Lisa Lo Paro
March 24, 2015 6:00 am

Eating lunch by myself is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, mainly for food reasons: I can order anything I want and just savor it without distractions. I also like to spend time with myself every so often, outside of a coffee shop, without having a book or computer as a crutch. I got the chance recently, and loved every minute of the experience. I felt like I was on a date with myself, and I highly recommend it. Here’s what I learned from the whole thing.

Your self-consciousness is slowly replaced by this sense of liberation, and suddenly you stop caring what other people think. I went to lunch in a crowded restaurant and asked for a table for one, and when I sat down across from an empty chair, I felt this sudden pride and strength. This is my dominion! I can do whatever I please.

You get to order anything you want, small or large, and can take as much time as you need. It’s a pampering experience. I looked at this awesome, full menu and thought, “what am I most excited to eat right now?” And then I ordered two of it.

You people-watch. I heard the buzz of conversations and saw people chatting excitedly or feeding their children or catching up with friends, and I loved thinking about this restaurant as a meeting place for so many people. I also noticed that you sort of become invisible, in a good way. I watched this one couple for a little while and they didn’t ever notice that I was eyeing them. It gives you insight into how people act. You can also make up stories about them.

You start to have this funny and philosophical inner dialogue. This talking-to-your-inner-self thing is enlightening. You start to understand yourself better without the noise of everyday life: massive to-do lists, having to remember train times, the voice of your boss or teacher yammering in your ear, the fears and doubts and insecurities we all have. Everything is sort of frozen for the moment and you can listen to yourself. You can take a breath.

You get much more confidence. This stranger stopped by the table and told me I was a “brave” person to be eating lunch alone and I thought that was really funny for a minute, until I stopped and wondered why it was such a big deal. There’s a stigma attached to doing anything alone in our society, perhaps for fear of being branded a loser. Doing these things anyway gives you strength against what people may think.

You can be whoever you want to be. Being alone in public makes you wonder how other people perceive you and how you act when you’re with other people. Being alone makes all those learned behaviors fall away and you’re sort of just you.

It makes you self-reflect. Eating alone is like going on a date with yourself, and it’s nice to take the time to think about the big things: What will make you happiest this year? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but never got the chance to? What am I really proud of having done lately? Where do you want to be in five years? Heavy stuff, but it’s a peaceful moment to mull it all over.

Next: eating dinner alone! (Now that’s intimidating…)

featured image via.

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