So, you’ve met someone. Actually, you’ve known them for a while, but it’s about time to take your relationship to the next level. To be fair, they’re too good to be true. You have the exact same taste in everything that matters. When they’re happy, you’re happy. Their name is… your name. You see them every single time you look in the mirror or pass a particularly reflective window and take a moment to gaze—and they look good.
In all honesty, it’s not the worst idea to think of your connection to self from a wooing angle. If you had a crush or wanted to get to know a potential friend better, how would you treat them? Sweetly! You’d offer compliments, indulge their whims, and make your adoration well known. You’d also be there for them when they need you and (fingers crossed) love them when they aren’t at their brightest.
Of all the relationships you’ll have in your life—the romantic, the platonic, the familial, and the purely-existed-to-teach-you-that-one-lesson—your relationship with yourself reigns supreme. You’re the one who’s there at all times, from the very beginning to the very end, and for every big and minuscule moment in between. That bond should be solid.
Here are some ways to build a stronger relationship with yourself. If they sound helpful, use them. If they don’t, leave them. Remember: You know yourself best.
1. Pay close attention
Is there anything better than a good friend just getting you? Pay attention to what you love, like, dislike, or really, really loathe, and allow yourself to recategorize as necessary. Treat your thoughts as texts to overanalyze and figure out what you really mean.
2. Make yourself comfortable
Two important questions to ask:
“What do I need right now?”
“What do I want right now?”
Once the two answers align, add a third:
“How can I get that?”
3. Bring your shadow to light
Grant yourself time with the thoughts you might not say out loud and let yourself linger on the parts of yourself you don’t always want to share. On top of allowing you to better know yourself, shadow work is an extremely helpful healing tool. (I personally like To Be Magnetic’s take on the concept; you can learn more here.)
4. Avoid labels
Research shows that labeling yourself—or allowing others to label you—can have negative effects, even if it’s something as simple as calling yourself a picky eater. In fact, a 2014 study showed that high schoolers were less stressed and less prone to underachievement and health issues if they believed personalities were able to change. You’re allowed to grow; you won’t know yourself any less.
5. Take yourself on dates
Now it gets fun. Lean into that overused self-romance metaphor and treat yourself right. A dinner alone with a good book is as sweet as it gets; order both of the best-looking entrees (no sharing required) and take the last bite of dessert.
6. But utilize the downtime, too
Non-exciting alone time is almost more important than solo adventuring. Who are you when you’re simply being? Turn off the background noise. Allow yourself to sit still. Meditate.
7. Feel your feelings
There’s probably a word for the way you’re feeling inside. (If there’s not, Kacey Musgraves has you covered.) Let yourself feel it all. Thrash and cry your eyes out if you need it. When I was younger, I loved looking in the mirror while I was sobbing. Why? I’m not sure—but man, I know my crying face, and I like that I was present with myself in a way. It’s nice to ruminate on the why of your emotions, but if you can’t? Just let yourself feel them.
8. Get intimate
Knowing yourself goes deeper (or technically more surface-level?) than knowing your emotions. Dance naked. Take a good long look in the mirror and find your angles. Feel yourself every which way.
9. Look beyond yourself
Sometimes, adding external support can strengthen the internal. Do The Artist’s Way. Read the self-help books (you’re always allowed to put down the ones that aren’t speaking to you). Talk to a therapist or talk to a friend who can offer a new lens through which to see yourself.
Your relationship with yourself will always be the strongest one you have. Together (and you’re always together!), you’ll get through it all.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and naturopath’s daughter. At this point in time these things are very important to her.