Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
Nowadays, “self-care” is the headline of it all. But what does it actually mean to prioritize yourself, choose yourself, focus on yourself in an unselfish way, and effectively communicate your needs to others while tending to yourself? Tending to your physical health or appearance caters to your current state of life, but sitting with yourself and learning to understand yourself emotionally and mentally can heal decades of wounds. It can also create opportunities to cater to your internal self-care better in different seasons of life.
As a person that’s highly invested in my internal self-care, I’ll be honest with you. It never becomes super easy to sit with uncomfortable situations that I’m affected by, but thinking of how I worked through a past difficult situation inspires me to go at it again. Not one time has it not been worth it. Whether you are single or in a relationship, life is going to occur one way or another, and our goal is to obtain the tools that work for us to move through it and grow from it.
Here is some insight from some relationship experts on focusing on your internal self.
What it means to prioritize self-care & practice internal self-care:
The more you choose to sit with yourself and explore your thoughts and emotions, the quicker you can problem-solve when another issue arises. And no, problems won’t ever stop coming, but the way you work through them will look and feel different now that you have some history of problem-solving internal issues.
Maybe starting to do internal self-care looks like “identifying the parts of your life and internal world you’d like to focus on," states licensed psychotherapist and consultant N. Oumou Sylla. She continues, “Notice where in your life you're feeling resentful, depleted, burned out, or exhausted [and] be honest about the ways you contribute to your experience of internal conflict.” Strengthening your self-awareness and accountability for the part you play in your internal struggles is fighting half the battle to combatting internal stressors. Next is changing your behavior.
“Prioritizing self-care is being open to trying a variety of things to find what works best for you," states licensed clinical social worker Lena Suarez-Angelino. The more I’ve practiced different types of internal self-care, guided meditation, reading books or listening to podcasts about the matter, journaling, therapy, doing devotional plans, and prayer, the more in tune I became with knowing what works best for different internal situations I needed to work through.
Suarez-Angelino continues, “Remember to breathe and be kind to yourself. Taking care of yourself is something that should be stress-free and guilt-free. Remember the reason why you’re practicing internal self-care in the first place.”
How to work on yourself when you're single:
“The route to working through internal conflict can be similar regardless of your relationship status,” Sylla notes. Unfortunately, life will still hit us from every angle, solo or partnered. She continues, “Relying on others for support, especially during times of stress/conflict, is normal and healthy. The main thing to ensure is that you are not seeing others as need-fulfillment machines or as people that will save you. Over-reliance on others in this way may be a sign of co-dependence or a part of themself does not trust themselves to tolerate distress.” The goal is to learn a healthy medium with support from others and working on ourselves alone.
Suarez-Angelino suggests that journaling "become one of your go-to exercises for processing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When it feels like you don’t have anyone that you can trust, and therapy may not be as accessible to you, journaling is a great tool. Journaling allows you to write everything down without a filter or risk of harming your loved ones.” If you’re like me and prefer some structure with guided prompts, try investing in these cards or articles on our site like, "15 Shadow Work Prompts To Honor The Fullness Of Your Inner Being," "18 Self-Discovery Journaling Prompts For The New Year," and "20 Journal Prompts For Entrepreneurs To Reflect, Learn, And Thrive" to help you on your journaling journey.
“Once everything is written down, you can go back and highlight the key parts that you want to share with your loved ones. It will help reduce the emotional charge behind the thoughts and helps provide more clarity to your thoughts and feelings. Talking to a therapist is another way you can do this, but it may take some time to find a therapist you can open up to about your stressors.”
How to work on yourself if you’re in a relationship:
Many of us see our partners as our best friends, and we tend to go to them first to confide in, which is lovely to have, but when we are experiencing intense internal distress, it may be best to explain to them you need some time to sort out your thoughts so you won’t project anything on them. “Being open and honest with your partner by saying something like, 'I’m having a strong emotional reaction to this, and while I don’t expect you to solve this, I may come off a little closed-off, irritable, or shut down,'" states, Suarez-Angelino. "'What you can do to help me is to know that you are here for me and available to listen when I am ready to share how I’m feeling. I think I need some more time on my own to think about it.'”
Being proactive by effectively communicating where you are currently emotionally and mentally can save you from so many unnecessary fights or making your partner feel inadequate for solving an issue that’s outside of their control.
And she continues, “You may also want to reassure [your partner] that whatever you're feeling does not have any indication of dissatisfaction in the relationship (unless that is a part of it). All in all, you don’t want to keep your partner in the dark about what you are going through while also easing their own anxieties and possible insecurities that they are the reason for what you’re feeling. You also want to clarify that it is not your expectation for them to fill that void or solve the problems for you.” You can work through it together by communicating your needs and your partner respecting your boundaries and checking in when needed.
Working through internal self-care is difficult, but every second spent finding tools and professionals to support you during that process is the best gift you could ever gift yourself. Everything you ask from others, the patience, the compassion, the grace, the gentleness, the unconditional love, please make it your duty to provide it first for yourself. You have everything you always needed within you. The only way to get over internal conflict is to work through it.
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xoNecole's I Read It So You Don't Have To is a recurring series of self-discovery that breaks down self-help books into a toolkit of takeaways and tips that are meant to assist you in finding the best life you can live. Take what works for you, and leave everything else where it is.
Of all the emotions, love is the pinnacle. It’s the one emotion we all desire for a lifetime, but it’s also the emotion that many people feel unequipped to sustain and grow within themselves and others. Former monk, host of the #1 health podcast in the world, On Purpose, and New York Times best-selling author, Jay Shetty debuted his second book, 8 Rules of Love: How to Find it, Keep it, & Let it Go, in February 2023.
There are tons of books on the shelves about love, but something I’ve been extremely intentional about investing in within the last few years is reading books about healthy and nourishing love. So many of us know the love that was introduced to us as a child, but that love is only what our parents knew, and it may not always be what we needed. So as an adult, it’s your turn to fill in all the gaps of what they missed in love and what new habits you want to cultivate to experience healthier love that sustains itself and gracefully lets go of love when needed.
Here are 8 rules of love Jay Shetty taught me during the informative read of his book. I hope each rule can meet you where needed most, with compassion first, accountability second, and love last.
1st Rule of Love: Let Yourself Be Alone
Allowing yourself to be alone for blocks of time in your life is one of the most rewarding things you could ever gift yourself. It was just a few years ago that I recognized the detrimental cycle I was looping myself into, going from dating one person to the next to fill void after void. As Shetty writes in his book, “Researchers at the University of Toronto found through a series of studies that when we’re afraid of being single, we’re more likely to settle for less satisfying relationships. Specifically, we’re more likely to become dependent on our partners and less likely to break up with them, even when the relationship doesn’t meet our needs.”
After my last relationship ended, I promised myself I would sit in the void, pick it apart, and understand how to heal it. And in a year of exploring solitude to every extent possible, I developed my voice and stood unapologetically on my values. As Shetty states, “In solitude, we practice giving ourselves what we need before we expect it from someone else. Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you emotionally available to yourself? Are you supportive of your own efforts?”
It was in that season of my life that I truly found comfort in solitude and not seeing it as lonely and missing something.
2nd Rule of Love: Understanding Parental Gifts and Gaps
We must be very conscious of our parental gifts and gaps because it can put unnecessary pressure on our relationships if we can’t fill that gap by ourselves. “If there is a gap in how our parents raised us, we look to others to fill it. And if there is a gift in how our parents raised us, we look to others to give us the same.” We can acknowledge ‘xyz’ happened to us, but we must change the narrative, not fall victim to life's circumstances, and always expect our partner to solve our issues.
“So often in relationships, we reject or repeat what our parents did. If they argued, you may avoid conflict. If they had a certain power dynamic, you may expect the same in your relationship or avoid it at all costs.” The domino effect doesn’t have to continue once you’re aware of it and are willing to change the narrative for your life. If you grew up around defensive and unhealthy conflict resolution styles, you can change it if you commit to doing the work to heal from it.
3rd Rule of Love: What You Want From Someone Else First Give to Yourself
Your happiness is your responsibility. It was your responsibility when you were single, and it still is your responsibility when you’re in a relationship. Shetty writes that "that’s why it’s so deeply important that we heal ourselves, taking charge of that process instead of shifting blame and responsibility to a partner.” Your partner's role in the relationship is that of a supporter, not a fixer; no one can tend to what you need better than you.
