Self-intimacy: why it’s crucial and how to cultivate it
Self-intimacy: why it’s crucial and how to cultivate it
For many of us, the path to finding self-love and confidence in our own skin is littered with obstacles. Now, more than ever before, we are constantly bombarded with fabricated stories and advertisements about what beauty and success looks like as we go about our daily lives. The harsh truth is that much of the content we interact with is designed to achieve a set outcome, whether that be helping companies to make money or enabling governments globally to control the masses. This is largely done by triggering insecurities, promoting conformity with various ideals and encouraging the pursuit of perfection. While I generally like to think that life ought to be about bigger goals than just striving for happiness, it’s not something to be taken lightly given the huge shifts we are currently experiencing in society. Personally, I believe the relationship between self-intimacy, happiness and overall satisfaction with life are important topics we should all stop to contemplate for the sake of our own well-being. Ultimately, this is so because the extent to which we can truly be intimate with ourselves determines how we interact and relate to the world around us. It underpins how we behave in relationships whether they be romantic, platonic, professional, or familial. Self-intimacy is also deeply entwined with how we give and receive love, whether we do so in an attached or detached manner and our capacity to direct it towards ourselves when it is most needed. For those of you who have not heard the term self-intimacy before, let me explain as I am not referring to sexual intimacy here. Self-intimacy is the first critical step in getting to know ourselves, our essence, our shadow self, the things that make us unique and beautiful in our own right. It is typically cultivated and a product of lived experiences that have moulded us into who we are today. It comes about through deep and shameless analysis and evaluation of ourselves which helps us to know what we value and why, our strengths, limitations, boundaries, likes, dislikes, passions and needs. It is our personal truth that really doesn’t need to be explained or justified to anyone and emerges only when you are willing to travel to the depths of your soul, reject the projections, desires and stigmas of others and sit alone, ideally lovingly and compassionately, in self-examination. While some people might argue that carving time out daily to develop more intimacy with yourself is absurd, selfish or self-absorbed, it is indeed the complete opposite. When we know ourselves on an intimate level, we can be ourselves and provide a safe non-judgemental space for other people to do the same. We are also less shaken by events that may unfold around us, better equipped to sort through external noise, and confident enough to stand in our truth happily, with absolute conviction. Here are five ways you can become more intimate with yourself in under 30 minutes a day: Accept yourself as you are · Honour yourself. Every morning when you wake up or when you are standing in front of the mirror getting ready for the day ahead, repeat the affirmation: I accept myself as I am, with all my limitations, with all my qualities, and good points too. I love and approve of myself, in everyday, in every single way. This mirror work affirmation will reprogram your mind at an unconscious level and help you cultivate a deep sense of self love and acceptance, flaws and all. Repeating this affirmation every single day will help to remove mental barriers that stop you from becoming the most genuine, fearless version of yourself, even if you have to suffer consequences of that. Be vulnerable · Show up and be yourself. Make a conscious effort to remove the layers you would ordinarily wear to protect yourself in your daily interactions. I am not referring to clothing layers, rather, the frame you apply to a situation to make it seem more appealing, glamourous, disastrous or dramatic for example. Living in a genuine and authentic manner will enable you to naturally gravitate towards, and energetically attract people who share similar values and interests. You will get comfortable with the fact that not everyone will love you or understand you — and become increasingly ok with that. Watch your triggers · Make a conscious effort to notice what triggers your shadow side and the key things that upset you or irritate you about others. For clarity, if you haven’t heard of it before, your shadow side is the darker aspect of the Self we ordinarily try to hide, ignore or supress. Once you have identified your triggers or notice a reoccurring theme showing up in your relationships with others, sit in a quiet space with a note pad and pen and ask yourself why that behaviour or thing is evoking that particular internal response from you. Then ask yourself ‘why’ in response to your response another four times until you arrive at the heart of the issue. This exercise is called the 5 whys. It will reveal your thought process to you and you will learn a lot about your values and inner most authentic self. Start a journal · Commit to writing your thoughts out for a short period of time each day. Keep your journal somewhere safe. It is your present to you — your most intimate thoughts. When you write in your journal, make a promise to yourself that you will be completely honest. You will not exaggerate or play down events or emotions, or paint yourself as a martyr, victim or villain. Be raw and real. Don’t judge yourself. Just get whatever is in your head out on paper. Journals, from a psychological standpoint are very good at helping you to develop clarity of thought in addition to improved self-awareness and self-intimacy. Committing just 10 minutes a day to this practice has been proven to have significant benefits for the human psyche. Overtime, this practice will allow you to notice patterns in your thinking that may need to be addressed to enhance your relationship with yourself and improve your quality of life. If you are looking for inspiration, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a great read and could be a good starting point. Allow yourself to explore one new pleasure each week · · This one is intentionally broad. Pleasure is whatever you allow it to be — something that stimulates the five senses or a new activity that looks fun. This will bring you towards greater clarity about your likes and dislikes. Pausing regularly to strengthen intimacy with ourselves allows us to develop greater levels of self-awareness and cultivate more self-compassion and self-acceptance. Through exploring our inner Self, we can also relate to the world at large in a more meaningful and engaged way, build more authentic and meaningful relationships with others, become more conscious of the humanity that resides within each of us and far less concerned with achieving socially constructed ideals. These practices are a pathway to inner peace in a world full of plastic and chaos – they are definitely worth exploring if you want to improve your overall happiness and life satisfaction.