We usually think about intimacy in terms of our relationships with other people, but intimacy is also a process that occurs in our relationships with ourselves (aka. self-intimacy).
Believe it or not, many people struggle with self-intimacy. That is, many people feel anxious and vulnerable when alone because it can open up space for a number of self-defeating processes, such as negative self-evaluation, the not-enough complex, worry, feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, emptiness…
If you remember from last week’s blog, intimacy is:
“… a mutual process that happens between 2 or more people, in which each person is unconditionally and whole-heartedly accepting of the other’s vulnerability, NO MATTER each person’s dark sides, short-comings, imperfections, and history.”
So when I’m talking about self-intimacy, I’m talking about the practice of being unconditionally and whole-heartedly accepting of your own vulnerability. I’m talking about the process of accepting yourself, loving yourself, valuing yourself, and cultivating a comfortable, secure relationship with yourself.
Self-intimacy is a self-compassionate act.
This might be resonating with you. Struggle with self-intimacy is common for all of us to some extent because of our inherent, human need to belong. Self-intimacy struggles are especially common for people who tend to fall into co-dependent patterns of relationships (i.e., depending on others to feel worthy and valued).
On the other hand, many of you might be reading this thinking to yourself, “Oh this is not my problem. I’m good with myself.” And maybe that’s true! If it is, great! But I would suggest spending some time alone with yourself before you make that snap judgement. Problems with self-intimacy can have a way of sneaking up on us before we realize it. Self-intimacy is an area where we may think we’re ok until we experience real solitude.
Solitude… That’s when that lonely vulnerability seeps in. And, just like with other-intimacy, our anxiety alarm bells start going off, causing us to think there’s something wrong with us because we’re not with someone. Hence, the term “Anxious Self-Intimacy.” Again, this is natural, and anxiety is just trying to do its job to protect us. Give your anxiety grace…
So how do we deal with anxious self-intimacy?
I’m serious! Embrace the anxiety and date yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, and do some soul-searching within YOU. Start a hobby- something that you’ve always wanted to do. Have a night in alone and watch a nostalgic movie with some popcorn and ice cream. Go out to eat with yourself. Go get coffee with yourself. Go to a movie with yourself. Go to the park. Go for a hike. Practice valuing yourself by taking care of yourself and getting in touch with your own needs (rather than someone else’s needs)…
Once you embrace it, self-intimacy can be quite rewarding and recharging!
However, self-intimacy can also become addictive, especially for introverts. Because of this, we can sometimes get stuck in the comfort of self-intimacy just like we can get stuck in the comfort of other-intimacy.
Aim for BALANCE between self- and other-intimacy.
This balance is one of the keys to well-being. We may struggle with one more than the other and, as we go through life, we may find ourselves vacillating from one end of the spectrum to the other. That is totally ok. Aiming for this balance is an ongoing life process that is never perfect or stagnant.
Where do you fall on the spectrum? What might help you work toward balance? What actions can you take each day to move yourself to balance?
Until next time,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.