Writer Rachael Mole breaks down the barriers of dining alone.
Enjoying your own company always seems to be easy when you're home alone, in your PJs with a tub of ice cream and a good book or the latest binge-worthy season on Netflix. This is self-care, self-love, self-confidence… but whatever you want to call it, I bet you're like me. When it comes to leaving the house alone to enjoy a day by myself doing activities which you would usually do with others, that self-care, self-love and self-confidence just go straight out of the window.
Learning to love your own company can be difficult when you're thinking about what everyone else around you must be thinking. After all, who comes out alone, like a loner, with no friends. When you're riddled with anxiety, it can be hard to not realise that no one actually gives a damn.
I have a long checklist of things I would like to do alone. Don't get me wrong, I love my boyfriend very much, have a great relationship with my family and friends I can call on, but there is nothing quite like a quiet day, doing what I want, going where I want, eating what I want, whenever I want.
The first thing I checked off the list? Eating out at a restaurant alone. It's daunting, walking in and asking for a table for one, expecting to receive a sad shake of the head or questioning glances from other diners asking with their eyes whether I've been stood up on a date. So how do you overcome the anxiety that stops a lot of people from overcoming their fear of eating out alone?
Work up to it.
Arrange with a friend to meet for dinner but arrive half an hour early and order yourself a drink and a starter. You have the knowledge that your friend will be joining you, that you will not be on your own, so you can relax with confidence. Get used to the feeling of eating and sipping on a cocktail while people-watching, bring a book and get comfy!
If going out to dinner on your own seems like chucking yourself in at the deep end, try taking yourself out to lunch. The vibe in the daytime is always more casual and laid back, so it allows you to do the same.
If the thought of even going out for lunch fills you with anxiety, start with a market stall and sit down to eat it there instead of taking it back to the office. Shared tables and other people having lunch on their own means that you can feel comfortable quicker, plus you can pick and choose what you want to eat from a wide variety of food stalls! The Manchester Arndale Food Market is one of my favourite go-to lunch spots for the wide selection of quality, freshly made food available!
Another spot with a lot of solo diners are restaurants in and around a train station- you are guaranteed to not be the only one eating alone.
Still not convinced you could do it?
My final piece of advice is what I suggest for any situation where people experience anxiety- fake it till you make it. Create a character that would need to go out for lunch alone and own it. You are that business manager, leaving an important meeting and before you jump on the train home you want to try out the menu of a great place you were recommended. Any scenario works so long as it makes you confident and ready to own your alone day.
What to remember?
No one actually cares. Really. The restaurant just wants to make sure they are serving you delicious food and giving you excellent service. The other diners are there with other people who have their attention. If anything they are super jealous of you because you don't have to talk to anyone for the next hour if you don't want to.
So the next day you have free, go out and have fun! Go to the museum, cinema, visit your local library and explore your hometown in your own time.
When you're ready, head to the restaurant you want to go to and eat the food you want to eat.
The best bit? When it comes to dessert there is no romantic sharing of that molten chocolate cake with 'two spoons please'. You get that ALL to yourself.
Chatting Food Contributor: Rachael Mole
Rachael is a food lover, food eater and in her spare time, a food writer. Editor by day, foodie by night, Rachael loves exploring the Manchester food scene and sharing where to go and what to eat with over 22 thousand girls in the City Girl Network.