ready—I recommend that for other things, but not this one. Because doing something on your own if you have an issue with that will always be uncomfortable, no matter how ready or not you feel. Only doing it, and doing it more than once, can help you overcome that.
I recommend you choose something close to home to start with. By all means, if you feel like taking a one-month solo trip to Asia, go for it! I am just operating on the assumption here that most people feel better starting with baby steps. For me, that’s low-threshold activities which don’t require people to interact with much anyway: go see a movie or an exhibition, attend a meditation retreat, that kind of thing, and work my way up from there.
It may be something else for you, but the message you’re sending to your brain with every one of these activities is: I did it and nothing bad happened. Ergo, I can do it again.That’s how you build the confidence to go out by yourself, one step at a time. And if you want to, you can set a goal of taking yourself on a “date with yourself” once a week to practice. It may feel like a chore in the beginning, but it can turn into a lot of fun once you get into the habit. I hope you’ll try it out!
If you want