“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much and forgetting that you are special too”. – Ernest Hemingway
A book that was recommended to me as I work on publishing my first memoir is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. A seminal book that has influenced the work of millions around the world, its main purpose is to combat your negative self-talk and to help you cultivate your inner creativity.
At the core of this process there are two main rituals. The first one is called ‘The Morning Pages’, where each morning you are encouraged to write out 3 pages of free-form writing in longhand without any judgment, expectation or real purpose other than to write for the sake of writing. The idea behind this is that it will allow you to get the creative juices flowing.
The second ritual, which I would like to zoom in on is called ‘The Artist’s Date’. As the name suggests – it is going on a date with yourself – where you set aside a block of time each week to engage in a simple and fun activity. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be something you do just for you.
At first glance, the idea of going on a ‘date’ with yourself that doesn’t have any fixed productive outcome other than to reconnect with oneself, might seem indulgent and self-absorbed.
Thoughts like, “I can’t afford to just take time-out”, or “there are so many people that need me, that I’m responsible for. What will they think of me?”.
It’s natural to feel that way. We live in a culture that rewards doing, rather than being –external accomplishments rather than internal ones.
Then there’s the reality of bills needing to be paid, that it can feel irresponsible to engage in something that is for the sole purpose of self-nurture.
However, the downside to taking on that mindset is that we separate ourselves from the other we are trying to help. We fail to recognise that the best way to be there for another person is to first start with being a better person to ourselves.
I have come to learn that when you try to help others, no matter how well intentioned, you could actually be doing more harm than good. This is because, sometimes, helping others solve their issues acts as a disguise to having to deal with your own.
It can be uncomfortable to be alone with our own thoughts and to acknowledge our own feelings or discontent. To reassess how we truly feel about our life, our relationships, our work or our health. It’s so much more heroic to be a problem solver to others than internally to ourselves.
And yet, when we learn to nurture our own needs and cultivate our own joy, we are able to come to our loved ones from a place of abundance rather than a place of need.
Likewise, the opposite is true as well. When you give to others, before giving to yourself first, it is easy to feel resentful or under appreciated. Instead of coming from a place of fullness, each interaction will be fused with a sense of need or entitlement, even if on an unconscious level.
This is why I believe that our first responsibility is to make sure we develop a relationship with ourselves, before we can be in a balanced and wholesome relationship with others.
Imagine for a moment that scheduling a date with ourselves was the norm. That we learned to prioritise our own need for self-nurture or inspiration, rather than expecting someone else to give it to us?
That we gave the first moments of each day to ourselves first, before jumping into the daily rush of events? That we learned to be better guardians of our time and gave ourselves permission to say no more often to events that were done out of obligation rather than from the heart?
Not only will it enrich your own life, but it would also allow you to offer a richer version of yourself to those around you.
I would like to leave you with a quote by one of my favourite writers, Pico Iyer.
“We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, our nights off — our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.”
– The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere