There once was a girl in her twenties. She lived in a cute studio apartment in a metropolitan city. Clocking 10 to 14-hour days doing meaningful work, walking through the park on the way to work, paying her credit card on time (mostly). She thought she had “made it” in the world. Beyond her day-to-day hustle, she found ways to be adventurous. She spent summers traveling, dancing the night away with her friends. Over the years, she dated a bit, had a few one or two-night stands, even had a couple of rendezvous that turned into brief romances. But beyond the cliched-perfect “living the dream”-lifestyle, she felt like a mess. She was running the rat race with no sense of who she was or what she really wanted in life.
That girl? She was me.
When I look back on who I was during my twenties, I see a girl who was going through a series of crises. Burdened by my own perfectionistic expectations, I believed that to find the love I was supposed to get, I needed to look and be a certain way, a way I certainly was not. I wanted to be loved, of course, but couldn’t navigate the inner discord between the stories I believed about who was worthy of love and what it meant to allow someone to really know me. While sex can be fulfilling and bonding, my experiences felt transactional and lacked intimacy. I was committed only to the external, the physical act and had fully shutdown the internal and emotional vulnerable part of myself. *If, by chance, you skipped reading the preface, please go back and read it.
I was terrified of getting to know someone, sure that s/he wouldn’t like me because I didn’t meet the cultural ideal. Equally, I never got to learn what I was interested in or attracted to, because it is futile to know what you want, if you are sure you’ll never get or deserve it.
Towards the end of my twenties, a realization came to me. I had been limiting myself. I had bought into a cultural narrative of what it meant to be “single,” to be a woman, to be big. I took these external storylines and lived them as if they were my own. This realization that I was living someone else’s story sank in slowly, and over the next several years, I started to explore alternative plot-lines. I began writing my own script, creating a story that let me be who I truly am, still a work in progress, but much more fun.
My twenties came to an end, but my exploration continued. Throughout my thirties, I found a new narrative technique. I discovered the empowering practice of dating myself. Culture tries to convince us that we should be out in the world searching for the “love of our lives” a “soul mate”. This book is about becoming the love of your own life! Whether you are in your twenties or in your fifties, straight, gay or anywhere in between, partnered, single or “it’s complicated”. There is wisdom to take away from this book and weave into your life. It’s never too late (or too early!) to examine the stories you tell yourself, and figure out which ones are serving you and which ones you can rewrite.
Brené Brown, a researcher of vulnerability and belonging (and a personal hero of mine), teaches about the rewards of risk and authenticity. She states: “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.” This quote captures so perfectly what is at the heart of dating yourself. A balance between the external and internal. Nurturing a profound love for yourself that gives you the strength to sincerely share yourself with others, or to stand alone in your truth.
This idea of an authentic, meaningful expression of self-acceptance forms the basis for the type of self-care I teach. The Dating Yourself practice is a revolution in self-care. The tools presented within these pages will guide you through the labyrinth that leads to an experience of “true belonging”. Journaling prompts and rituals will help you untether your sense of belonging from external sources and place the power of belonging in your own hands. The concepts in this book work as a catalyst to reinitiate an intangible source from within, to foster the energy inside to heal and to grow fully into yourself.
It’s Time to Date Yourself
In Date Yourself, you will find some ideas you may have heard before, but always with a new twist or a different context. Hopefully, you will also discover concepts that are brand-new to you. The main objective is to guide you back to yourself and to cultivate a loving primary relationship with yourself. (Explained in depth in Chapter 2.)
Building a bridge within yourself to a territory of true belonging takes time. Dating yourself is a practice, not a quick fix. If you find yourself craving an easy solution, looking for the magic silver bullet, that’s okay. This desire comes from our externally driven sense of self, immediate results that fix everything forever. I guarantee there is great value in the process itself. As the Observer Effect in quantum mechanics explains “mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon.” (You don’t need to know anything more, but if you want to get dorky go check out the double-slit experiment; be ready to have your mind blown.) Remember, have fun with this practice! Change is happening already.
Commit to This
I recommend that you make a minimum 30-day commitment to carry out these practices. Your focus on yourself is imperative to cultivating your own wellbeing. The structure I’ve designed will provide you with a month of opportunities ripe for growth. Of course, you can practice for as long as you like, but committing to yourself for at least 30 days now will pay off later. You will reap what you sow; I encourage you to wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to this practice and enjoy your bountiful harvest.
How you proceed after the first month is up to you. Ideally, you will integrate dating yourself as a way of being, so your practice can thrive! In order for your relationship with yourself to deepen, you need to continue dedicating attention to yourself. Like all relationships, it requires energy to grow and flourish. But, you know what? You are totally worth it!
Bridging the Gap
The self-help genre is full of literature telling you to love yourself. Yet there remains a massive gap between you and these lands of self-love. At least for me, there was a gigantic moat separating myself from a place where self-love could be practiced. We all want to get to this place, where we can experience self-love, feel true belonging. Dating yourself is one way to get there, a method for bridging the gap between the desire to like yourself and the reality of a day-to-day experience of living that ideal.
Although dating yourself is a personal practice, you don’t have to do it alone! Read this book with a few friends and encourage each other to stay accountable. And I invite you to join our global Facebook community.