Any request you want from a partner, make sure you can provide the same support so that you can support each other in times of need. “A partner can’t fill every gap. They can’t unpack our emotional baggage for us. Once we fulfill our own needs, we’re in a better place to see what a relationship can give us.”
4th Rule of Love: Know Your Partner’s Learning Style
To be in a relationship of any form means to be open to growing together. It’s essential to know how your partner learns best so that when they are working on anything personally or professionally, you can send them things in that context to support them. However, “wanting to help our partner should not be confused with wanting to control our partner. One of the most common ways we try to control our partner(s) is to impose our timeline on them.”
Lead by matching their learning style. If it is hearing, send a podcast. If it is visual, send a YouTube video or master class, and so on and so forth. Most importantly though, allow them the space to learn or not learn at their own pace.
5th Rule of Love: Don’t Criticize, Judge, or Abuse
Just think about it, when you ask your partner for their opinion on something, you’re hoping to feel supported and met with compassion; now, that needs to be returned in every area of feedback you give them. “Gurus don’t use anger, harsh words, or fear to inspire their students. They realize that fear is a good motivator in the short term, but over the long term, it erodes trust. Criticism is lazy communication. It’s not constructive, compassionate, or collaborative. ”
Constructive feedback leads with love; instead of saying, “You never do x; you’re so bad at y,” say, “I appreciate it when you do x.” Or instead of saying, “If you ever do that again, I’m leaving you,” replace it with, “This is how it makes me feel when you do that.” Speak to the matter based on the present situation, don’t make generalized comments because it will make your partner feel like they do nothing right; we know that’s not true.
6th Rule of Love: Take Turns Prioritizing Your Purposes
As you grow in your relationship, your goals change, and so do your partners. Implementing conversations around these changes paired with an action plan in heavy transitional seasons is essential for both of you to grow as a team and feel supported. “While some couples do have this ‘tit for tat’ mindset, successful couples have a mindset that is, rather than thinking about it as ‘me vs. you,’ […] about a conceptualization of ‘we’ as the most important piece of the puzzle," Shetty writes.
And as time goes revisit the plan and ask how your partner is feeling based on how things are going, be open to making adjustments that work for both parties, and lastly, be open to returning that support when it’s your turn to pitch in extra for your partner’s transitional seasons in life.
7th Rule of Love: Every Time One of You Loses, You Both Lose
We’ve all been in those times with our partners when we are on opposite sides of a situation, and we casually see them as an opponent. However, wanting to win every argument or be right about everything is more harmful than helpful to your partnership. “Every time one of you loses, you both lose. Every time the problem loses, you both win," Shetty explains in his book simply. Sometimes it’s best to take a break from the conversation when you feel like you're going in laps of who's right or wrong because that’s not solving the issue; it’s just amplifying it.
“If we deal with disagreements as they arise, then we have a better chance to resolve issues before we say things we don’t mean and end up feeling worse without having resolved anything.”
8th Rule of Love: Give Yourself Closure
When things go entirely left, and you feel like there is no more room for the relationship to be repaired, it's time to let that love go. In that process, Shetty writes, “Let yourself feel every emotion. You can’t heal until you feel. Walking away from something doesn’t reduce it. If you don’t give an emotion the attention it deserves, it amplifies. In order to truly recognize these emotions, you must articulate them, look for patterns, and explain them to yourself.”
And to find peace at the end of that experience is by you creating your closure. Reflect on what you gained, lost, and learned about yourself in that relationship. “Every ex gives you a gift you may miss out on if you don’t take this step. It could be a piece of advice. It could be a connection they made for you. Maybe they supported you through a tough time. Maybe you learned that you really need to be with someone who makes healthy choices. Maybe you discovered that picking someone who checked off every box on your list wasn’t a good way to see who was standing in front of you. Honor your ex for the gifts they gave you.”
Create the closure because it was a gift to love them and a gift to let them go and be open to love once again. To truly love starts with making space for understanding and loving yourself to your core so you can be open to extending that love to others.
