Rethink: Self-love

An illustration of people dating with the same face.

Emma Mainoo, the founder of well-being platform, Surviving Sundays, explains why the relationship with yourself is now more important than ever

By Emma Mainoo   Illustrations by Andrey Kasay   Thursday 21 May, 2020   Long read

For many, isolation is eliciting an emotional response eerily similar to a break-up. It makes sense; during a split we are adjusting to a new reality and, in doing so, we grieve for the past and the life we once knew. This healing process can see us move between shock and denial, before we finally get to acceptance. And along the way, we can expect sleepless nights, changes in our appetite, searing loneliness and days spent staring into the ether, thinking about how things could have played out differently. Sound familiar? 
But we are wired for survival. And right now, much like after experiencing a heartbreak, we have an opportunity to tune in to who we are and what makes us both happy and unhappy. In turn, we can become more resilient and better protect ourselves in the future. Essentially, this is the time to date yourself. 
Now, I know what you’re thinking: self-dating may conjure up images of lavender baths and face masks – both of which are useful when you feel rundown. But the fact is that self-dating, which is a necessary form of self-care, is also about setting boundaries and making time for yourself to rest and recharge. It’s the essential act of caring for yourself the way that you would care for someone else. And it’s more vital now than it has ever been. 
See below some tips that might help you own self-romance.
An illustration of two fish in the sea with the same human face.
Set the date
There’s a myth abounding at the moment that we all have time (and perhaps more energy) than ever. Our productivity rates and sleep patterns are actually all over the place, which means there’s no such thing as a normal day – workday or other. And for those who have children, or who care for friends or family members, lockdown life means wearing many different hats. It can be a dizzying round-the-clock affair. Whatever your experience is currently, self-care, whether in this form or other, is essential. So, get your calendar up, set a date, and some boundaries to let others know it’s an hour (or a day) when you’re not to be disturbed.
Be prepared
What’s your plan? Whether you’re baking, reading, painting, singing, or anything in between, be sure that you have all that you need to make your time peaceful, or as productive as you want it to be. Websites such as Masterpeace and Yougibotanicals will send you kits for an hour or two of creative bliss. Alternatively, Obby offers hundreds of online craft sessions. If it’s a solo lunch or dinner, create a menu, lay your table with linen and flowers, or fix the perfect tray for breakfast in bed. For some, setting aside a date can be for simple things such as meditation or writing, and repeating mantras in a quiet space can be powerful. Mantras can sound a bit ‘out there’, but science shows that repeating positive phrases helps to calm the nervous system. Whatever you want to do, it’s about finding the right date and unpacking exactly what ‘self-care’ means to you.  

One thing we might tend to do on our self-date is something that many of us single folk are feeling right now and that’s ‘skin hunger’ – the desire to be touched. During this time, we could try massaging our own bodies; rubbing our feet with natural oils, caressing our bumps and bulges, rather than cursing them, or maybe even meeting our sexual needs and boosting our feel-good hormones through some solo pleasure. Betty Dodson, a 90-year-old, New York-based coach who teaches women how to orgasm, became a global sensation after appearing in the documentary series, The Goop Lab. Dodson is currently doing virtual work and you can find her episode on Netflix. For some (if not many, if we are being honest), this might be the ultimate isolation date.  
Dress up
Some of us are struggling to get dressed for the day (and that’s OK). Zoom cameras are off and we might be blaming bad Wi-Fi, when in reality we’re just wedded and/ or welded to our sweats and sofa. Don’t feel defeated or deflated if putting on your best full look is too hard right now. Whether your chosen date outfit is a nice, clean T-shirt and jeans, or simply a gorgeous body oil, or even an old treasured look from dinner dates past that contain a memory or two, wear it with pride.
Stay present
Airplane mode your phone. Lock your bedroom door. It’s time to pretend that you exist in a void. There’s nothing more irritating than being on a date with someone who’d rather be somewhere else. Commit to your date the way you would if you were spending time with the love of your life. Cast away those niggling thoughts of things you might otherwise be doing and step right into your happiness.
It’s only through the regular practice of nurturing ourselves that we might build the self-awareness and strength we need. As you know, our muscles just don’t ‘pop’ after a couple of trips to the gym. Set a weekly date for some self-love – if only for half an hour. Make it a moment to honor yourself and acknowledge all that you have accomplished.
Emma Mainoo is the creator of Surviving Sundays, a platform where stories of self-love and survival are shared.

Interested in becoming a member?