Table for One, Please
Art by Kirsten Hemrich.
Often when we think of love, we think of a relationship between two people. Whether familial, platonic, or romantic, these relationships tend to define our sense of who we are. And when love relationships go awry, or become less than perfect, it can be difficult to not let that affect our self-esteem and view of the world. Here's the thing: we can't entrust our emotional health to our exterior relationships exclusively. We need to cultivate self-love if we want true emotional fulfillment.
For me, hanging out with myself is a form of quality time, which leads to self-love. There are plenty of other ways to express love and strengthen a relationship, and almost all of them can be applied to self-love and our bond with ourselves. However, I find that spending time alone really allows me to be a friend to myself and makes me feel more confident in who I am and what I enjoy.
I am a true introvert, so I really thrive on spending time alone. Not to say that I don’t enjoy and crave time spent with others, just that I recharge by being by myself. The only problem with that is when I don’t want to stay in bed, but I also don’t really want to spend all my energy “going out.” Faced with this dilemma, I make a conscious choice to go experience something by myself (an art exhibit or a hot drink at a quiet cafe) rather than with another person.
Nevertheless, being alone in public places can be daunting. Many people find being alone uncomfortable and fear feeling lonely, and I can’t say I’m immune. I definitely still feel limitations, but found that the more I try doing new things alone, the more comfortable I become with the idea of being in public by myself despite the feeling of social scrutiny.
So just start. It’s easier said than done, but resolve to do an activity that you would usually do with a friend by yourself. Start with going to a coffee shop to read a good book. Drive around in your car and listen to a podcast. Take yourself out to see a new movie or to eat at a new restaurant. Explore a new part of your hometown, or even a new city, by yourself. Go to your favorite band’s concert and enjoy it for your own experience rather than someone else’s. Go to a museum alone and become acquainted with your own thoughts. Walk around and bask in the comfort that is being surrounded by strangers and owing conversation only to yourself. Being alone and loneliness are not the same thing. I am most myself when I am alone, with no one there to affect my behavior. It reminds me that our relationships with other people are one aspect of our lives, not the totality. Our relationships with ourselves deserve to be cultivated with the same, or even more, energy and care that we often reserve for outside interactions.
When I was in elementary school, I was lying in my parent’s bed watching TV with my mom, and I turned to her and asked, “How do I really know the world doesn’t revolve around me?” Clearly I am a youngest child. Existential crisis be damned, I started on a train of thought leading to the conclusion that there was a possibility I was at the center of a simulation where everything in the world occurred because of my presence on Earth.
I sound slightly crazy here, so I have to promise I was just a precocious child with way too much free time, and not a narrow-minded narcissist. But let’s roll with it for a second--the world does not revolve around me, but MY world does. I am inherently a vital part of my life, just like any other person I value and love is. It isn’t healthy to make yourself out to be a chosen one or the center of everyone’s universe. But it is healthy, and necessary, to care for and love yourself. It’s good to become acquainted with your own thoughts and your own personality. Prioritize spending time with yourself equally as much as spending time with those around you that you love.
Self-love and self-awareness only strengthen the relationships you have with others. There’s so much stress about finding a person to spend your life with, but the pressure alleviates when you come to the realization that you already have that person: yourself.
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