You are the only person you are guaranteed to spend your whole life with, so you might as well learn to get along.
I cannot remember where I first heard this sentiment, but the idea stuck with me. If you are going to spend the rest of your life with yourself, you might as well get to know each other.
Self-care is buzzing these days: do more yoga, get outside, drink more tea, skip class for your mental health, eat the dark chocolate fudge ice cream. Psychological studies back up the idea, saying that gratitude is an attitude that will bring you a deep sense of joy and worth and purpose in the here and now. Self-care is a live-in-the-moment mantra. Self-care is how you love yourself.
What does that even look like, though, to love yourself? Love, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb, means to entertain affection for, or fondness towards an object; to be attached to; to hold dear. To “entertain” something, in this sense, requires an element of long-term maintenance or upkeep. Self-love might just ask more of you than indulging in an occasional chocolate bar.
To love yourself, you must first develop a relationship. Yes, a relationship with you, yourself, and you. Now, relationship is another big word to define, I realize. You’ve got a wide spectrum here: friendships, sibling-ships, friends with bene-ships, ships your friends want to sail you on with someone else. However, if you think of the most important relationships in your life, you probably do some or all of the following: put in extra effort, hang out together, use affirming words, listen, tune-in, discover character, build shared memories, turn toward each other in times of distress.
What would it look like to do these things for yourself?
About a year ago, I decided I wanted to take this self-care thing seriously. I was tired of negative headspace, doubt, and insecurity, so I started taking myself on what I call Liesl Dates. I take myself out to restaurants, movies, coffee shops, outdoor picnics, go for walks. All by myself. Just me.
At first, the “just me” aspect was difficult. I felt strange walking into a restaurant and saying, “Just me,” to the hostess, who would give me a pitying smile and escort me to a table off in a corner somewhere. I felt strange going to a movie by myself with nobody to share my impressions of the previews. I felt strange taking myself out for coffee when I could have easily stayed in bed and watched Netflix.
I felt strange and awkward, yes, but through my discomfort I learned about myself. I learned that I can survive just fine adulting on my own, and in fact, I kind of enjoy hanging out with myself. Liesl Dates have been an exercise in abandoning my social training wheels and feeling comfortable in the world while flying solo.
Learning to love yourself, building that positive relationship with yourself, is so important for functioning in society well. How can you contribute your fullest potential to the world around you if you do not know who you are or what you have to offer? How can you love others if you cannot even love yourself? How can you accept the love of others if you cannot accept love from yourself?
I encourage you to think of new ways you can better care for your one and only guaranteed lifetime companion. After all, you know you best.