I never thought I could be one to eat alone in public. The thought would send chills down my spine, my chest would tighten and the sheer discomfort of it would make me uneasy and sick to the point I was no longer hungry. My thought was that I would be there eating, and people would be staring at me, wondering why I was eating alone; what could be wrong with me that I was sitting at a table or the bar by myself. All eyes would be on me and this show starring me and my food were the entertainment for everyone’s delight.
I know this sounds extreme but, believe it or not, it’s a real thing. This phobia is called Solomangarephobia(say that 5 times fast!). I never thought this was a real thing until I got to a point where I wanted to remove this fear from my being and get to a point where I was comfortable eating alone in public. I remember elementary, middle and high school—pre cell phones and ear buds—if I wasn’t eating with my friends or someone that I knew I wasn’t eating at all until I got home. Did I mention that I’m introverted? Yes, I have a lot of things working against me but there’s a light at the end of this dreary tunnel.
So, needless to say, I had issues like nobody’s business and the only way I was going to get any relief was to either seek professional help or self-help, the latter being my primary choice. I decided to look into what Solomangarephobia was and how could I come out of it. Like any phobia, it takes work in retraining your brain to think the opposite of what you’ve ultimately lived with your entire life. Here are a few things that helped me:
- Meditation – yes, I would take time to silence the noise around me and focus on just breathing and working through the moment in order to calm my anxiety. It wasn’t closing my eyes, folding my legs and chanting but walking into a restaurant and telling myself it’s ok and no one else was in there except me.
- Realizing I am not alone – I know this sounds oxymoronic but it’s the truth. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one that a. has this phobia and b. not the only person eating alone in a restaurant. People do it everyday, what’s the big deal, right?
- Refusing to miss out on an experience – there are so many times that I wanted to eat at a particular restaurant and didn’t because I didn’t have anyone to eat with me. Ridiculous! I missed so many experiences I could have had just eating at that restaurant…imagine the pictures I could’ve had! I said to myself that I would not let my fear be the better of me in keeping me from enjoying a wonderful foodie experience.
- Realizing I’m not that special – the idea that people would be staring at me wondering why I was eating alone seems silly. I’m guilty of thinking it about some people (I was working through this phobia and realized I had issues…baby steps) but I had to realize I’m not all that special for people to focus on me and what I was doing rather than themselves. And if I am, well all the more better, thank you for the unwanted attention and for making this unspecial lady feel special!
- Bringing a book to read, study or write – if I was busying myself with something like reading, listening to music, reading on my phone or a book, or writing in a journal then focusing on other people watching me was not necessary. It happened recently where I sat at a table by myself with a book I was studying on photography. I was really getting into this book when I noticed a woman in my peripheral continuing to look in my direction. Initially, I was uncomfortable but then I got so engrained in what I was reading that she became a non-factor. I loved that moment of triumph!
Phobia’s are not to be overlooked. Some people live with them every day but may not choose to speak it out loud as I am. And it’s ok. You can’t force the phobia out, you have to work with it. The minute you try to work against it you fold inward from it and it becomes a setback. It’s all about timing and realizing your limits, what will work for you in order to push through and conquer the phobia and stay triumphant. Just remember you are not alone and you got this!