It took me about a year and a half to get over this fear and realize that no one actually cares who is with, or without, someone in the dining hall. I mean, whenever I see someone eating alone I don't think twice about it. My fear stemmed not from being alone and in my own company (in fact, I quite enjoy being alone and reading while I eat), but rather from what others would think of me.
Allowing societal norms to dictate your actions is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. I'm not suggesting all social norms are wrong (you should certainly conform to wearing appropriate clothing and being considerate of others), but when it comes to what's cool and not, that is totally up to you. Why shouldn't you take your meals alone or spend a Friday night in or not drink when you turn 21? The fact of the matter is that you are in charge of your actions and what makes you happy.
So how can you embrace this idea of doing your own thing? Here are some tips:
1. Spend some time with yourself.
The only way you can figure out what you like and what makes you feel comfortable is by taking some "me time." Find an event you're interested in and go by yourself! See if you like it, see what makes you tick, and then do it more often.
2. Separate your self-worth from others' perceptions.
Easier said than done, of course, but essential if you want to do your own thing. By realizing that the number one person you have to please is yourself, you can set your own expectations and feel satisfied and fulfilled when you meet them. You do not have to tie your view of yourself to what you think others want of you. Instead, investigate your values and live by them. So what if you like to chat with people in line instead of checking Instagram? What does it matter if all of your friends enjoy Justin Bieber and you don't see the appeal? Live on your own terms.
3. Accept that people aren't thinking about you nearly as much as you believe.
Like I mentioned before, I really thought people judged me if they saw me sitting alone. Frankly, what we do is not all that interesting to others and we don't need to waste valuable time and energy believing it is. The majority of our fears never actually come to fruition, so just move on!
How do you make sure you are staying true to yourself?