I just finished my last class of the day, and I’m so intellectually exhausted that I need to replenish my energy with some nourishment. I go to a dining option on campus — it would probably be Varsity in this instance — and get my food. Things get weird, though. The workers behind the counter stare at me with pity. People who walk by my table sneer or even show signs of concern.

 I can imagine the thoughts creeping into their heads: Is he ok? Maybe he needs someone to talk to? He’s probably just going through a rough time. I assure you, the only rough time I have while eating alone is when the wrong cheese gets put on my burger, and that’s never happened because the Varsity staff is awesome. 

Obviously, I exaggerated the imagery of that anecdote to prove a point. We all seem to subconsciously fear attending public places to eat when we’re without company. When we see someone who does it all alone, we instantly assume the worst: They must be lonely, sad and desperately crying out for help. Odds are, they’re probably just enjoying the fact that nosey people aren’t sitting with them while they try to enjoy a meal. 

I have heard several people say they always need someone to eat with, or that they take food to go whenever nobody accompanies them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating alone in public, or eating alone at all for that matter.  It’s easy for me to feel this way as someone who leans towards introversion, but everyone should feel the same way when it comes to this. 

Our superficial society would have you believe that you can’t feel validated as a successful human being with a social life unless you have someone to eat with every single time that you have a meal. That’s just absurd, and yet, this notion is subconsciously drilled into our minds so much that we constantly fear eating alone. 

We say it’s because we’re afraid people will notice and judge us. Who really cares, though? We have busy schedules as busy college students and, consequently, odd hours during which we eat. That’s nothing to apologize for. Confidence in oneself and the ability to recognize the fact that being alone in a public space for half an hour doesn’t make you alone in the world is nothing to apologize for, either.

As someone who deals with social anxiety I can tell you firsthand that adopting this attitude is surprisingly liberating and empowering. Whether you’re a freshman just starting to get situated or a senior with no time to breathe, recognize the fact that you are an independent individual who doesn’t require the approval of strangers or the consistent company of companions.

So, next time you’re out, put that laptop away and stop pretending to do work — we all know that you’re just on Facebook anyway — and enjoy the simplest of primitive pleasures: chowing down.