I have a secret.
I never quite outgrew those little magazine quizzes; you know, the ones that tell you what career path to follow, what your favourite movies say about your style in the bedroom, or which cartoon superhero you’re most like.
A guy who grew up saving his allowance for magazines turned into a bit of a media junkie. I’m hooked up on most of the social media sites; I read the paper and regularly check different news sources online; I absorb celebrity gossip rags when I’m at the doctor’s office—it doesn’t seem to matter what kind, I love it all.
Put that together with the fact that I’m always interested in the quiet ways people work and my fascination with quizzes begins to make sense. I’ve tried every five-minute meditation out there and regularly check my Myers-Briggs personality type (I’m an INFP, in case you’re wondering).
As a teenager, I’d always find myself guiltily sneaking those “Is she really into you?” ones—the ones that seemed to break down a person’s every gesture into clues about their real intentions. In my teens I dated some pretty bad choices—I tended to attract very emotionally unavailable girls, like I had some kind of bitch Velcro oozing out of my pheromones—and I felt like, if I just got a favorable quiz result, the relationship would turn out all right.
Then, when I was 20 and once again desperately in love with someone who didn’t love me back, a thought finally, finally occurred to me.
All that love I was sending her—all of a sudden I tried giving that love to myself.
It was revolutionary.
I found out how uncomfortable I was, trying to receive the amount of energy I usually sent to someone else. And in the slow way these things come together, I thought,
I know we live in a self-help kind of culture, but why isn’t there specific relationship advice for me, being in relation with me? After all, f**k that girl. I need it way more than she does—I have to be with myself forever.
If we tried to befriend those weird quirks and awkward bits about ourselves, rather than trying to smooth or rationalize them away, what would happen then?
This line of thought led me to the place where I started wondering how exactly it was done, anyways—how does one be in a long-term relationship with themselves? In the years since I first thought of this question, this is what I’ve come up with.
I think we have to date ourselves.
It sounds cheesy maybe, but it’s true. Let’s take ourselves out to do things we’ll enjoy, just because it makes us happy. Let’s also be kind to ourselves—pour ourselves a bubble bath when our body aches, put ourselves to bed with aspirin and ginger tea when we’re sick—just like we would for a friend or lover we care about.
We should also become adept at giving ourselves space.
Sometimes, I think way too much; my thoughts, racing in my dreams, wake me up in the middle of the night. Remembering that there is nothing to be physically done in that moment can help me relax and see the problem for what it is: a cloud moving across the sky.
Challenging ourselves—this can mean two things. I don’t ever want to regret a decision I’ve made because I made it unconsciously—I want to know why I act the way I do, so that I can be sure I am acting the way I want. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with calling myself (kindly) on my own bullsh*t. I will admit to myself and others, if I think I’ve made a mistake; I will become my own checks-and-balances.
It can also mean daring myself to have new experiences and stepping outside my comfort zone in order to learn more and more about who I am.
Also important is taking care of ourselves, in a basic maintenance kind of way. For me, that means trying to sleep, making a conscious decision to eat right and to get outside and feel the sun on my skin. It means stretching, spending time and connecting with my breath every day, just so I can feel grateful to the air filling my body.
I can take life way too seriously sometimes. I am not sure why, but I tend to think in macros—“where is this all going?” “what am I doing with my life?”—and when I notice that happening too often, it’s time for me to go climb a jungle gym, sing something terribly at the top of my lungs, call a friend—in general, stop at nothing to make myself laugh.
Every day I am reminded how we are all “spiritual beings having a human experience”, as the saying goes.
A part of life is understanding the natural cycle of things and how the natural rhythms of the world ebb and flow; we fall down and we get back up. This can mean something different for everyone, given that we’re all here to be our own weird, unique selves—but if we’re not actively trying to appreciate ourselves for who we are, then I think we sort of missed the point.