The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
When I was twelve years old, I spent most of my nights scrolling through Tumblr and Wattpad, overconsuming my prepubescent brain with fanfictions and “one-shots” of the most extraordinary plot lines, where the ordinary girl spellbound the mysterious and alluring love interest. It certainly was a point in my life where I began the hyper-fixation of romance, drama, a potential love interest of my own, and it was a shared experience among many other girls my age, too. Fanfiction seemed to have a stronghold on almost every girl I knew.
Even though I often laugh about it now, I began to see that, in hindsight, these kinds of media we were taking in warped our perception of what relationships looked like. More importantly, though, it muted the very issues that most girls my age were going through. It overemphasized on finding a partner, and not developing our own selves, and building that sense of security that would last us as we grew older. We were fed a narrative of what love looked like, but never taught how to love our own selves.
One of the best things to have come from the internet was fanfiction– but now, is the influx of self-care, self-love, and affirmation media that flood every social media platform. Whether it’s TikTok trends of body positive videos, or Instagram posts highlighting the importance of recognizing our mental health, the conversation has become so open for any and all people to join in on their own journeys. The downside to this, though, is the overabundance of these topics that can have a numbing effect and become redundant to us. On the flip side, too, it can repel us from something that might appear sickly-sweet, leaving us to never try acts of love towards ourselves.
The best relationship we can and will ever have is the one we have with ourselves.
The irony is that we are the only person we have been with the longest, but quite possibly our largest adversary we will encounter. Where does one even begin in learning to maintain a relationship that seems too close to be feasible, yet still so distant and intangible?
There are four ways to begin this lifelong journey of upholding your most important relationship. While four as a number may seem too narrowed down, each one is packed with more than what is surface level. Before even starting these four methods, the most important place to begin is to make sure you are comfortable with each part. It might take some time, but do it in the way that makes you feel most at ease and ready. Relationships are not easy to maintain; certainly, the one with yourself is the most significant, and therefore, the most complex to navigate in sustaining it.
I. Have an action plan for the bad days
Just as in romantic relationships where couples are susceptible to getting into arguments or having bad days, we certainly are able to have these, too. Partners will both have their own daily struggles to deal with– whether that takes place at their respective workplaces, school, family issues, etc., and might take this out on each other as a result. The most common prescription for a lover’s quarrel that we often hear is “walking away from the fight”. It is important to first cool off, and provide a baseline for a proactive solution. While relationship advice lingers and sticks to every web and thread there is on the internet, what exactly do we do for our own selves when we are having a self-quarrel, or a bad day? The answer lies within the action plan that you devise for these moments. So where exactly does one start in forming this action plan?
Is there a song that soothes you when you’re disheartened? Or maybe it’s a playlist you lean upon in times of strife? Is there a book that you gravitate towards that has helped you overcome a struggle? Or perhaps a quote that has held resonance in your life? Whatever it is, let that be your version of “walking away from the fight” before implementing your action plan. With this as your baseline, the point is that you are able to bring yourself back to equilibrium, and not fix yourself all at once. The goal is to bring yourself back to the moment, so that you can logically and delicately work with whatever it is you are going through.
Along the way, then, we are able to become mindful of figuring out what steps are needed to bring us back to the moment. Once you’re able to formulate this as your action plan, hold onto it dearly for the next time you’re having a bad day, and be sure to implement this. Not only is this pragmatic for overcoming bad days, but it is an act of love that is so profound without overtly being “lovey-dovey” towards yourself, and can be applicable in almost every moment.
II. Be a good listener
Being a good listener facilitates the best form of communication– and what greater bond to have this with than with your own self!
Being a good listener can mean a number of different things. It means truly listening to your brightest ideas and giving it consideration and thought, hearing your emotional needs when they need to be met, understanding your limits and boundaries, or even something as simple as listening to your body saying “it’s time to eat.”
Being a good listener reciprocates honesty, then. Having this two way street with yourself is vital to uphold, and can only be maintained if active listening is granted by honest communication.
What comes about with listening is not only proper communication, but of course, patience. Listening to one’s needs requires a great deal of patience and understanding, as it takes time to even learn how to listen, but in the end, one of the most beautiful things we can feel is that we have been heard. Beginning this journey of active listening to yourself means more than processing words and information, but instead, giving yourself that extra attention that might have otherwise been dismissed.
III. Dedicate more things to yourself
Sometimes, we feel the most special when someone has thought about us– whether it’s a song they send us that reminds them of us, they went out of their way to buy your favorite snack, etc. Maybe we overly focus on this, too, and cannot stop thinking about how thoughtful that was of them, and how incredible it made us feel. It should offer us the same sentiment when applied to our own selves, too, and should not be something we void ourselves of.
Go out for lunch as a date with yourself. Go to the movies alone, or if you’re too socially anxious, make your cozy movie time for yourself at your home. Find a pretty flower outside, and gift yourself with this. Take walks with yourself on sunny afternoons. Go on mini-adventures, locally. It does not have to be a distant road trip, it can simply be to the grocery store. Romanticize even the simplest of things.
Whatever comes to mind on what you would like to dedicate to yourself, do it if it makes you feel happier about yourself! It can be anything, so long as the intention is that it is meant for you and can make you feel even just a little bit more special. You are the person you’ve been in a relationship with the longest– you owe it to yourself to pamper yourself with at least the bare minimum.
IV. Recognize the Good Within Your “Bad”
It would be impossible to say that any of us can get to a point where we accept every single one of our “flaws”, even if we try so hard to admit we are at a point of content. So for the times we see nothing but bad, it is now time to start seeing the good within it. While easier said than done, and possibly the most uncomfortable one of the four different ways to have an everlasting relationship with yourself, it may be the most essential one.
Whether it’s a part of your body you don’t like, or if you feel you are not as smart as your peers, or that you’re not talented enough, pretty enough, or simply “enough”; understand that beneath the years of self-fed conditioning of loathing, at one point or another, it was someone else’s favorite part of you. It might have been a quality of yours that you loved about yourself as a kid, without even realizing it, but now, has turned out to be one you feel most shameful towards.
Try and find the root of why you might dislike something about yourself that you do– and understand if it’s because of society, your family, or even yourself that is responsible for viewing it in this manner. Rationalizing something so subjective is nearly impossible, and you might begin to realize, there might not even be any point to doing so in the first place. When peeling back these layers of human-made boundaries of what is considered “good”, you begin to understand the trivialness of it, and that maybe, you’re not so bad after all.
If I could speak to my twelve year old self, I would tell her to put her phone down and go to sleep— it’s four in the morning, and you have school in three hours. I would also tell her that it’s okay to feel a little lost, even at such a young age. When I look back at that age, I realize there’s not much difference between that little girl, and the woman that stands here now. Most of us, too, can still relate to who we were at an age that seems so far gone now, but we are still trying to figure things out just as we once were before.
Four ways to sustain a relationship with ourselves is not nearly enough as to where it should be, but it’s an incredible start, especially since the contrary is at zero. Maintaining this relationship with ourselves is not just a fad or another product of a trend that has surfaced on social media— it’s a responsibility to vindicate to our own selves. We owe it to the twelve-year-olds we once were to now begin minimizing all the time put into tearing ourselves down, and developing a greater connection with who we are.