Nails on a chalkboard.
A semi-truck skidding to a halt on the interstate as its back jack-knifes, sending sparks cascading across rows of cars like the Fourth of July.
A never-ending vacuum on a Saturday morning outside of your apartment door.
What do these three things have in common?
They are all analogous to how I used to treat me when I was alone.
Emotional intelligence ultimately falls to us: our ability to regulate our emotions, and perceive our emotions.
I had never lived on my own until last year. Be it parents, roommates, or a significant other, I had always had someone around.
As a socialite and a former serial monogamous, my adult years have teemed with staggering levels of distraction.
Equating external human interactions and connections to distractions might sound harsh.
What had happened is that many of my strategies for validation, affirmation, and support had been outsourced.
I thought I understood what I needed to balance my emotions and be “happy”, but I was failing to put it into practice.
After a series of life events, like my hospitalization in 2013 for bipolar disorder, I had thought less of me, and more of others. I re-discovered a purpose in life to bring light and joy to other people, especially those I was fond of. My intimate partners, crushes, and friends would become the top priority, an obsession.
I became keenly aware of the emotions within others but robbed myself of time to dive deeply into my emotional states.
I’d busy myself with works of “progress”: business concepts, music, social media.
One day, my therapist asked me to do a simple re-phrasing practice, which began with him inquiring about someone who might have disappointed me.
“They let me down when I needed them. They did not respect me. They upset me because they didn’t educate and guide me when I thought they would.”
Words like this.
A figure washed-out in the pouring rain on a Friday night by a lamp post sobbing with no phone. Left for nothing–a helpless picture.
Oh how this individual had wronged me so: false future, empty promises.
He had me flip around my statements, with the preface of “could it be equally true that.”
My words then became:
“I let myself down when I needed me. I did not respect me. I made myself upset because I didn’t educate and guide myself.”
Lo and behold, they were equally true.
During those challenging months when I wanted that person’s help, I saw through my anger to discover that I was not doing as much as I could to regulate my own emotions.
This was a watershed moment for me.
I ran back through years of relationships and bonds and noticed all of the places where I leaned into someone else for something I was not providing myself.
I had forgotten how to comfort myself.
My love for myself was not consistent.
I was not affirming myself, validating myself.
My self-talk had become crippling and negative.
I was seeking the company of others not for mutual gain but rather for my internal deficiencies.
Flowers know how to thrive in this world. They can stand alone (though they are more lovely together). They understand how to gather energy from the sun. They know how to let the water soak into their roots.
We want to be like a flower.
I leave you with a challenge: Think of someone who has disappointed you lately – let it all out, every inch of feeling you have.
Then flip those statements to “I” statements.
Are they equally true?
If so, then, like me, you may find that the next date you need to go on is one with yourself.
This practice did a lot of good for me. It triggered numerous revelations, and most importantly, it pushed me to take action for myself.
Positive thinking is one thing. I once heard that 46.9% of our thoughts are aimless, so, countering such automatic wandering isn’t easy.
Now, paired with positive action, you have a flourishing garden within you.
You need both, positive action and positive thinking.
Positive action that advances our emotional intelligence could be going on a run. It could be journaling. It could be sitting down and running yourself through mental workshops as my therapist did.
Our emotional intelligence grows when we nourish our souls. We must be our own gardeners and take care of our weeds.
Dating me has been fun, eye-opening, and revitalizing. You don’t have to be single to date yourself. It is simply a commitment to You.
Dating me is the best thing I could’ve done.
Tonight, I’ll be drawing up a lavender bath with candles. Sound like something you’d only do with a lover?
Well then, it’s time you treated yourself the way you do another.
About the Author
A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. Currently signed to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records, he has also had multiple releases on Atlantic Records, remixing artists such as Galantis.
As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events called “Grooving for Good” leveraging the power of music and the arts. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.