In a world of hyper-connectivity, where you are one click away from peering through a 24-hour window to the intricacy and details of everyone’s lives, we’re becoming increasingly lonely and super dependent. We live in a society where we find it near impossible not to scroll aimlessly through our phones if we find ourselves alone for longer than three seconds. Seriously, imagine you’re out for drinks with a friend and they leave you alone while they go to the toilet, or you’re waiting by yourself on a train platform, or perhaps you’re sitting in a car while someone runs in to the shops… how many of you can honestly say that you’re content with sitting on your own without pulling your phone out of your pocket as a form of distraction, or so that you “don’t look lonely”? When was the last time you went out alone and were comfortable with solely your own company – technology averted? Mental health issues are a serious problem in this fast-paced, high-pressure, 21st century world, and we need to become less reliant on our relationship with our phones and more content with our relationship with ourselves.
Introducing the concept of dating yourself. Now, you don’t have to be single in order to date yourself; the whole point is that no matter how many friends you have, how committed your relationship is, or how lonely you actually feel, you should be able to treat yourself, spend time totally alone, and actually feel happy about doing it. It’s all about mindfulness, really, (something the therapist during my teenage years would constantly harp on about). I never really bought into the whole “sit for an hour each day meditating to be happy with yourself” bullshit. Works for some, didn't work for me. But mindfulness techniques can be achieved in a variety of ways which, while involving spending time focusing on yourself and your own company, don’t involve you sitting in silence in a darkened room (although every now and then that can be absolutely necessary).
I have always been a people-pleaser and one of my worst traits is that when I care deeply about someone, I would literally crawl over broken glass to make them happy and feel loved and listened to. It is one of my worst traits because I will disregard any personal commitments at the drop of a hat and run to someone’s aid if they need me - great for them, perhaps not so great for me. And it has only been recently that I’ve realised, if I were to show the same amount of time, love, and dedication to myself as I do to the people I love, quite frankly I’d like to think I’d bring the world to its knees. And so that is what I’ve started doing.
At first, I felt selfish and uncomfortable, like I was wrong for wanting to prioritise myself sometimes. But I’ve started seeking out way more opportunities that will benefit me in the future; I’ve pushed myself to make new friends and socialise more; hell, I’m even getting up and going to lectures rather than convincing myself daily that staying in bed is a far more important endeavour. But one of the most crucial changes comes from the time I’m spending with myself. I looked at the things which make me happy in life and realised I usually only ever indulge in these things with other people – be that a partner, a friend, or a family member. Eating out is a big one. I – and I really cannot stress this enough – love food. I love the experience of going to a restaurant, scouring a menu for dishes that will tingle my taste buds; I love having an icy cold pint while I listen to the buzz of conversation around me, and then wash down my food with wine as I sit back, jeans unbuttoned, incapacitated by everything I’ve just consumed. Of course, eating out with somebody is amazing and I will never get bored of spending hours in a restaurant corner, grazing on good food and drinks, whiling the hours away with someone fascinating. But it’s essential to know I can enjoy this experience alone also – and there should be no shame in doing it.
I challenge you to try and "date yourself" at least once a week. Run yourself a hot bath, light some scented candles and spend some time listening to your favourite music as you soak. Go to the shops and buy some fancy ingredients, crack open a bottle of wine while you cook, then spend the evening dicing and chopping, putting together a wonderful meal for one. Get your favourite book and go for a wander in the park, perching yourself lazily against a big tree overlooking the towers of the University, or the rush of the river running by. Put on some fancy clothes and take yourself to a cocktail bar. Choose your favourite film series, grab a bag of popcorn, and have a movie night in bed. Find a cosy artisan coffee shop with freshly baked goods and if you want to be really boujee, don't forget a super oversized scarf and a journal! Book a weekend away, rock climb, go mini-golfing, bowling… whatever it is that brings you joy in life, or whatever activities you love to do on a date or with your friends, take the time to do them on your own sometimes. After all, the only person you can truly count on in life is yourself: you're stuck with whoever you are, so you might as well mould yourself into someone you love to be around and learn to love spending time with yourself!