When we think about the phrase, “intimate relationship,” we usually think about the presence of intimacy between two people. Intimacy is about transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability. It’s about taking down the mask you wear and the fortress you’ve built to protect your heart, your self-esteem, and your feelings. It’s about letting someone get the “full 360” view of who you are, where you stand, and where you tremble. And it’s pretty normal to find it challenging to allow others to see us as we truly are – faults and all. It’s a relational risk and there are a lot of people who hold tight to their defenses because of the power they give others to affect their feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.
However, there’s another type of intimacy that can be just as difficult for some – something called self-intimacy. This is about making time to reflect on who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. It’s about letting down your guard and giving yourself permission to stop telling yourself the lies you think you need to hear. It’s about acknowledging the fears that limit you, the self-beliefs that keep you from truly believing in yourself, and the imagined obstacles that keep you from attempting to reach the goals you value.
Self-reflection also helps you reconnect with the person you are when you show up in relationships. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Am I someone that I’d want to be with?” If not, maybe you should. Recognizing the aspects of yourself that get in the way of relationships with others – and yourself – is the first step to removing them. It’s the old truism, “The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one,” at play.
Making time for healthy solitude gives you space for honest self-assessment as well as self-acceptance . . . even for past choices you now wish you hadn’t made.
It’s about Moving Forward, Not Getting Stuck in the Past
Self-reflection and healthy solitude are not about ruminating about the negative feelings or experiences in your life. It’s about accepting what is true and determining what you want to be no longer true and what you want to carry with you along your personal journey through life. As for the “baggage” that each of us carry – from relationship to relationship, place to place, or moment to moment – we are the only ones who have the power to accept it or to let it go. They say that happiness is a choice – choosing to let your past mistakes and failures weigh you down in the present moment is also a choice that you are intentionally making.
Think about it . . . by taking time for some healthy solitude and giving yourself time to figure out what you are willing to carry and where you want your destination to be.
Is “Alone Time” about Self-Indulgence? Not at All!
How do you make time to do something that others might consider self-indulgent? Well, one good habit that encourages healthy solitude is taking a daily reflective walk –whether you log ten thousand steps or just a few hundred on your trek. When your body is in motion, you are actually spurring the creative process and fighting any tendencies towards depression.
Another opportunity is found at the beginning or end of your work day. Get to work a little early or stay a little late. Using this space for quiet self-reflection can help you identify the goals that are truly worth your pursuit. Whether you’re sitting in your car, sitting on a bench in the lobby, or sitting at your desk, let yourself catch up with yourself and reflect on where you’re going in life and what’s the best “next step” to get you there.
Creating a space for journaling also provides a dedicated opportunity to turn over the rocks and stones of daily life to see what’s hidden underneath or building up within. Some of the most powerful moments in counseling sessions often occur when a client says something “out loud” that they had only thought about or reflected on before. It’s amazing the power that words spoken aloud or journaled into reality can have on a person! Whether the words are simply about stating a truth or crystallizing a plan, once you name an idea, you have given yourself power to move past the past or towards the future by being present in the company of an expressed idea.
Vision boards and dream boards and gratitude lists and all of the ways in which people are encouraged to map out their hopes are similar activities to journaling in that you are giving a space to feelings or thoughts that you have not yet crystallized into shape or form.
By giving yourself the opportunity to develop a stronger level of intimacy with yourself, you are also giving yourself a boost in the depths – and heights – you can take your relationships with others. If you can’t look yourself in the eye and see you for who you are, you may have a hard time accepting another’s faults or foibles. It’s okay to be human – it’s a condition we all share.
As technology and the tasks of daily living grow increasingly intertwined, making time for healthy solitude becomes increasingly important for making sense of our place on this rapidly developing planet.