OK, so you moved to a new city, maybe for work, college, or just because. Congrats! However, if you don't know anyone else living there, having no close-by friends can be difficult, especially when it comes to dining out. Eating alone can be an an intimidating challenge, but avoiding sit-down restaurants is not a worthwhile sacrifice. Think about all of the famous dishes and experiences you could miss out on by avoiding dining out alone.

I personally have had a fear of eating out alone, scared of the strange looks I might get from strangers. However, I recently took a solo trip to Miami and was forced to face my fear. I loved it.

Being able to choose your own restaurant, on your own time, with your own company, is honestly one of the most empowering, enlightening experiences you can have. Trust me, it's not as scary as you think it is. 

Tip 1: Start slowly

If you truly feel like venturing out into a sit-down restaurant alone will give you a full-blown panic attack, rest assured, I too began at this point. Start slowly, and work your way up. I began by going to fast-casual restaurants alone at my college. Almost every student would take a solo-trip to Chipotle when they had a time crunch and had to squeeze in studying time alone. Once you get comfortable at fast-casual places, you can work your way up to sit-downs. 

Tip 2: If you're worried about people staring, try to look busy

Even though I can assure you no one is looking at you or judging you, feeling like you look busy can be comforting. Bring a book, your laptop, or even your phone and keep yourself entertained. It's a great way to convince yourself that anyone who is "staring" simply thinks you are busy with work.

Tip 3: Chat it up with the waiter

The waiter will know what you're feeling and most likely do their best to put you at ease. I personally love acknowledging the elephant in the room to ease awkwardness. Making a joke about how easy the waiter's job must be for a table of one or something of that nature will instantly relax you and bring a lightheartedness to the situation.

Tip 4: Strike up a conversation with someone near you 

This was one of the things I was most skeptical about when dining out alone. Will I be annoying someone? Will there be anything to talk about? I can assure you, these instances are very rare and probably the worst that could happen. Sitting down and talking to another solo-diner can be a refreshing experience as you learn about someone's new perspective and experiences. Of course, use common sense, and avoid people that may look like they want to be left alone or a little, you know, sketchy. 

Tip 5: Focus on the food 

I don't know about you guys, but seeing someone eat their meal and enjoy it while just admiring their surroundings warms my heart. In a world of constantly hurried meals and eyes always glued to phone screens, it's rare to see someone appreciating a relaxed meal. Use this opportunity of alone time to finally have a relaxed meal and take in the surroundings. Maybe people-watch and learn something new about human behavior. Or eat like a yogi.

Tip 6: Convince yourself

The first thing that goes through someone's mind when dining out alone is, "Everyone is going to think I'm weird." However, this is only our minds taunting us. Listen, no one is going to give a second thought about what you're doing. Everyone so busy with their own problems, no one has time to contemplate what another person is up to. Think about every reaction you've had after seeing a person eating alone—not much. Maybe you've wondered why they're eating alone, but then you get back to your food. Convince yourself of the reality and don't let paranoia creep in and deter you from enjoying a meal alone.

The Bottom Line

Dining out alone is one of the most empowering things one can do. Facing your fear and letting go of the feat and concern that people are going to judge you is so freeing. Once you start dining out alone, it'll just get easier and easier, and you'll build your self-confidence. Everyone needs that moment where they can prove to themselves that they are perfectly content with their own company and can conquer the self-draining anxiety about what others think.