- in Self-Care
Start with Attractions
In the same way you’re naturally attracted to certain qualities in other people, you’re likely also attracted to certain qualities in yourself.
You may be proud of the fact that you always work hard. You may like your ability to see humor in all situations — to see the lighter side of life. You may feel confident that you have a warm heart or a capable mind. These are the qualities you are drawn to in yourself.
Just as with other people, these are the things you’d like to know more about and should pursue.
When you like something about yourself, that is your intuition sensing that there ’s something good in that characteristic, that habit.
It doesn’t matter how surface level the attraction is, even if it’s as simple as liking that you always text people back right away. Follow that quality, and it’ll lead you to even more information about what you like about yourself.
Recognizing these attractions is also extremely useful for creating closeness with others because these are often the same qualities others will be attracted to in you.
Understanding them will make you more aware of the types of people you’re attracting. This is excellent information for you to have as you pursue closeness with others.
List ten things you like about yourself. They can be deep or surface level or a mix of both.
Touch the Surface of Your Inner World
To begin getting to know yourself well, notice, identify and become consciously aware of your wants. Wants are the first entry point for deeper understanding of yourself, just as they are with other people.
I do not recommend sitting down and deliberately asking yourself, “What do my wants mean?”
This will create anticipation and anxiety around the process of identifying your wants, which will likely lead to internal resistance.
Instead, simply be in the moment, and when you find yourself desperately wanting to buy the pair of shoes you saw in a store window, pause for a second.
Ask yourself, “What do these shoes get me?” This is a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to uncover the source of a want.
Don’t worry if a need or value doesn’t instantly spring to mind. You may get an equally “wantlike” response to your question, such as “they look so cool” or “I want to wear those to work on Monday.”
The goal is to continue investigating — don’t let these opportunities escape you.
If your initial answer is that the shoes look cool, what does “cool” mean? What would having cool shoes get you? Where does cool lead you?
This, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the shoes!
If they make you feel good, go for it. But making yourself more consciously aware of your actions, drives, and impulses gives you greater understanding of yourself — not to mention the fact that you’ll be much better equipped to answer these types of questions when you partner poses them.
Carry a small note pad with you (or use your phone) to write down your wants when they arise. Later, look back over the list and notice wants that may be connected to something deeper.
Gain Deeper Understanding
It’s now time to really dig into the underlying sources of your wants — your needs and values. As you know, needs are nearly universal, and unmet needs usually express themselves as complaints.
So start noticing:
- What am I complaining about?
- What do I feel angry about?
- Where am I starting to function poorly?
- Where do I want to point the finger of blame?
These are your areas of unmet needs.
Values are a bit more challenging to uncover.
Identifying and learning to honor your values is a lifelong project, so allow for fluidity, and let it evolve.
Start by paying attention to the times when you feel down, withdrawn, or are asking yourself, “What’s the point?”
These low points are likely hiding a disregarded value.
As unpleasant as these feelings are, they’re replete with valuable information for you. They are fingers pointing at what you care about.
If you can identify even a single solid value, you can start honoring it.
- How would you show this value you care?
- Where is it suffering in the world?
- Where could it use sup- port, encouragement, or nurturing?
You could even think of this work as “getting close” to your values. If you value the environment, for example, get to know and care about the environment. Learn about what it needs. Feel the feeling of caring about it. Getting close to your values ultimately brings you closer to yourself.
Imagine one of your values as an actual person.
What would you do to get close to it?
Allow Yourself to Wonder
One of the more challenging ways to apply closeness principles to yourself is by asking yourself inviting questions.
It can be quite difficult to hold an inviting mindset when you already have a lifetime of preconceived notions about what your answers should be.
It’s also a real challenge to ask yourself an unexpected question — how can it be unexpected if you thought of it?
That being said, question asking is still useful when it comes to getting closer to yourself. Questions are still the best way to drill down into specifics — to get to the details. They simply have to be framed in a different way when you pose them to yourself.
When asking questions of yourself, present them as curiosities.
Throughout the day, notice what you’re doing, saying, or thinking and become curious about it.
