For most of us, the concept of intimacy is something we associate with sex. As an act, intimacy may be associated with sex; as an idea, though, intimacy is simply closeness, familiarity, and a sense of trustworthiness. We’re accustomed to intimate relationships with loved ones, whether they be sex partners or close family members. Of equal importance, though, is intimacy with yourself.
Self-intimacy can be thought of as getting to know yourself. This can be a frightening prospect, as many of us have old wounds, self-esteem issues, and other kinds of baggage that we’d just as soon not sort through. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, though. When we’re in a better place with ourselves, we can be more present for others in our lives with whom we share intimate relationships, whether they’re sex partners or not.
Let’s look at some ways of cultivating intimacy with yourself, including being in touch with yourself sexually and how natural lube can play an important role.
An important aspect of cultivating intimacy with yourself is letting go of expectations. We’ve drilled, or allowed to have drilled into us, expectations about what we must, or should, or have to or are supposed to do. Not all of these are healthy, and some may be very much the opposite.
Where do these expectations come from? How do they make you feel? As uncomfortable as it may be at first, take time for self-reflection and examine how these expectations have shaped your life. Who are they for? Are they relevant anymore? What would your life look like without them?
Learn to Trust Yourself
If you’ve been plagued by self-doubt, consider where it comes from. Is it from actual failures, or does it come from unfulfilled expectations? Were those expectations your own, or were they placed upon you? In the short term, failures can be truly devastating in real terms. In the long term, we can learn from them.
By learning from them, we can turn failure into a valuable opportunity to improve and learn to trust ourselves. When we trust ourselves, we can increase others’ trust in us and feel more confident in our decisions.
Learn How to Say “No”
If you identify as a people-pleaser, saying “no” can be very challenging. We all love to gain others’ approval, but being unable to say “no” can come with a very high cost. You can become so focused on what makes someone else happy that you lose sight of what would make you happy. It can lead to over-promising, resentment, and lower self-esteem when you find yourself struggling to meet all of the responsibilities you’ve committed to.
Gaining your self-worth from the value you provide to others can be a slippery slope; you can become so dependent on it that you simply continue the vicious cycle by agreeing to more and more. Learning how to say “no” not only buys back your time but it makes space for you to more deliberately agree to things that help improve your self-esteem and line up with your own values.
Let Go of Judgment
Our brains are hardwired for judgment. Being able to quickly make decisions based on limited information was important to how our ancestors survived. Was that just a random sound, or was a predator about to pounce? There’s only a moment to react, so our brains have developed to make differentiations very quickly indeed.
Fortunately, we’re not completely subject to our brains’ snap decisions. That’s great news because of all the things we judge, we likely judge ourselves the most. Letting go of the idea that we’re a “good” or “bad” person is challenging because we’ve been listening to external voices laying those judgments upon us all our lives. Everyone makes mistakes, and we judge ourselves by them at our own peril. Try to let go of your self-judgments and accept yourself exactly as you are; flaws, mistakes, and all.
Honoring Your Feelings
Honoring your feelings is key to understanding how you experience intimacy. Accepting all emotions, without judging or labelling them, is a good way to start having a closer relationship with yourself. Acknowledging that all your emotions are valid lets you recognize the value of your inner world. Taking time to recognize and express your feelings brings you closer to being connected with yourself.
When honoring feelings, it’s useful to differentiate between polite self-care and compassionate self-care. Polite self-care means avoiding things that make us uncomfortable, or ignoring warning signs. This distorts reality and stops us seeing clearly. To honor our feelings, we should recognize them as valid, have compassion for ourselves, stay open-minded and mindful so changes can occur. Compassionate self-care means providing warmth, understanding and empathy to connect more deeply within. Watching ourselves go through emotion helps us understand how true intimate connection feels within ourselves, so we can build relationships based on understanding, not judgement or fear.
Know Your Body
Most people have insecurities about their appearance in some way or another, and this can be turned up full-blast when it comes to doing anything where nudity is involved. Being able to relax, be in the moment, and enjoy your time with a sex partner can be nearly insurmountable if you’re uncomfortable in your own skin.
If you don’t know what presses your own buttons, it isn’t fair to expect someone else to figure it out for you. That’s not to say that sexual exploration with a partner can’t reveal a lot about your preferences, but there’s much to be said for knowing what works for you and what doesn’t. Take time just for yourself and discover what you like. It may be different kinds of masturbation, focusing on different fantasies, or even learning if you prefer natural lube over the usual stuff.
Most of all, cultivating intimacy with yourself is a journey of self-exploration and acceptance. It requires vulnerability, honesty, and gratitude to look at your own reflection, acknowledge the flaws, and smile regardless.