Learning to love yourself

Columnist Misha Herbert

As Valentine’s Day weekend came and went, you were likely bombarded with a myriad of messages about love, relationships and all other things that make us single people feel queasy.

Although pop culture characters like Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation” have advocated for alternate titles such as “Galentine’s Day,” to celebrate friendship, there’s one relationship that’s often overlooked: the one with ourselves.

Especially in college, time spent alone is often hard to come by. We live in dorms, apartments or houses, usually with several roommates. We spend hours in classes surrounded by 30 or more students. Our work environments provide a constant stream of coworkers, customers and clients.

Of course, it’s important to have social and interpersonal interactions. That goes without saying. But it’s just as important — if not more — to dedicate time to yourself.

At this point, I’m probably starting to sound like an emotional hermit that spends too much time alone. But maybe I am. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

A wise person once told me, “You know who’s going to give you everything? Yourself.”

Okay, that wise person was actually a stranger on Tumblr, but I still think it’s pretty valid. Truthfully, though, one of the most constant and necessary abilities that we posses is taking care of ourselves. That begins, I think, by being okay with being alone.

Going solo every now and then can help with building confidence and independence. (Think Cheryl Strayed from Wild, but with less dirt.) For introverted people, spending time alone can be comforting and even relieving. But the benefits extend to more outgoing types, as well.
Allowing yourself to do and think as you please — without distractions — helps with increasing concentration and productivity, ‘checking in’ on your emotional state, or simply gaining the chance to unwind from a stressful day, to name a few.

Even our own basic sense of identity is built on finding our voice and forming opinions about the world, something that’s accomplished much easier in solitude.Being alone can be incredibly nerve-wracking for some people. As a social culture, we often learn to ostracize individuals that don’t prefer the company of others. We celebrate and look up to people with a lot of friends and followers.

Courtesy // Tiffany McGaughey

But once we become okay with being alone, we can unlock a newfound confidence within ourselves. I remember feeling a sense of pride the first time I went on a long drive to a new destination, by myself. There is a comfort that can be found in solitude, for those that are brave enough to try it.

Undoubtedly, we live in a world with a plethora of distractions: From social influences like friends or colleagues, to external factors like our ever-present connection to technology, we are rarely left to our own devices. And truly, that’s not a bad thing. But the benefits we gain from disconnecting from these obligations can’t be denied. When we get the chance to introspect, we gain the opportunity to return to our true selves, and even build on it.

So the next time you have a window of opportunity, consider skipping the get-together and catching up with numero uno instead.

Treat yo’ self to coffee and a good book. Go to the beach and take deep breaths. Take a drive to absolutely nowhere. I promise, you’ll find good company there.