LET’S face it. I talk a lot about relationships with other people.
I narrate personal stories of that subject in my blog. I discuss it continuously in my book and once a month, this topic dominates my column here. And that’s great. After all, the quality of our life depends on the quality of our relationships with others, and talking about them means we are trying to understand, learn and become better at navigating them.
But beyond all that, most of all, I am a huge advocate of maintaining one’s relationship with oneself.
When we were children, it seemed like everyone was going down a similar path. Everyone went to school, sat for the same exams, donned the same uniforms, had the same hormonal “boy-crazy” phase (let’s not deny you also had a Backstreet Boys poster and pined over Nick Carter) and aimed for similar “adult” goals (get a degree, work at an office, have babies, etc).
Eventually our paths began to diverge and as adulthood loomed before us, so did the question of how we identified ourselves and what we expected from our own lives.
Suddenly, the generic road that everybody seemed to be taking turned into specific, personal journeys.
We begin to take on different roles — spouse, parent, employee, boss, divorcee, friend, public figure, wearing all sorts of hats — sometimes finding ourselves dwindling into these characters and losing ourselves in the process.
One day, I had lunch with a female friend and we talked about what the past year or so had been like.
This friend of mine has had a hectic two years — she welcomed a second child, got a promotion at work which saw her handling busier and more important roles, moved to a new house and cared for a sick parent.
She told me that she had not had a single idle day to just be by herself in the past year.
Simultaneously, although I was in a different wagon than her, 2017 had also been a consuming year for me.
I had a busy schedule of work and chasing dreams, the pleasantries of being accepted and the realities of being rejected, a roller-coaster of emotions from being elevated to broken-hearted, and the anxiety of making the most out of opportunities.
Somewhere along the line, I grew exhausted and it made me forget about the fun Amal, the adventurous Amal and sometimes, even the positive Amal.
Life has the ability to subtly make us neglect our relationship with our deeper selves. The material world has a habit of consuming our time and energy, and being surrounded by so many externalities can sometimes cloud our self-assurance and deter our self-love.
Working too much often makes us forget to have fun. Facing cultural expectations can sometimes jeopardise our own life values. Being surrounded by the wrong company can make us question our self-worth. Life challenges can bum us out so much that they drain our positive nature longer than they should.
THE YEAR TO RECONNECT
This year, as much as I am aiming to improve my relationships with others, I am also looking forward to focusing on nurturing my own self.
Last month, I decided to take 10 days off and “disappear”. I did not indulge in any type of career-related work, I switched off my phone (I find that looking at other people on social media is one of the biggest triggers for self-doubt), and I left the city to disengage from my usual mundane life crisis.
I dedicated all that time to just quality time with loved ones, to have fun, recalibrate and to indulge in exploring my goals in life sans influences from others.
It was refreshing and I concluded that finding time for ourselves is absolutely crucial to maintain a sense of gravity and self-assurance.
Granted, not everyone can afford to take as long a time or as free of an escape. Some of us have too many commitments and responsibilities.
Regardless, perhaps with the beginning of this new year, we can all benefit from the goal of investing a little bit more on our own selves, indulging in what makes us happy and trying to put ourselves first once in a while.
After all, it is only when we have plenty of self-love and a high sense of self-worth that we are able to serve others and have the best relationships we can with our loved ones.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI
PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING, MODERN-DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING. ALL DONE OF COURSE , WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM