The longest relationship we have in life is the one we have with ourselves. It outlasts any relationship with parents, significant others, or even children. For that reason, it should be the most important relationship we have.
Yet when life gets crazy, we cancel on ourselves first. We push our yoga routine back until later. We say we’ll work on that hobby once we retire and have more time.
When we have to choose what activities to skip on our to-do list, we let ourselves down before we let down anyone else. We let others dictate the life we think we should have for fear of disappointing them. We let others choose what’s important and what success looks like.
By constantly sacrificing our relationship with ourselves in this way, we wake up one day feeling lost, isolated, and unable to recognize ourselves. This takes a toll on our physical, emotional, and mental health to the point that we cannot take care of the other relationships in our lives, the reason we were sacrificing ourselves in the first place.
When this happens, we need to explore the practice of self-dating to rediscover who we are and what we want.
We often pour ourselves into relationships with significant others, investing countless hours and limitless energy into developing them. When we aren’t with them, we think about them, wondering what they’re doing. We spend more time on our own appearance to impress them. We squeeze movies, dinners, and picnics into our hectic schedules.
But what if we invested that same time and energy into ourselves?
Just as you would make time to go on a date with a significant other, we need to foster our relationship with ourselves, especially if we find ourselves in a situation where we aren’t confident in who we are or what we want.
This practice is called self-dating, and you can engage in it whether you are single, self-partnered, or in a committed relationship with a significant other. In fact, you may find that your other relationships benefit. Self-dating allows you to better know yourself, building resilience and self-confidence, making you a better partner.
Self-care is anything that improves your mental or physical well-being. It involves doing what you enjoy and what makes you feel good. This can be as as simple as a relaxing spa night at home enhanced with essential oils. Since self-dating consists of doing what you want and spending time alone, free of responsibilities, it qualifies as self-care.
Self-dating can positively impact your mental well-being. Scheduling a date with yourself to unplug from the world by turning off your phone and reading a book or journaling will leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated. You’ll return to your day-to-day life with a more positive outlook.
Self-dating also develops your physical well-being. For example, a date can consist of hitting the gym or a yoga mat to work out tension. You can also treat yourself to a home-cooked meal with fresh plant-based ingredients to nourish your body.
Often, self-care activities involve engaging with your hobbies, whether finding new ones or developing old ones. Make a date with yourself to take a pottery class, or schedule a time to the park and paint or the coffee shop to work on your short story.
Treat these self-care activities as dates. Schedule them in advance, look forward to them, treat yourself to looking nice, and most importantly, don’t cancel them.
If you aren't sure what to do on a self-date, try one of these ideas that you can implement today.
Sometimes, the best dates don’t have a plan. With the self-challenge cards below, you can randomly choose an activity to do on your own one evening or afternoon. Just no cheating — commit to doing whatever you draw, whether you're asked to declutter a room, talk to a stranger, or light a candle and meditate.
When we are in a relationship with someone else, we tell them how we feel, even if it’s once a year in a Valentine’s Day card. However, we rarely verbalize positive thoughts about ourselves.
Change that by writing yourself a love letter. It may feel awkward at first (try addressing yourself as “you” rather than “I”), but tell yourself what you love about yourself, what you're most proud of, and offer yourself forgiveness for your mistakes. The prompts linked below can help you if writer’s block kicks in.
Treat this activity as if you were writing a love letter to someone else. Write it in your best handwriting on a piece of stationary. Put it in an envelope. Make it something you’ll want to keep and revisit whenever you need of a pick-me-up.
This date activity is critical if you have lost sight of who you are.
Grab your favorite notebook, and write about how things are going in your life and your hopes and plans for the future. Think about the physical and mental aspects of your life and your career and financial life. The prompts below can help guide your thinking.
Once you’ve completed this activity with a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea, set it aside. Next month or next year, repeat the activity, starting with reading what you wrote last time. This will help you track your growth and keep you on track with your goals.
In a culture that pressures us to have it all, it’s easy for us to lose our sense of who we are. Whether you’re coming out of a breakup, a career change, or just trying to start a self-care routine, take yourself on a variety of self-dates until you find yourself again. Like any relationship, don’t worry if things are rocky sometimes. With time and effort, you’ll get there.