As I was having dinner with a great friend last night, the conversation turned to relationships, as it always does. Along with verbally processing annoyances we experience in our romantic relationships (or lack thereof), we always seem to gravitate to explore why our relationships of any kind exist in the first place. My friend shared that, on her grandmother’s deathbed, her final wish bestowed to her mother was to “find a husband who will take care of you.” Not, “find someone you love who loves you just as much,” or “follow your dreams,” but, “You probably can’t take care of yourself, so make it someone else’s job to do it.” This is all implied, of course, as I wasn’t there, and I do not have a lot of additional context. But this does align with a lot of the expectations society has placed on women and exemplifies the chains that many people who are femme presenting are trying to break free from today.
There’s so much pressure to be in a relationship.
There’s this feeling that something is wrong with you if you can’t find someone who wants to commit to you. People who care for you will tell you that they “just want you to be happy” without any thought that maybe you could be really happy on your own. I know so many people (myself included) who have jumped into relationships because it felt like that was what they were supposed to be doing at the juncture in their life and not because they found a person who truly made their heart sing.
Interestingly, there isn’t much pressure to be in good relationship with one’s own self.
We conflate self-care with selfishness. We’re told to put others first at the expense of our own needs. A lot of the time we don’t even know what our own needs even are! And even on flipside of the equation, we are told to love ourselves unconditionally without being able to fully accept who and what we are.
What if we could hit the reset button and have a start fresh? While it can be difficult to do that in a relationship with another person, it’s far less challenging to do it with ourselves because we don’t need to coordinate anything with anyone else. Today’s Libra New Moon provides the opportunity to do just that!
Set a new pace
Why is it that many of us feel like we need to change ourselves over night? Monday morning (/the first of the month/the New Year/etc.), seems to be this magic day where we will wake up this brand-new person, ready to tackle new habits and a new life. Our alarm will go off and instead of hitting snooze 10 times, we’ll emerge from the cocoon of our bed sheets a full and beautiful butterfly ready to flutter and fly.
The reality is that we are not digesting our body from the inside out and physically building a new existence like a pupa does inside a chrysalis – we are actually the same person we were Sunday night with our hopes and dreams for a smoother Monday morning as we are on that Monday morning when we get mad at ourselves for not being able to form a new habit and hit snooze 11 times (an extra time for good measure – I am definitely talking about myself here!).
What if we approached the changes we wanted to make in our life in a slow and deliberate way that was forgiving?
Setting the pace in a new relationship means not falling head over heels and taking things at a pace that allows time to make observations and reflect on what is observed. As a person who loves intensity in nearly any situation, this seems super challenging for me. But being able to take a step back and observe our own self can help us see why the things we want to do are hard for us to actually accomplish.
For example, after observing what I was feeling for many, many mornings over the course of a year, I realized that that my need to snooze was brought on by many factors like not being happy at work, feeling anxiety about my morning commute, feeling pressure from myself to get in early morning exercise, and being unable to establish or keep other morning routines. Oh, and not actually getting enough sleep. So instead of forcing myself into the person that I felt I wanted to be, I instead tried to take some of the pressure off myself one pressure at a time. I have a new job that I’m loving so far, and I’ve changed my schedule so I can go into work early and exercise in the evening.
I let go of the attachment I had to what my life should look like and have experimented to find what really works for me. It’s not the perfect life I imagined, but I’m realizing that those expectations were impossible to meet, and I’m doing the best that I can. It’s not perfect, and neither am I, but I’m definitely creating a world for myself where I can start to thrive.
Being in relationship with yourself does not mean you need to love everything about yourself.
My amazing friend Tiana Dodson turned me onto the fact that I don’t need to love all parts of my body, I just need to be in relationship with those parts. The body positivity movement, while its intentions are rooted in goodness, has told us to love our bodies no matter what. The truth is that many of us have bodies that can betray us, or have been betrayed, or feel betraying. There are just some parts of ourselves we truly cannot love unconditionally.
We have one body while we are on this planet and I would like to tell you that you do not need to love every single part of it, but you do need to learn how to accept it for what it is and learn how to be in relationship with it.
Think of all the relationships you have with other people. Do you love each of your coworkers unconditionally? I don’t! I don’t have to, either. But I know how to maintain the relationships I have with them so we can each accomplish the goals that we have to the best of our abilities. I think we need to have a similar relationship with our bodies.
What if, instead of feeling like we needed to change everything about ourselves that we don’t like, we were able to take a step back and address what we really need?
I have amblyopia in my right eye which means I have nothing but peripheral vision in that eye. Growing up with it I’ve learned to adapt my life in a way that feels completely natural for me. I am in relationship with it because I just know there are certain things that are difficult or impossible for me to do without being able to use both eyes effectively. I might try a new eye therapy if one seems to work for adults with this condition, but I’ve accepted that there isn’t much I can really do. The relationship with amblyopia is an easy one for me to maintain because it’s always been like this for me and there’s not much change that can happen.
However, I’m beginning a new chapter in my relationship with my eyesight. Because I effectively have only one good eye to do all the work of two, my left eye is getting tired faster as I age. I seriously thought I was slowly going blind, even after my eye doctor tried to assure me that everything was healthy and I was just getting older. It wasn’t until I was having dinner with another friend who pulled out a bad-ass pair of reading glasses and let me try them on that I realized that I actually wasn’t going blind, my eyes are just getting weaker. Sure, I can have 20/20 vision, but that doesn’t mean I can still see as perfectly as I was once able to. I cannot say that I love this part of myself. One of my identities is being a photographer, and one hallmark of a great photograph is having crisp, clear images, which is much more difficult if your vision is off.
I have two choices
I can live in denial that I’m getting older and my body is slowly starting to die (at least I’m not digesting myself from the inside out?). Or I can support my new needs by making the text on my phone and computers bigger and investing in multiple pairs of reading glasses that I can leave at home and work for those moments when I actually want to be able to see something clearly. But I do not need to love that my eyesight is deteriorating.
This weekend take some time to explore the relationship you want to have with yourself. How can you take things slow and steady? What are the parts of yourself where you would like to have a better relationship? What needs do you have that you aren’t meeting and how can you meet those needs?