My ex attended art events all the time — alone. She had no problem watching a show in some back alley in central London by herself. When we dated, I’d go with her. We would attend lectures on the power of wool or watch a grown man play pretentious music on an apple box for an hour while the artsy types nodded their approval in silence, pretending he wasn’t completely mad.
My ex had been doing this sort of thing all her life, and I hope she still does (albeit alone, missing me, of course). I really admire her independence; it took me until I was in my early 20s to feel comfortable even shopping on my own.
That’s not to say that I can’t be happy alone; I just feel very self-conscious and a little vulnerable. Suddenly, there’s all this space around me, and I don’t know how to deal with it at first. Being alone makes me feel a bit small and awkward, then anxious as if people are looking at me and judging me as a loner.
It’s okay if I’m meeting up with someone, but the idea of going to a show alone just because I want to is more intimidating to me than being the last man standing on a paintball team against a team of military veterans (I still maintain that I won that particular match.).
I know that venturing out alone often leads to the most amazing experiences. But dear god, those first 20 minutes are the worst! I get cripplingly self-conscious, which is the flip side of my usual bravado.
[Free Download: Social Anxiety Facts and Falsehoods
I’m still not okay with being alone while supermarket shopping. I’m buying veg for one, crisps for one, and beans for one (Though I fill the basket with enough impulse purchases most weeks, it looks like I’m preparing to host a party).
I fail to notice that most of the people “judging me” are alone, too. They’re fine. They aren’t gritting their teeth against their anxiety and all the busy colors and suspiciously “reduced” prices. They’re just buying milk. How is being on your own not a big deal to them?!
I think this is why extroverted individuals with ADHD need to make a concerted effort to be alone and learn that it’s actually okay to be by ourselves. It’s a point of growth that forces us to look inside — not outside — for happiness and contentment.
So, I’ve been learning how to be happy alone, and I’ve been challenging myself to do the things that I want to do — solo. Next week I’m donating blood just to face another one of my fears (needles).
[Self-Test: Do I Have General Anxiety Disorder?]
Right now, I need an overriding purpose to do something alone. As time goes on, I hope that purpose will simply become my happiness, just for me. I really enjoy living alone now (another big challenge this year). No one complains that I’m untidy! I also like attending classes where no one knows each other. It’s quite peaceful. I know, intellectually, that venturing out alone never goes wrong. I meet fascinating people, I have fun chats and a great time. It’s just a matter of getting beyond that first 20 minutes by reminding myself that I rarely ever regret trying something new, and more often than not I genuinely love it.
Being Alone: Next Steps
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