Intimacy for beginners

Understanding emotional intimacy is hard and worse, having it in relationships is harder. I’ve struggled with knowing what it meant and practicing it in my friendships and relationships. When I realised I had intimacy issues, I began a journey to get there.

First, what is intimacy? I define it as it’s the exposure of your true self or the familiarity you have with your true self (self-intimacy) and then intimacy with another is that both of you are familiar with each other’s true self.

We’re essentially not wearing a mask covering up who we really are (what we think and feel).

Next, how do you know if you have intimacy issues? I list out 4 signs I saw in myself and I’ll warn you, they hurt (initially).

  1. You’re told often that you’re a sensitive person or that you’re easily offended. This was with regard to what people said to me or about me.
  2. You have a lot of boundaries. Because I was sensitive to what people said to me, I often found myself having to uphold a lot of boundaries, not accepting of how people viewed me. This was exhausting to manage all of them.
  3. Your vulnerability lies on the two polar sides of the spectrum. The extremes of vulnerability involve sharing too much all at once or being quite reserved. You can be a private person but still share your opinion. Often, I toggled back and forth between the two extremes.
  4. You berate yourself whenever you receive feedback or criticism. You take the criticism to close to heart and it spirals in your head to the point you can’t separate out the fact that that’s only someone’s opinion and not necessarily the truth.

Looking in hindsight, it was easier to see how theses signs showed how I didn’t have the best intimacy with myself. Why? Because I wasn’t comfortable with who I was.

Being comfortable with yourself means you are ok with whatever stage in life you’re at. You’re lost in your career, you’re single, etc. You’re comfortable with all of it, the messy stuff and the great stuff.

That’s not an easy place to come from – enjoyment with who we are. When we can come from this place, people’s opinions of us become just that, an opinion. Your opinion of yourself doesn’t waver with each person’s statement about you.

You can accept what other people say without agreeing with them. That’s true intimacy with yourself.

And when a friend or a loved does say something about you that you don’t agree with you can see it as an opportunity to develop intimacy with them. You can inquire about why they have an opinion without needing it to justify who you are and your worth. You can come from a place of curiosity about the other person and develop a deeper understanding about each other.

Being comfortable with someone else’s true self can truly happen when we’re comfortable with our true self. That’s the kind of intimacy we all want in our relationships – the ability to be comfortable with each other.

I discuss a personal journey with a friend at the beginning stages of developing intimacy with myself. Listen to podcast episode 11: Intimacy for beginners.

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