Intimacy Begins Within
By: Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
When we think about intimate relationships, most of us think first of intimacy between partners or friends. Personal intimacy is a state in which two individuals are truly able to let down their outer layers of defense and protection and allow themselves to let the other see him or her as she truly is while being able to create the space in which her partner feels safe enough to do the same.
Personal intimacy is about being willing to let someone see you as you truly are while being willing to let yourself see that person as he or she truly is. It is about lack of artifice or protection and requires great courage for most people as it lays raw the bits and pieces of ourselves and our history that we would rather others not realize we carry with us.
Self-Intimacy: Not as Simple as it Sounds
Although establishing intimacy with another person can take significant courage, being open to self-intimacy can be a surprisingly challenging task. It seems that there are two extremes when it comes to self-examination—whether it’s literal mirror-gazing or inner reflecting. On one extreme are those of us who look into a mirror and notice every flaw—whether it’s laughlines, blemishes, asymmetrical features, whatever. Then there are others of us who just steal a quick glance to make sure there’s nothing too horrifying or embarrassing about our appearance and dash out the door.
Being somewhere in between these two extremes is the most effective standpoint for building an intimate connection with your inner self. You have to be able to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you for who you are and who knows what you are worth. Self-esteem develops based on how we perceive that others perceive us. Self-intimacy requires that we see ourselves as we truly know ourselves to be.
Taking Time to Establish Self-Intimacy is Important
When we do not give ourselves time alone for reflection and self-intimacy, we are letting ourselves off too easy in life and not holding ourselves up to the inner scrutiny that allows us the space to acknowledge and address the areas in which we may need to grow. We also need time alone with ourselves to reconnect with who we are when we “show up” in relationships with others.
By intentionally choosing to spend time alone, you are also acknowledging the worth of your personhood—and the value inherent in being who you are. The need to surround yourself with the company of others often reflects needs to measure self-worth by popularity or to provide “evidence” of your social desirability.
It’s okay to enjoy spending time with those who care about you, this also should include enjoying spending time alone with yourself.
Suggestions for Making Space for Healthy Solitude and Self-Intimacy
It’s important that each of us finds time to sit and to simply “be” in our own skin. Maybe you find a connection to yourself through meditation, through quiet reflection, or through intentional self-exploration. The point of healthy inner solitude is to provide a space to explore the pieces of yourself that you treasure or that you wish you could change.
Healthy solitude is not about beating up on yourself for past mistakes or behaviors, dragging yourself down as you review your perceived missteps or failings, or ruminating on interactions that have not gone as you would have liked. It is meant to be a space of acceptance of self where plans for life changes are also developed.
- A good habit to encourage healthy solitude is scheduling daily reflective walks that allow you space to quietly review a particular aspect of your life or self that needs attention. These walks can be built into your regular routine—walking to your office from the parking lot (just pay attention to the traffic and do be careful) is one way to make space for personal intimacy.
- Taking five minutes at the start or end of your lunch break can also be a space in which you can “turn over the rocks and stones” and see what’s hidden or building up within you.
- Creating a journaling space in your life – at night before you go to bed or on your tablet, smartphone, or laptop, right after you clock out at work or in the morning ten minutes before you begin your workday are three different options for building in the personal solitude that grows increasingly necessary as our lives and technology grow increasingly intertwined.