I’ve always had issues with going to cafes/restaurants by myself. The thought of sitting there all alone made me feel all panicky and sick. I think it was a mixture of not wanting to be deal with awkward small talk with strangers (classic introvert trait) and anxiety over what people would think of me sitting there alone, eating.
This was a problem that took up a lot of my brain space (and probably caused my hair to prematurely fall out) for years.
That is, before learning mindfulness and coming out the other end of my year-long "my life sucks lets do something about it" journey. Old me would never have sat in a café to eat on my own (and I can count on one hand the amount of times I actually did in that time).
There’s this sushi place I love to get fresh sushi rolls from in my lunch break, which has both a takeaway bar and a proper sit down restaurant area. You can order cool things off the menu like Udon noodle soup, ramen, gouzyem, etc (look at me, naming things).
I always wanted to order the Udon noodle soup but I’d avoid it because I knew that it would involve me having to sit on my own looking friendless. Not good for Nancy – my overactive, panicky mind.
Yes, I named my mind. Whatofit.
Instead of ordering fresh off the menu, I’d opt for the takeaway sushi rolls and then trudge back to my office to eat, silently chastising myself for not having the balls to just sit there and order whatever I wanted.
I’d always beat myself up over it. Like: "Mate, please. You’re the only wierdo who does this."
I ended up asking around my friends and actually, like three quarters of them agreed they don’t feel comfortable sitting and ordering food alone – some were full grown adults (as apposed to my awkward not a teenager, not quite a 30 something year old self).
Almost 1 in 10 Australians live alone you know, that’s a lot of people being faced with this eating-alone dilemma.
I think it comes down to not caring what others think of you and that’s not really a trait you just have at say 17 years of age, you kinda just get a bit more baddass as you get older. You realize there’s other more important sh*t to worry about other than who’s looking at you eating alone.
It’s really liberating when you no longer do care.
The first time I sat down and ordered what I wanted and really enjoyed being in my own company at a restaurant I even took a photo of my meal (Udon noodle soup) to mark it as a little milestone. It was a little victory for me.
Since starting my personal journey & learning how my mind works I no longer let it worry me that it occasionally throws sh*tty little comments at me, like: “You can’t sit here alone, Bec. What would that look like? Or “1 minute your eating lunch alone, next minute you’re the crazy cat lady”.
The ultimate test was being overseas recently (I went to America with girlfriends and then split from them to go to Canada for a solo leg). There was many a time when I had to just eat out by myself and do touristy stuff alone. I even had a 6 hour stop over in LA airport (one of the biggest and busiest in the world) where lots of people can now say they witnessed me – Bec – sit alone and eat a meal on my own. By the end I was the eating alone Queen. Yeah occasionally I still can get a bit nervous, but now I say: Thanks Nancy, mate. Always looking out for me aren’t you? and then get on with whatever it was I was doing like: Oh well, this chick’s gotta eat.
I accept that no one really gives a sh*t whether I’m there by myself or with 3 cats.
Now not even the teensiest sh*t is given.
I feel like I should keep my swear words to a minimum but I don’t know what other words to use for effect… maybe my vocabulary isn’t all that broad. Please don’t be offended by my swear-word-dominated vocabulary.
Surely there are other people out there that have this coffee-drinking, food- eating-alone anxiety?
Here are some tips to quiet that overactive, paranoid mind of yours:
- Start out with just a coffee, breaky or lunch. Dinner is a bit of a tough one straight off the bat. Has a bit of a romantic connotation I think;
- Slap a smile on and just pretend that you’re all cool, calm and collected inside. So the saying goes: “fake it till you make it”. I used this to get over my debilitating teenage shyness too – just pretend like I had my internal sh*t together and that nothing and no one bothered me. Fck it was tiring;
- Take your ipad or phone and read or text a friend if you are feeling really uncomfortable (its easier to be distracted than it is sitting there all stunned-mullet like twiddling your thumbs);
- Say a few positive affirmations to yourself (in your head, not out loud… otherwise you will attract the very outcome you are trying to hard to avoid) something like “I’m proud of myself for putting myself out there today and stepping out of my comfort zone” or “You’re a leg (legend) mate”.
- Remember that everyone is just as self obsessed as you are and in actual fact they’re probably sitting there having their own inner Nancy struggles (except their Nancy’s are probably more originally named, like Stu or Harold or Jennifer. I knew a pig named Jennifer, so Jennifer was out for me). In actual fact you could probably have snorted the Udon noodle up your nose and no one would have batted an eyelid.
- I don’t know what else to do, breathing surely helps though.
Don’t expect your mind to stop bombarding you with all those thoughts by the way. They are always going to come and go regardless, you just need to learn to not give them such attention. Like standing at a window watching the cars outside drive past, that’s how your thoughts should be. “Here is one telling me I’m a weirdo for watching thoughts…. Not reacting…. There it goes.. here’s the next thought about wondering what I’ll have for dinner later….” And so on. Stop reacting to them, that’s the trick. There is a bit of an art to this – more on that another time.
Have a go, ya legend & then come back here and tell me about it and we’ll do a little virtual victory party for you.
(Originally posted on: http://www.myroommatenancy.com/?p=82 )
Rebecca Achelles | MyRoommateNancy
I learn about my mind, named mine ‘Nancy’, and now write about its neurotic, over-thinker tendencies here: www.myroommatenancy.com