Being in a relationship with yourself is a concept we should all explore, no matter where we are with our dating lives. Being in a good place with who you are now and who you are constantly evolving into is key in successful relationships with other people. It requires a lot of time and energy to understand where you are emotionally and set healthy boundaries for yourself, but it is important if you want to improve your mental health and create long lasting connections with yourself and other people. I have spent a lot of time basking in the single life, and while being with someone has its benefits, I always remind myself that the only relationship I can count on lasting forever is the one I have with myself - this is why I maintain it as best I can and check in with myself when times get hard.
I am by no means an expert on self love and great relationships - I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks and pity parties, and that’s okay, we are only human. These are just things I have learned on my journey with loving myself and sharing that love with other people.
Working on loving yourself can take a whole lifetime. Just when you reach a point where you feel content about something, there’s always a possibility of getting thrown off balance - and this is something we have to simply accept about life; it is a constant state of impermanence. To put it simply, nothing in life is certain apart from death. I’m not trying to get all morbid or give anyone an existential crisis - but it is an idea I have been in love with since I read about it in Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’. It makes hard times easier to go through when you know that they pass, and when you choose to look at them more in terms of something to learn from to better yourself.
Now, of course you must be open to connecting and relying on other people - to an extent. Human connection and being there for someone as well as them being there for you is important, but never good if you put yourself and your needs below anyone else. A friend of mine once said to me "you either put us on the same level, or you put yourself above me" and it struck me as a brilliant way to look at all kinds of relationships that I form with anyone. You cannot expect anyone to give you the respect you deserve if you don't demand that respect, and the only way you can be sure of what makes you happy is if you take the time to get to know yourself.
At first I thought that putting my needs above the needs of others was a selfish thing to do, but I’ve realised over time that you can’t expect anyone else to invest energy into what your going through, even if you would do that for others. If you look at it this way, in order for you to be in the right mental state to help your loved ones with what they're going through, you need to have a strong understanding of your own needs and actions. The only way to do that is to take care of yourself before anyone else. That doesn’t mean that you become narcissistic, and refuse to help other people through tough times, it is just about finding a balance between knowing when you’re able to give energy to others without it effecting the energy you have set aside for yourself.
Even with that said, try to avoid setting expectations for other people. Expectations are, in a lot of cases, the cause of unnecessary stress and tension. If we were to just accept the things people do for us without expecting more based on what we would do for them, we would be disappointed much less. You have to remember that everyone is going through different things and expecting them to be involved in your problems as well as working on themselves is an impossible ask, everyone needs to take the time they need in order to be the best version of themselves.
Peoples actions are rarely anything to do with you and if you feel like they aren’t being considerate of how you are feeling, it’s most likely that they are just busy working on themselves, and not that they are trying to spite you. Try practising some self care by learning how to depend on yourself - being able to pick yourself up from a dark place is a valuable skill to have.
Take yourself on dates! Even if you consider yourself to already be in a healthy relationship - take yourself to things you enjoy, and try to find contentment in being with yourself.
Meditation is a good way to get to know your mind, however many are put off by it because it is hard to get good at when you first start out. I recommend starting by being mindful whenever you have some time alone, don’t fill all your days with noise and music - take 5 minutes to breathe and focus on what you feel in the present - you’ll find you become much more aware of the thoughts that travel through your mind. It will be hard to control them at first, but if you think of your mind as a clear blue sky, and your thoughts as little clouds that come and go, it makes it easier to just let them disperse as soon as you catch your mind wandering.
Mindfulness is an easier state of meditation in my opinion, because you can practise it while doing something - while cleaning your room or cooking a meal. Finding peace and beauty in seemingly mundane tasks is a beautiful way to calm yourself down. This is why I am a fan of Studio Ghibli movies (which you absolutely must watch if you haven’t - a personal fave of mine is Howl’s Moving Castle). Hayao Miyazaki has a way of romanticising ‘normal’ aspects of life such as sitting and looking at the scenery, reading and creating things or even studying. I admire this so much in his movies because it encourages you to feel the magic in the small tasks we tend to overlook and take for granted.
Self love also means being able to look at yourself and treat yourself with the gentle kindness you would a friend. It means not being harsh about your appearance, and forgiving yourself for little mistakes you may make. Think about what you would say to a friend if they were talking about themselves the way you think about yourself... become your own best friend. If you were to see yourself from an outsiders perspective, what advice would you give yourself? I, for one, surely wouldn’t go to any of my friends and highlight their failures or insecurities - that wouldn’t make me a nice person would it? So why do we tend to treat ourselves with such cruel and harsh criticism?
Being kinder to yourself and repeating mantras can change your perspective on a lot of things. It’s like yellow cars. Before I started looking for yellow cars I would rarely ever see one, but since I’ve started to look for them there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t seen at least 4. It’s just another example of the law of attraction - once you make a decision to allow something into your life, it finds its way to you. So start manifesting a deep love for yourself - what is there to lose? It’s not like you can break up with yourself! If you get into a relationship without first finding the right amount of love and respect for yourself, you’re only putting yourself in danger of projecting your insecurities onto your partner, or settling. Don’t settle. Remember that if you aren’t receiving the love you feel you deserve, there’s always someone else out there who will give you it.
Take as much time as you need with this, there’s no rush to finding love. The idea of ‘soulmates’, however dreamy and sweet you may think it is, is an extremely toxic one. You can fall in love many times in your life - it doesn’t mean you should be careless with other peoples feelings, but just know that if something doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean that you will never find another. You have to rely on yourself. Allowing someone else to become a figure of major support for you, in a relationship context, can do some great damage to your emotional and mental health if things don’t work out between you. It is much more difficult to move on if you don’t have a strong foundation with yourself and have instead built dependencies on others.
The way we romanticise this kind of passive behaviour as a society, where we expect someone to save us, or all of our problems to go away the second we jump into a relationship, is fictional. I’m not saying you can’t rely on your partner. After all, that support is what a relationship is all about. It is just important to remember that you are both your own humans and all that you can do is support each other.
So if you are freshly broken hearted or feel like you’ve been single for too long, or even if you just feel lonely - use the time you have now to focus entirely on yourself. Don’t dwell on the things that went wrong in your last relationship, think about the things you have learned, and the things you no longer tolerate. There will always be time to either try again with someone, or to find someone new - you just have to be sure you’re in the right state of mind to give the love you would want someone to give back to you. And the only way to do that is to maintain the relationship you have with you.