Self-Love Requires Getting To Know Yourself First: How To Go On A Solo Date
I took myself on a date this weekend. New York on Saturdays in the summer tends to be rather quiet. Most people on the Upper West Side head out east to homes with backyards, properties with pools, and beaches with frosé. I hop from my neighborhood to the Upper West Side and consider that my luxury.
Halfway through eating a plate of penne alla vodka at a small Italian restaurant tucked in between a Sweetgreen and a hole in the wall pizzeria, I realized that sitting alone at a restaurant is a habit I feel comfortable in because I’ve practiced doing it often and with joy.
The “with joy” part is the bit that reminded me that so much of loving yourself involves constant acts of joy. You have to be willing to get to know yourself, the good and the bad, to be able to love yourself for who you are. We don’t say this often enough — loving yourself doesn’t just happen.
It isn’t born by simply waking up one moment and deciding to erase all the moments that scarred you.
Between me and my pasta rested all the emotional baggage, wounds, and trauma I’ve experienced in 26 years of life. I didn’t leave it anywhere. At some point, when I started taking myself on these dates, I just decided that they were going to be there as I got to know the other parts of myself.
I take myself on dates because I want to meet the woman who grew into herself after being a girl who never really did. I give myself time to learn about the books I actually like or how far I like to walk before I don’t want to walk anymore. The dates help me see how much practice I still need in order to be comfortable pampering myself without feeling like I should be serving others with that time. I breathe through the anxiety that I get a couple of minutes into my pedicure because with each breath I remind myself that discomfort doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. The discomfort is a reminder that I grew up believing that my time was simply mine to borrow from someone else, instead of mine to own and give as I saw fit. Each breath reminds me to have patience with myself and the process. It takes time to unlearn deeply ingrained beliefs and to teach yourself differently simultaneously.
I repeatedly invite myself to take part in acts of joy because unless I bookmark that time to get to know the good, fun parts of myself, I run the risk of believing the lies that life is only hard and that I’m only meant to serve.
I know that carving out this time isn’t easy and that it’s often cut down by responsibilities you can't compromise or money that doesn’t add up for much more than monthly bills, so instead of telling you to invest money, I’m asking you to find the few minutes of time you can invest in yourself. Find enough quiet to get to know yourself.
My date on Saturday was admittedly expensive. I had lunch, got a mani-pedi, picked up some new books and bought a smoothie on my walk back home — it adds up. Ultimately though, these were just things I did that gave me the time to learn that I like reading books that are centered on peoples’ real lives, that I’m a creature of habit when I walk into an Italian restaurant, and that spending money on myself is still a mountain I’m learning to climb.
I know committing to one’s self is significantly harder than making a promise to someone else who we got to know over time, either because we grew up with them or because we learned them by dating them, but it’s not because we love them more, it’s because we took more time to get to know them than we have ever taken to get to know ourselves.
While I was dating, one of my favorite things to do was to walk around a park with someone. There was no room for hiding and there was only time and space to meet each other and see if we clicked.
Take yourself on a walk, find the thing that will help you claim time and space to meet yourself. You’re not going to appreciate your quirks immediately, you’ve spent too much time noticing your pet peeves around yourself. That’s okay though, we’re choosing consistency and process when it comes to self-love. We’re choosing a relationship with ourselves and that takes time and getting to know yourself to build.
If you’ve never hung out with yourself, start by writing 1-3 things you like about yourself or know you already like to do.
Set time in your calendar that is non-negotiable. Your time with yourself isn’t free time for others, it’s committed time to yourself. “Sorry I’m busy then” is an acceptable excuse if someone asks for that time.
Don’t correlate spending with getting to know yourself more. Instead, use intentionality as a more appropriate barometer. If you’re trying to figure out what your new clothing style is, it makes sense that you’ll need to go to a store, try some things on, maybe buy something that feels very you. If you’re trying to figure out what you like during sex, spending may make sense if you’re buying a new vibrator, but it can also just be you, your thoughts, and your hands.