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You ever go into a dating experience like, 'He’s great, but he needs to work on XYZ,' and before you know it, you're over his head every second you can get to remind him to work on that same 'XYZ?' Yes? Well, perfect because this article is for my lovely fixers; it’s time to dive deep into learning to discern better potential long-term partners for you!
As a recovering fixer, I’m guilty of trying to fix many men I've dated in the past, thinking if I'd "encourage" him to work on XYZ, he'd be a better partner for me. And to be honest, it wasn't healthy for me to find my worth in making him better versus accepting his character at face value. Instead, I should have been asking myself, can I see myself in alignment with him or is it better to just be friends? These are hard questions, I know, but essential ones you need to ask yourself in the earlier stages if you are looking to date intentionally based on your values and morals.
The author of Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High-Stakes Relationships, Jayson Gaddis adds, “If I do all the work in our relationship, including paddling for both of us, and you sit on your ass, we will go in circles and never reach our destination.” What's more, instead of doing the work for two, focus on the things you need to work on for yourself and stop doing work that isn’t yours to do.
If you are finding yourself constantly trying to change your partner, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1.Ask yourself, 'Why do I want to change my partner?'Eddie Murphy Ngapa GIFGiphy
As a recovering fixer, I have immense empathy for my fellow fixers reading this article because at most fixers’ core is the mindset to be of service in their romantic relationships. They often lead with acts of service being their primary love language, not realizing it’s causing more harm than helping anything.
As psychologist Kristin Davin, PsyD, states, “We often create an image of what we want our partner to be and focus on those traits that reinforce that image. However, over time, that lens shifts to one of wanting to change their partner."
Davin notes that some of the reasons for this include: "(1) By and large, women have an overly idealistic view of relationships. They want to change their partner to fit this idea. Men, on the other hand, think there is no need to change. (2) People have lofty expectations of both the relationship and their partner. So they start wanting their partner to change to meet those ideals. It rarely, if ever, works.”
She continues, “They may want to change their partner because there are things they don't like about them - that they often ignored in the beginning - but now have become problematic for them. As a result, relationship problems will evolve. And always trying to change your partner creates resentment. It is a relationship killer. They would rather focus on the other person meeting their needs, instead of looking inward and focus on how they can show up differently for their partner.”
Be aware of those deflectors; that’s a red flag when the other person is consistently focused on what you need to work on and not focusing on their growth or minimizing it, acting as if it’s minor compared to what you need to work on. Everyone’s battle is different, and that isn’t a healthy form of comparison as it shows a lack of accountability.
2.Are you dating their potential or who they are at face value?
I’m sure most people have dated a person or two based on “their potential.” But dating someone’s potential to some extent is a bit of a Russian roulette game based on the type of potential you're betting on. Some people aren’t even assessing a dating situation based on the other person's actions to make that potential a reality. The other person could be making no real progress, and then they are like, 'They’ll get there eventually.' That’s a bit unrealistic, but it happens more often than you can imagine.
As Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kevin Mimms states, “There is a tendency to point toward potential (real or imagined) as a contrast to other, more damaging behavior. It may be that the potential they see is a projection of their hopes or ideals onto this person. To interpret thoughtless words or actions as demonstrative of childhood dreams is naive but understandable.”
It's important to be aware of the fact that the potential you see for a person might not be the potential they see for themselves. This form of projection is something we can sometimes subconsciously do. Instead, learn to lead by listening to understand and discerning a person’s motives by their actions.
“There is a thin line between seeing potential in someone and living your dream out through them. They may have potential, even one very similar to your dreams, but it isn’t about them when you make their growth about fulfilling your dreams.”
3.Is building a partner by trying to change them beneficial in the long run?Fix It Fox Tv GIF by Lethal WeaponGiphy
The next time the idea of building a partner pops up, ask yourself why you want to take up that responsibility. Is there a part of you settling because you think your needs can’t be met, so you’re just trying to make this work? Are you subconsciously married to the timing you have for yourself for a relationship, marriage, kids, or all the above, making you force something that may not be for you in the long run?
