WHY “DATING” YOURSELF IS IMPORTANT
“Be your own boyfriend!!!!” I shout from the rooftops every single time someone asks me about my relationship, about my self-love, about my routines and confidence and why I an brave enough to share the raw, painful, uneasy things along with the miraculous.
I love giving advice. I’m pretty sure I was put on this planet to help others and to live a life of some kind of service. But like anything, that service starts with myself.
Have we all heard (and ranted) about that saying “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself”? I think that, while the statement isn’t very well rounded, it has a good core. I want to amend it a bit “You can only love someone the way you love yourself”.
Yes, you can love without “loving” yourself – but you’re only able to give what you’ve practiced. You can’t converse with someone in Italian if you’ve never spoken the language before, and the same goes for emotional languages.
How we treat ourselves when we get mad is how we treat others when they make us mad.
How we treat ourselves when we are sad is how we treat others when they are sad.
How we love ourselves is how we end up loving others.
The BASIS of how we love others comes from how we love ourselves.
The other day a friend asked me how I create my routine (heads up, I don’t have one my life is chaos) and how I am motivated to get up and do things – she didn’t feel like she had anything to get out of bed for so she was waking up last minute to get ready for work and then rushing there. No time to enjoy the morning – no time for herself.
I told her what I tell everyone – date yourself.
I am not trying to be an asshole when I say these things. I don’t mean to brush anyone off or to diminish their challenges to one sentence, but at it’s essence I think it’s everything we need. I do not live a perfect life, I do not want to project a perfect life, and I do not preach a perfect life. But I do recommend getting as close to a perfect a score as you can for trying. I too, often get out of bed with just enough time to get ready. I am motivated often by other people in ways that I do not solely motivate myself. But I do also recognize where my life is bigger than just me and I am able to tap into these resources of inspiration to do good for me, even if the complete means isn’t by me.
Sometimes, the only thing that got me on the bus to school on time was seeing this kid I had a crush on – but I still got to school on time and I wanted to get to school on time for myself.
So in turn, if we ask ourselves what we want from a partner, and what we want to give to a partner, we will learn a lot about ourselves. If we go further and ask who we want to be for that person – not just give – we’ll find even more. Being is about embodiment; it is not about attaining to give away. Embodiment isn’t attainment, it is the work we do to keep things in place.
WHAT I WANT TO GIVE TO A PARTNER:
- Focused attention
- Home-cooked meals
- To make them laugh
- To make them feel safe
- To be able to listen without reacting
- To be open to difficult topics and conversations
- My fullest self, and my best self – whatever that is in each moment
- To provide them with comfort
- To share what I know
These are the things I want to give to a partner (and also receive). BUT FIRST I must assess if I am willing to give these things to myself first – and before that if I am willing to be the person who can give that. Yes, you heard it here.
Once I started to think about who I wanted to be for others, I started to understand the me I needed to be for myself in turn. The funny thing about people asking advice of me (which I love, please don’t stop) is that it has given me opportunities to ask questions of myself; to assess what it is they need from me and through understand how they see me. Do I want that? How can I be that?
How can we give these things to another person if we have not put them into practice? How do we know what it is like to receive these things if we do not first give them to ourselves? How can we prioritize all of the above while slacking on them in the same breath?
The truth is, if your relationship with yourself is full of dependancy, substances, negative self-talk, comparisons… Your relationship with someone else is going to be too. There is no way around it. You are good at what you practice. And while there is nothing wrong with coping mechanisms or support groups or whatever else it is that is helping you become a better and healthier version of yourself, you cannot expect to give an idealized version of yourself that doesn’t yet exist to another person. You must first learn to give to yourself.
I’ve had my fair share of unhealthy relationships – the last one I ever participated in, we started out at the same level. Inflated with ego, thinking we were better than everyone else while also secretly hating ourselves and doing everything to change that from the outside in… But what happened was, I actually started to do the work. I changed how I spoke to myself. I worked hard at creating routines that made me feel good and changing my circumstances into something I was proud of. And my partner did not follow suit. He stayed stuck in his negative self-talk, and ended up blaming me for a lot of things. As I started to be kinder, softer, and more understanding with myself and him I noticed the riffs in our relationship even more.
I worked for a long time after that – and continue to – on how I treat myself. I took my YTT, I moved across the country, I founded a NFP, I wrote another book, I took 7 months to be celibate. I shifted my thinking from “do one thing a day that scares you” to “do one thing a day that requires courage”. I started taking myself on dates, tracking the moon with my moods, and walking away from things that I was forcing myself into that didn’t serve me. I told someone I loved them. I quit my job to pursue something that I’m not quite sure can even be described yet.
OKAY BUT, HOW DO I DATE MYSELF?
Ouf, Hunny, so glad you asked! I think this will vary for each person and what it is that makes them feel secure and happy. I am someone who loves little luxuries, romance, and being pampered.
If you’re not sure of what you like, what makes you feel good (not feeling good because you made someone else feel good but a direct correlation of action: you do thing – you feel good) then maybe ask yourself some of these questions.
What do I think about often but put off?
What would be my ideal state of being and activity be?
When did I last laugh? What was the situation?
When did I last feel relaxed? What was I doing?
What brings me pleasure?
What makes me feel important? Care for?
These are some of my favourite things to do for and with myself:
- Get a bottle of wine, it doesn’t have to be expensive but I take my time picking it up. Sometimes I walk around with a couple in my arms and eventually choose one that just feels right. I drink a glass – just enough for that initial heart warming feeling.
- Spend a slow afternoon in a book store, buy a book and read it somewhere. Usually with a coffee in hand.
- Dress up for no reason. Perhaps I’m just going to the coffee shop to do work, but wearing my favourite jeans and a perfect winged eyeliner and a pair of shoes for “special occasions”. I look like the glamorous, classy boss woman of – not my dreams – of my reality!
- Wake up early, go to 630AM yoga. I’ll cab there if I have to, sleep in my yoga clothes if I must, but I never regret going to an early class and I always feel proud of myself for going.
- Stop making shitty “green” smoothies. I make smoothies I fucking enjoy, I don’t need to ruin it with kale. That is fucked up, I’m sorry. It just is. I want my smoothie to resemble some kind of milkshake and that’s that.
- Make a meal from scratch. I plan it out, go to all the local places to get the freshest ingredients and spend a couple of hours making it. I love french food which is usually my go to. Sometimes I’ll invite a friend over to enjoy it with, sometimes I’ll call my boyfriend, and sometimes I’ll savour it alone (totally alone, even without instagram!)
- Let my phone die. Oops. Sorry!
- Meditate – but a big one. I light all the candles in my apartment and make a circle of salt and smoke some weed and hold a crystal and breathe. deep. I move. I cry. I let go. I manifest. I am still and quiet within myself, I rumble and roar with grief I haven’t let myself feel and joy that doesn’t seem real.
- Re-organize my apartment. Sometimes things just feel off or cluttered or like they haven’t found their places yet so I rip everything apart and put it back together in a new way. Finding new homes for everything.
- To-Do Lists Dues – we all have those things on our to-do list that have been there for so long we forget we actually have to do them. The greatest act of self-care, in my opinion, is to look closely at it and just do it. And it will kind of suck and maybe it’s raining or you have to take a bus very far away but it feels so fucking good to finally rid yourself of them. Speaking of which I really need to take my modem back to Bell. Sorry!
- Call someone for no reason and just talk. My go-to person is my mom. Sometimes I lay in bed in the morning and just don’t feel like getting up and I will call my mother who is somehow always awake and we’ll chat for an hour, sometimes being quiet as we do other things. I always feel ready to move into something after talking to her – like a weight has been lifted.
- Take photos. Of anything, anyone, any place. They don’t have to be good – my camera is over a decade old and sometimes I get bummed out about it because I wish I had my grandfathers camera which seems to capture the world the way I see it; I lost my lens cap about 5 years ago but fuck it. It feels good to record my world, my time.
- Put on that playlist. You know the one. Listen, dance, sing, smile. I listen to it alone, listen to it in public while I smile walking down the street, with a favourite person.
- Take a bath. A full on one – even if I only stay in for 15 minutes, even if I’ve put in all the salts and smells and lit all the candles just to get sweaty and get our. It’s about taking the time and dedication to do it full out and then honouring myself enough to leave when I’m ready. I’m not obligated to stay for whatever arbitrary designation of time is appropriate. Or maybe fall asleep in there if that’s what I need. Bring in a book and don’t read a single page. Journal 2 words. Whatever, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be thoughtful.
- I buy myself flowers. I love flowers – I love them so dang much and I really can’t get enough of having a single stem or a fresh bouquet in my apartment. Even when they are “dead” I dry them out completely and save the petals for baths and rituals.
I could write an entire book about the ways I love myself and honestly maybe I will. Because it doesn’t always have to be practical and face masks aren’t for everyone and sometimes we need responsibility more than indulgence. But whatever it is that you are going to do, recognize how it helps you grow. This list is comprised of things I love about myself (how I dress, my skills in cooking, the work I’ve put into my spirituality) – it’s not a list of things that are coping mechanisms. Cleaning my apartment and binge watching TED talks in bed aren’t on this list – because although I do love to have a clean home and I do love learning, these are things I usually do when I’m avoiding something or I’ve tapped myself out by doing too much.
Remember, this is about the idea of dating yourself. So while there are a hundred things we like to do, what are the things you can do for yourself that make you feel really good about doing that for yourself?
My partner once said to me “Sometimes I do things for myself knowing that I get to tell you what I did – like making a charcuterie board for dinner!” I loved that, because it comes back to the idea that when we love ourselves and do things for ourselves we get to share that vitality with the people we love too. My love of baths has been shared with my partner, who comes over at least once a week to share one with me. He motivates me to get up for 6:30AM yoga because I love how it makes me feel – the class and overriding the easy mechanism to stay in bed when there is opportunity for the fulfillment mechanism to be flexed.
SO… HOW DOES THIS MAKE MY RELATIONSHIPS BETTER? HOW DOES IT MAKE ME MORE “CREATIVE”?
Well, when we practice these things we get better at them. But we also show other people how we want to be treated and what makes us feel good.
If we’re constantly self-soothing by sitting in bed and watching netflix and eating ice cream, while berating ourselves about our body image or that our brain isn’t firing on all cylinders, then we’re telling others (whether consciously or not) that this is the best way to treat us when we are feeling down. Don’t get me wrong, eating ice cream in the bathtub is one of my favourite things – but it’s a treat not a coping mechanism. It’s what I do when I’m celebrating, not depressed. Because truthfully sugar does affect me negatively (I can literally feel it when it hits my brain if I haven’t had it in a while; I break out; it’s more challenging to focus – and so much more that I’m sure you can relate to) so if I’m using it in a time that I already feel down, I’m perpetuating that cycle, not helping it. So, while I may feel joyous during the celebration of eating ice cream in the tub, I am forcing that falsified feeling of joy on eating ice cream in the tub when really I am feeling not good. I’m not saying don’t self-soothe – I’m just asking you to look at why you choose what you do and be truthful about how it really makes you feel.
This isn’t just literal, it translates into this:
If we can’t uplift ourselves when we are down, can’t do things to empower ourselves; when we perpetuate cycles of self-sabotage, no matter how small, we tell ourselves and others that it is okay to abuse ourselves. We tell ourselves we would choose to wallow and harbour this stagnancy.
Or we can choose not to. We can choose to instead, ask ourselves how this helps? Where we gave into these cycles? Why we think this way? It is my opinion, that we have a chance to master ourselves in a life time. To become, however slowly, as good as we can be at being us.
Look, I know sometimes you do need to wallow. Grieve. Scream. Tremor, cry, and understand what it is to be empty and full in so many ways. I am not asking you to forfeit these experiences; but I am asking you to look at what is necessary and what is habitual? Our habits form our lives; so if you make it a habit to wallow, that is different than making it a habit to feel. To express and delve into and honour those feelings. It is different to explore them than to harbour them. Every day, we get to focus a sacred energy into creating ourselves. We are all creative beings – so by “dating yourself”, you are creating circumstances in which to create the self that you want to love, and be loved by.
Something absolutely revolutionary happened to me in my relationship (well, a couple of things). The first is this; one day, I wasn’t feeling so hot. I was anxious and upset and I wanted my partner to come over and rub my feet and listen to my woes and tell me everything was okay. I wanted him to be there for me while I took all my stress out on him. I almost called him – but then I reevaluated.
It’s one thing to vent to a partner and to work with them on figuring out what’s bugging me. It’s another thing to dump it on them and put pressure on them to make me feel better.
I ended up not calling him. I sat down and meditated and did every thing that I absolutely did not want to do and was completely avoiding. I cleaned up my apartment. I paid some bills. I went to the grocery store, and on my way there I saw the skating rink. It was a beautiful, mild night and I thought of him and all the times we had wanted to go skating. I sent him a message to see if he wanted to go – he had no idea how I had been feeling earlier, I’d left him to his own devices and life.
I didn’t get a message back, but on my walk home I ended up seeing him as we walked by the skating rink. We embraced and laughed at the serendipity of life – that he was going to take a cab home but decided to walk, that I had accidentally rerouted myself. He didn’t have his phone on him, and was wondering what I was doing when he saw me. I was in a much better place and shared with him my earlier revelation in actions – and he appreciated it. He had gone bouldering that night and had also been grumpy before hand. As we had both taken the space and time to deal with ourselves as individuals, we could come into the space of our relationship from a place of wellness. We hadn’t needed anything from each other, other than needing to take responsibility for our autonomous selves.
Last night, he showed up unannounced at my door with a bouquet of flowers. It was a long, messy, full weekend and both of us were exhausted by the end. It was his birthday, and the last day of the weekend we stayed at his apartment and I helped him organize everything. We got rid of 3.5 bags of clothes and cleared the counters and made the space more livable and less cluttered. He had shown his appreciation to me in a hundred different ways; and yet there is no cap on the kind of love you would give to yourself. He brought me flowers not for any other occasion or reason than I would appreciate them. He showed me love the way I show love for myself.
I get a lot of comments about my relationship, my partner, how great he is, how great I am. The truth is, it all starts with what you are willing to give to yourself. It’s simple. It’s challenging. It’s life changing.
If you need a kick start with all of this, I would highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book The Artists Way. It is a beautiful collection of self-inquiring tasks and prompts that, over 12 weeks, helps you uncover your creative self. Whether you see yourself as a “creative” person or not, the truth is we are all creating our realities at any given moment and if we take control of that then we are limitless.