- I wonder what that’s about.
- I wonder what doing this is getting me.
- I wonder what’s making me feel this way.
- I wonder how this could be different.
As you can see, these are not questions in the literal sense, but more of a pondering about your deeper intentions and motivations.
Wondering about yourself in this way removes the pressure to instantly “know the answer” that often causes us to tense up.
Just as when you’re posing questions to other people, interrogating shuts down the conversation . . . and “why” doesn’t work.
A well-crafted question, when you’re posing it to yourself, should feel spacious and accommodating. You’re just wondering, after all.
As Eric Maisel, writer and creativity coach, suggests: “Go to sleep with a ‘sleep thinking prompt’ that orients [your] brain toward solutions.”
Try these three “sleep thinking prompts” over three different nights and write down what you learn!
- I wonder what I need more of.
- I wonder what I need to be done with.
- I wonder what’s next.
Write Your Own Narrative
In the same way that listening to another person’s narrative gives you insight into how he sees the world — how his “lens” was formed — writing down your own narrative gives you this same insight into yourself.
The act of committing your life story to paper will make you aware of the struggles you’ve overcome, the lessons you’ve learned, and the vision that propels you forward.
Writing about your past can be a challenge, especially if it’s a less-than-happy story.
If it feels hard, start where you are.
- Do you feel scared about writing it down?
- What’s the fear about?
- Is there a certain story you just can’t get out of your mind?
- Are you struggling to remember the past?
- What are you not saying?
Notice how you’re feeling, what you’re remembering, and what you’re not remembering.
When writing about your future, make it a real story.
Nothing is written in stone, so allow yourself to dream.
What are some of the best things that could happen to you?
What does a perfect day look like five years from now?
Notice how these questions make you feel: thrilled, hopeful, terrified, depressed? This is all priceless information about your inner world.
Keep in mind that you can always edit your story.
This is your tale to craft — feel free to let go of the bits that no longer feel necessary.
What, by contrast, are the really vital parts to remember?
Who are the major characters?
What are the overarching themes?
It’s within your control to tell your story in a way that serves you.
To make the project manageable, start with one life event you want to commit to paper (or to a Word document).
- What was the best day of your life so far?
- What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Feel Your Feelings
Asking you to fully embrace your emotions may be a tall order.
But if you want to get closer to yourself, that’s indeed what you will need to do. There’s really no way around it — you won’t know yourself well or be able to care about yourself if you can’t feel your feelings.
That being said, you don’t need to open the floodgates of emotion all at once.
Start by trying to feel one thing a day...and I mean physically feel it. Even if it’s just a sensation — a pleasant breeze that brings a momentary smile to your face.
If you don’t feel much, notice any feeling in your body when it arises and hold the belief that the more you feel, the more you will feel.
From there, you’ll want to start identifying exactly what you’re feeling.
Put a name to it, such as sadness or disgust, and try expressing it in words.
Learning to verbalize feelings is essential in establishing an emotional bond with another person. Your future partner won’t ever really know what you’re feeling if you can’t tell her.
Managing how you express your feelings is a very complex task, but for our purposes here, keep two things in mind:
Be still with your soft emotions and challenge your hard emotions. Try not to shut down your soft emotions in fear of them or allow your hard emotions to spiral out of control.
Eventually, you’ll become skilled at integrating these emotions back into your picture of yourself, leading to much more self-knowledge and self-care.
The next time you feel a hard emotion — anger, frustration, jealousy — commit to challenging it.
- What is this feeling really about?
- Is it doing me any good to feel this way?
Separate Yourself from Problems
There ’s likely no better thing you can do to connect with yourself than to start humanizing yourself.
You, just like your partner, are fully human.
You are precious and valuable but will inevitably make mistakes.
As you know, holding this stance allows you to separate yourself from your problems. If you accidentally forgot to get your friend a birthday present, you are human, and you need to solve the problem of not getting your friend a birthday present.
If you’re late to a job interview, you are human, and you have to put in safeguards to ensure you’re not late the next time. You are human, and there are problems.
