The Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said that “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” The only person you have to live the rest of your life with is yourself. A big part of what makes a relationship exciting is getting to know what makes the other person charmingly different. Similarly, we become enthused when we learn about our own uniqueness and this can consequently bolster the connection we have with ourselves.
When was the last time you felt appreciation towards yourself? Take a moment to think about this. There’s power in recognizing our limitations and putting our virtues at the forefront of our lives. Balanced self-confidence originates from this.
One of the many things that I learned in The Science of Wellbeing course taught by the Yale University professor Laurie Santos in Coursera is that we can nurture our life satisfaction by using our strengths daily. I took the VIA Character Strengths Survey months ago as part of the course and I’ve noticed that my outlook on life has changed. Two of my most salient signature strengths according to the assessment are love for humanity and love for learning. I’ve taken the time to really reflect on what these strengths mean and I have strength-fostering exercises inspired by them scheduled throughout the week.
Developing the lifelong romance Wilde was referring to is prefaced by plenty of self-discovery. We cannot truly fall in love with someone we don’t know well. Here are some simple ways to get to know myself that I’ve found helpful.
1) Putting my feelings into words. If I’m able to put a label on what I’m going through I create some space between that and the more permanent aspects of myself that make me who I am. I do this by having a consistent journaling practice and using smartphone applications like Youper to track my mood. As an introvert, I find that using an internal coping strategy works best but relying on my social support system is sometimes necessary.
2) Helping people to help themselves. I’ve been doing volunteer work in the mental health field for almost a year now and it keeps me on my toes in terms of practicing self-care. It might sound somewhat paradoxical but intensely focusing on the misfortunes of others subsequently gives me a deeper understanding of who I am and what makes me tick.
3) Being an avid learner. Understanding the world helps me understand my role in it. The times we live in allow us to expand our knowledge with minimal effort. I listen to educational podcasts when I shower, read nonfiction books during my lunch breaks and schedule small blocks of time to research topics I find interesting using Google Scholar. These are things that align with my strength of love for learning but anyone can benefit from absorbing meaningful information and figuring out how it applies to their lives.
You deserve to be in profound love with yourself. We’re all better off in this state. But if you’re not there yet, how can you start the positive spiral of self-discovery?