As I waited in the Mabee pasta line the other night I looked over and saw a girl eating at the end of a table. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have taken any note of her—nothing seemed outlandish or particularly attention grabbing—but as I continued to watch (because let’s be honest, the wait for the pasta line can be a long one), I realized that she was eating alone.

Immediately my thoughts rushed to: “Oh, poor girl. She has no one to eat with. I’m glad it’s not me.”

I felt sorry, but I also felt relieved that I had someone sitting at a table waiting for me.

There’s something about eating alone that seems so socially unacceptable, especially around dinnertime.

We immediately think that no one wanted to eat with this poor girl. Our thoughts continue to race, stringing together things like, “Well, she must have no friends,” or, “Wow, what a loser.”

The most disconcerting part about this kind of logic being ingrained in my own thinking is that it also seems to be ingrained in everybody else’s as well.

Besides the fact that Mabee is a social gathering spot on campus (everybody’s got to eat, right?), it’s also very architecturally open. There are only a few tables where you can sit out of direct sight of the rest of the dining hall. This makes eating alone even trickier.

Too many times I’ve brought a book into Mabee to try to make it look like, “Oh no I’ve got loads of friends but I’m really behind on my work so I choose to eat alone and study.”

I’ve even lugged my laptop in so that I could try to snag one of those back booths and watch Netflix uninterrupted.

Sometimes, though, I don’t even make it to Mabee. If I’ve got Bonus Bucks, I’ll grab a sandwich and eat in my room. That way, even if I am eating alone, I’m not eating alone in front of a whole crowd of people.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that if you see someone eating alone, don’t take pity on him or her. I’m not saying you have to go up and eat with them (although that’d be nice, too), I’m just saying that your thoughts shouldn’t jump immediately to thinking that this person has no friends. They do.

Sometimes, though, friends get busy or have other dinner plans, or maybe you got busy and you missed your usual dinnertime group.

Whatever the reason, eating alone is not an inherently bad thing. Maybe it’s better to not even notice them. Seriously, pay them no more attention than you would any other group eating. The only way to end this stigma is to stop feeding it.

So if it gets to 6 p.m. and your stomach growls—calls out for you to feed it—don’t panic if you don’t have anyone to eat with. Go by yourself and enjoy the alone time that can be hard to get with roommates. Eating alone isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you’re confident enough to sit somewhere by yourself without anything to amuse or distract you for half an hour. Relish that; few people can actually manage it.