Both things can be true at once.
Holding this mindset allows you to go hard on the problem and soft on yourself.
It allows you to forgive yourself, even when you’ve created a problem in your own life. Take responsibility for your part in the problem’s creation, follow through on resolving it, and then forgive yourself wholeheartedly.
Guilt and shame play a huge role in people’s resistance to getting close to themselves. They also perpetuate destructive behaviors. Separating yourself from problems may not wipe all guilt and shame away, but it certainly helps.
Last, go ahead and embrace your vulnerabilities.
The things you feel insecure about sharing are precious and valuable, just like the rest of you.
In fact, many vulnerabilities can be reframed as strengths.
Maybe “being a worrier” is also “thinking through all the options.”
Maybe “being obsessive” is “the ability to focus on one thing.”
Take time to rethink your vulnerabilities.
These are your unique gifts — part of what makes you you!
- What are you holding back when you interact with people?
- What are you worried other people will find out about you?
The answers to these questions likely contain one of your vulnerabilities. Reframe it in your mind as a strength, and then share it with someone.
Show Yourself You Care
When showing yourself you care, grand gestures are great, but it’s really the small moments that matter.
In this way, showing yourself you care is very much like showing someone else you care. You can’t give yourself a big spa day once a year and expect it to make up for a lifetime of putting yourself last.
To show yourself you care, your moment-to-moment actions should always include the message “I care about myself.”
So how do you do this?
You start by being responsive to your own needs, by being engaged with your internal self.
If you need a moment to yourself, take a moment to yourself.
If you need time to process something, take time to process.
If you need to stand up for yourself, stand up for yourself.
And above all, give yourself the gifts that you would expect any good partner to give you: appreciation, respect, encouragement, comfort.
There’s no reason why these can’t become an integral part of your relationship with yourself.
Making them so builds the inner trust that you can and will take care of yourself in the future.
Spend ten minutes journaling about what it would look like to be more engaged with yourself.
- What has your body been asking for that you’ve been ignoring?
- What has your mind been asking for that you’ve been ignoring?
- What has your spirit been asking for that you’ve been ignoring?
Create a Culture of Closeness with Yourself
In the same way you’re always creating a culture with another person (whether or not you’re aware of it), you’re always creating a culture with yourself.
When you go out of your way to stop at your favorite coffee place every morning, that’s a ritual.
When you get an image of your favorite flower tattooed on yourself, that’s a symbol.
This is already happening, so why not make your inner culture intentionally awesome?
Fill your home with symbols and objects that mean something to you and that remind you what you mean to yourself.
Go on adventures all by yourself and make memories that will last a lifetime. Look at your values and see where you can start putting them into action — how they can be transformed into purpose.
There’s no reason to wait to do these activities until you have a partner.
Start making meaning and purpose now!
Doing these things with intention makes your relationship with yourself resilient. You'll have daily reminders that you matter to yourself.
You’ll see your inner world reflected back to you . . . all around!
Establish some rituals and routines just for you. Make it a habit to take a day trip alone once a month. Go wherever you want, and use the time to reconnect with yourself.
Excerpted from the book Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. Copyright © 2016 by Kira Asatryan. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
About the author
Kira Asatryan, author of Stop Being Lonely, is a certified relationship coach who provides individual life coaching, relationship coaching, conflict mediation, and couples’ coaching. She loves to speak publicly on the topic of loneliness, as it's a problem of epidemic proportions in our modern times. Kira maintains a private coaching practice in San Francisco where she helps business partners, couples, and individuals develop closeness - the antidote to loneliness - in their relationships.
Kira has a unique passion for those who feel lonely in this world. She understands the unique challenges that lonely people face because she faces them as well. Kira struggled with loneliness her whole life and has come to find that there are many others out there like her.
Kira spent her coaching career researching, pondering, and reflecting upon what specifically makes relationships feel good or bad. The results of her efforts can be found in her book, her articles, her talks, and she believes they will help you immensely.
To know more, please visit her website www.KiraAsatryan.com.