The Importance of Doing Things by Yourself

Last week, I mentioned how important spending time alone is for your own self-care, but outside of simply spending time by yourself, it is also essential to feel comfortable doing things by yourself. I grew up in a single parent household, which allowed me to observe my mom doing most things by herself and this never seemed to bother her. I am sure some things caused some frustration (I’m looking at you vehicle issues!), but on some level she enjoyed the satisfaction that came with doing things on her own. Observing this independence displayed by my mom, cultivated a sense of independence of my own at a very young age (I have been told that even at 3 years old, I refused to wear what my mom picked out and instead picked out my own clothes for the day. Often, it included a party dress and a pair of rain boots. What can I say? I was quite stylish!). It also has allowed me to feel comfortable in doing the things I want to do, without needing the partnership of another person. However, I have come to realize that that isn’t everyone’s experience and doing things alone can really push someone out of their comfort zone.

This is something I observe frequently with my middle school students. Often, when I request them to try something in class they will all remain a bit hesitant until their friends seem to be willing to do it. And I swear, not a single one of them seem to be able to use the restroom by themselves (and it’s not just my female students!). This type of behavior often is carried with us into adulthood and can hinder us from doing the things we want to do unless we have the companionship of another person.

By doing things by yourself you create a sense of independence that you wouldn’t otherwise develop. Doing things on your own can also boost your confidence, allowing you to believe in yourself and in your capabilities. It has the ability to teach you so much about yourself, further refining the person you are meant to be.

Here are 4 things every person should experience on their own at some point in their lifetime:

1. Traveling

I have been fortunate to travel a lot in my lifetime, and most of that travel has been solo. Although I very much enjoy sharing my adventures with another person, I also really love the solitude of exploring by myself. When you travel on your own, each day is an unwritten page that gives you the freedom to write whatever you would like. You can leisurely move from one activity to the next, seeing anything and doing anything you would like to do. Traveling alone also teaches you a significant amount about yourself and the world around you. You realize your own strength (putting that carry-on in the overhead compartment can be quite the feat!) and what you are capable of (navigating through a city on your own is no easy task). You also have the ability to observe the world around you from a place of quiet solitude, allowing you to fully take it all in. 

2. Moving to a new place

When I was 18 years old, I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii to go to college. I do not have any family in Hawaii and I had missed the deadline for living in the dorms, so I didn’t quite know where I was going to live once I got there. I also wasn’t registered for any classes because all of the ones I needed for my first year were already full. So, at the point that I got on the plane for Hawaii, all that I had was 3 nights in a hotel. During those 3 days, I had to figure out where to live off campus, refresh my computer constantly hoping other freshman would drop the classes I needed, and learn to navigate a brand new city all by bus because I didn’t have any other means of transportation, all on my own. Looking back at this experience I now realize how crazy it was, but it was a period in my life that I value so much because I learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of. Now you may be in a point of your life that moving to a new place by yourself is no longer realistic, but if it is still possible for you, I highly recommend you try it. It by no means is going to be easy and you will often feel like you can’t do it, but the lessons you will learn from this experience will be ones that you carry with you for the rest of your lifetime.    

3. Eating a meal at a restaurant

Now you can start small here, so no need to panic! Instead of getting your coffee to go, try ordering your fresh brewed coffee or herbal tea to stay, then pick a table to sit at and leisurely enjoy your warm drink. I would encourage you to stay off of your phone, and instead read the newspaper or a good book. You could even just observe the interactions going on around you. From there you could move on to adding a scone or pastry to your warm beverage and then progress to going to a restaurant by yourself and ordering a full meal. This time by yourself, simply gives you the space to just be, while doing something you enjoy. And I promise, no one else, but you, cares that you are there by yourself.

4. Trying something new

Maybe there is a new yoga class or studio you have been dying to check out, but you haven’t gone because you don’t have another person to go with. Or maybe you have been wanting to take a night class around a topic, skill, or activity you are passionate about or think you would enjoy, but you haven’t allowed yourself to sign up because you are anxious about doing it by yourself. Whatever it may be that you want to try, do it, regardless of whether you have someone to go with you.  Otherwise you will continue to hold yourself back from doing what you truly want to do and then you may never end up doing it.

What have you done by yourself that you are most proud of?