Dating yourself isn’t about anyone else. It is a practice about diving into you. Because honey, if there is anyone in your life that deserves your full and honest attention, that person is YOU. After a lifetime of parceling yourself out to other people, it’s time to learn to believe that you are deserving of your own love and care.
Does dedicating time and energy to yourself in this way seem outrageous, guilt-ridden or uncomfortable for any reason? According to Marianne Williamson, famous author, poet, “a miracle is just a shift in perception.” Dating yourself is a miraculous shift of your own perception.
•Do you deserve a shift in perception?
•Do you deserve a miracle?
(Hint: the answer is yes!)
How Date Yourself Works Miracles
What follows are the tips, tools, and fun exercises to encourage you to devote more attention to yourself. These are the practices I use with my clients. This book is about discovering your wild, awesome self. I will continue to share my own stories and those of a few women who have kindly given me permission to let their narratives shine for you.
As a critical part of this process, you will write a lot: list-making, brainstorming and occasionally drawing. There are journaling prompts throughout, so you need a notebook. Every chapter requires you to have paper and colored pens or pencils. Be sure to have those supplies handy.
What you do is up to you, but the more energy you dedicate to this practice, the more impact it has. That being said, you don’t have to quit your day job. Real transformation happens in micro-shifts. I’ve designed this practice to work when you devote at least 3 minutes to each prompt. You deserve that time. You can make it happen. In most cases, these questions are fun and you will enjoy exploring what they mean to you.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes Ph.D. is the bestselling author of Women Who Run with Wolves. She is a senior Jungian analyst, and has an uncanny wisdom of the human soul from her extensive study of mythology and the human condition. She says, “To find this eminent life and love advisor, one only needs to stop running, do some untangling, face the wounds and one’s own yearning with compassion, give one’s entire heart to the process.” Now is the time to stop running, my dear. Each chapter will help you untangle yourself, but you must be willing to give your entire heart to the process.
We Start at the Beginning
You will begin by clearing away clutter and emotional wounds from the past. Then, you will personalize your vision of an Ideal Partner. Since we are accustomed to looking for a mate, a partner, an external match, we will use that reference point to redirect and illuminate an internal desire.
*Note: We will not assume whom you love; you do you, darling! But, this book and the date yourself practice is all about you and how you can show up for yourself fully.
The most intimate relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself and therefore should be your primary relationship.
Instead of looking for “the one”, become your own best friend and soulmate! By devoting energy to nurturing yourself, you will cultivate a persona, a companion that travels with you, supports you, emerges when you need it, and flirts with you, just for fun! As you internalize the characteristics, you will embody this alter-ego from time to time. You will bring this ideal to life and create sacred intention within yourself to gently create the roots of true belonging. With each step, you will come closer to encountering your true self and gain an intimate awareness of her.
Women I’ve worked with who have developed their own inner soulmate describe becoming:
•“A more supportive friend.”
•“A more patient mom.”
•“Still not perfect, thank god, but better to myself.”
•“A more resilient partner.”
What could this look like for you? I’d be thrilled to hear your stories and experiences. Truly. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I, personally, use essential oils as a natural way to support my physical and emotional journey. In each chapter, I will reference various oils I use. If you are curious or use oils already, have fun integrating these into your practice. Be sure to read up on the recommended uses and precautions of oils, if you are new to them. *See resources section at the end.
Time To Journal
I prefer to get my thoughts and feelings out onto paper, where I can see them. They have a solid realness on the page. And when I don’t write it down, I forget! While you can contemplate the prompts on a walk, or in the shower, the benefits of traditional journaling (putting pen to paper in a daily habit) have been proven in various scientific experiments to elicit deeper analysis, longer-lasting retention, and cause physiological changes in brain activity that can be measured in an MRI. For this reason, I strongly recommend writing down your responses to some of the early exercises, because we will refer back to them frequently and regularly revise them. Also, there are powerful connections linked with handwriting and brain activation, so choosing to put pen to paper allows your body and mind to connect. My website has pretty downloadable journal pages made just for you.
Let’s pause and journal for a moment. Unplug from tech during prompts. Dedicate your full focus and be present with yourself.
Light a candle. Sip some tea, coffee, wine, kombucha, or libation of your choice. Communicate to the page your truest intention at this moment. Practice non-attachment. Nothing you write has to be a permanent proclamation. Let what you write here be a snapshot of your truth at the moment. You never have to show this to another soul, this is just for you!
What draws you to this book?
•Are you freshly out of a long relationship, needing to lick some wounds or reassess and find clarity on who you are outside of who you were together?
•Are you perpetually single and wanting to be treated sweetly, even if just by yourself?
•Are you longing for something you are not sure exists?
•Are you looking to rewrite a pattern?
•Are you in a relationship and looking to return to your center?
There are infinite answers. All are perfectly correct because they are yours.
30-Days to Date Yourself
*Copy this into your notebook or complete this yourself.
I __________ hereby commit to dating myself for 30 days. I will meticulously follow the practices presented here, especially the ones that make me uncomfortable or that seem silly. I will lavish myself with attention. I will drink plenty of water, regularly move my body and get enough sleep. I will also clear my calendar of any unnecessary commitments because, as of now, I am in a new relationship.
Great! Let’s get started!