What is self intimacy?
The word intimacy often conjures up thoughts of romantic or sexual partners, but intimacy is important to all types of relationships. While it absolutely does exist within healthy, supportive romantic relationships, intimacy is intentional emotional closeness between two people. We usually associate it with couples because sex, kissing, and cuddling are all physical expressions of intimacy–the willingness to be vulnerable and close with someone else.
That sense of closeness, both emotional and physical, is also necessary in a healthy, supportive relationship with yourself. Intentional self intimacy is one way in which we get to know ourselves, practice being vulnerable in a safe context, and practice treating our needs and desires with the importance they deserve.
Rather than obstructing your ability to be intentionally close with others, self intimacy increases your capacity for meaningful connection, and moments of vulnerability.
Self intimacy, just like relational intimacy, is about creating meaningful closeness. This can be a struggle if you’re someone who always puts others’ needs before your own, or if you’re used to quieting yourself to make space for others. But our most fulfilling relationship experiences come when we’re able to show up as ourselves fully, which can only come when we’ve engaged in self intimacy practices. Meaning, we can’t truly allow others to know us until we aren’t afraid to truly know ourselves.
If we’re unable to tune into what we’re feeling, what our needs are, or what we desire, how can we communicate those things to someone else? Practicing self intimacy helps you to understand yourself better, strengthening your sense of identity so you can express your own needs and wants, and feel less dependent on others’ approval.
Note: this doesn’t mean you can’t have supportive, healthy relationships without having regularly practiced and fostered self intimacy. Self intimacy allows you to cultivate even closer relationships with people. When your sense of self is strong, it is easier to avoid projecting your ideas of others onto them and instead meet them as they are.
Self intimacy is not a once and done practice.
We’re constantly learning and growing. While your core values may not drastically change from moment to moment, every new experience you have helps to form a new, more informed worldview for you to see your life through. Your priorities shift, your beliefs transform, your goals change, etc. Getting to know yourself, honestly & with intentional vulnerability isn’t something that can just be done once. Instead, committing to self intimacy is committing to a lifelong process of tending to your relationship with yourself.
How do you build intimacy with yourself?
Any time spent intentionally with yourself helps to build intimacy with yourself. Think about how you would go about building intimacy with a friend or romantic partner; what would make you feel close to them? How would you want them to treat you to make that vulnerability feel okay? What sort of environments allow that intimacy to flourish? Can you recreate these circumstances for yourself?
If you’re struggling to think of how to spend time with yourself, here are a few ideas for how to begin your self intimacy practice:
Cook your favorite meal and eat it slowly:
What do you like about it? Tune into your senses, the smells, the colors, the tastes, how it sounds to make it. What about that feels enjoyable, pleasurable, intimate? Does it remind you of a different time in your life? Was this a recipe someone taught you by cooking with you? What is it about this dish that is both physically and emotionally nourishing? What is it about the act of cooking that feels intimate? How does it feel to pick a meal based on pleasure and to make it for yourself with joy and intention?
Take time to journal:
What is happening in your life? How are you feeling about it? Check in with your body–do you feel tension, aching or soreness anywhere? Where did it come from? Are you holding tension in your body without knowing? How is your breath? When was the last time you breathed deeply? How do you feel when you give yourself time to breath with intention? How does it feel to pay such close attention to the physical sensations in your body? Are there emotions coming up as you scan your body and notice the sensations? If you don’t want to do a body check you can journal about anything that comes up; take time to explore your boundaries, your values, your goals, what you need support in, etc. You can find a near endless supply of journaling prompts on Google if you aren’t sure where to start with this practice!
This is another opportunity to tune into your mind-body connection. How does it feel to focus on your breath? Can you notice thoughts as they come up and let them go without fixating on them? What are your senses noticing all around you right now? Meditation can be a way to sit with yourself in the present moment without distractions, allowing you to be your true, grounded self!
Masturbation is another way to build intimacy with yourself. Just like we can build intimacy with romantic and sexual partners through physical closeness, we can do the same with ourselves. It’s a chance to pay attention to your body, to exist in the present moment, and to practice tuning into your wants and needs as they come up in the moment.