As Licensed Mental Health Counselor Nicole Kleiman-Reck, LMHC, mentions, “I don’t think building a partner is beneficial since every person is unique and beautiful in his/her own way (and already fully built).” Let’s emphasize the “already fully built” part, which means there is no need for your tweaking for your personal self-gain that may not serve the person in the long run and could brew areas of resentment.
“Building a relationship with two partners is helpful, and this entails agreeing to disagree, choosing to tolerate, learning to compromise, and aiming to come to what feels like a 'win-win' outcome. It all boils down to learning to appreciate and value the different aspects that each person has to offer in the relationship, which is what makes a strong partnership based on interdependency (which is not the same as co-dependency or dependency).”
4.Introspection is key to stop trying to change a partner.
Turn inward. Building your self-awareness is essential for unlearning fixing in relationships. You may think it’s helpful in the moment, but in a long-term relationship, it will become mentally and emotionally depleting for both parties. As Davin states, “Work on yourself. The fixers are focused outside themselves and want to change and 'fix' another person rather than looking inward. Taking the time to be more introspective allows that person to question their 'fixing behavior' and what motivates them to continually engage in that behavior. It's very off-putting for the person they are trying to change."
"When we are focused on changing others, we aren't focused on what we need in a person and relationship and being honest about that but rather using our energy to change others. When we are focused on the other person, we turn our energy outwards.”
5.Understand the importance of dating people based on face value.Dont Ever Change Season 2 GIF by Living SingleGiphy
Let me explain, acceptance = peace.
As Kleiman-Reck suggests, “I think it is of the utmost importance to take people at face value and accept them based on where they are now. The thing is, you can ask someone to change, and you can inspire someone to change, but you cannot make them change. The better question is, what are YOU going to change to feel happier in your relationship (or in any aspect of life, for that matter)?” This is a tough question to ask oneself, but an essential one to train your mind back to working on the only person you can change, YOU!
“Life is too short to distract yourself from changing others. Changing your belief system on what makes a fulfilling relationship will help with acceptance and joy that is usually there for the taking.”
A healthy bond’s foundation starts and ends with acceptance. To my fixers, I know it’s not an easy fix, but it is a worthy one. Imagine a world of you just being responsible for how you show up in the relationship and not ignoring the red flags that he or she doesn’t have what you need but they have “potential.” Develop a new mindset of, "I’m not forcing anything, and I’m only aligning with people who are in a similar place as me."
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Sen·su·al·i·ty: the enjoyment, expression, or pursuit of physical, especially sexual, pleasure.
Can y’all smell the roses from the sensual season we’re living in? The fact that the “soft life” is a whole movement is a new awakening to a generation that has access to healing and sensuality like no other! I’m in awe and appreciation that individuals across the globe are allowing themselves to step into what has often been perceived as feminine energy and making it their own self-soothing daily practice.
As I was researching this subject matter, I noticed the word “sensuality” is often misunderstood as being something amplified sexually via romantic bonds and not as much individually, which does more of a disservice to us than helps us. The more attuned you are to yourself in solitude, the better you are to have that sensual pleasure amplified with another person in any capacity.
Sensuality is something we should challenge ourselves to do every day, being mindful of the sounds around us, examining our thought processes and feelings, and discovering sensuality in a physical manner alone in different ways.
Here are expert tips on how to be more sensual in your every day life:
1. Practice mindfulness by really tuning into your five major senses.
According to licensed mental health counselor and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, Richard M. Siegel, Ph.D., "'sensual' simply means ‘of the senses’-- sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.” And because we live in such a fast-paced world, constantly multitasking, barely focusing on one thing at a time, it’s very easy to lose a sense of all the things we’re seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing because we’re always on the go. Exploring our sensuality daily means constantly challenging yourself to be curious about anything and everything you come across.
Mental health/drug and alcohol therapist Joella Smith states, “I always suggest my clients take at least five minutes when you wake up to use your senses (listening to the birds outside, stretching/rubbing body aches, watching the sunrise, etc.). The goal, just like mindfulness, is to find pleasure in being in the moment by using all your senses. Being kind to oneself, loving our bodies, and practicing self-love daily will make us all more sensual people.”
Being in tune with our sensual selves has everything to do with challenging ourselves to be present and fully engaged with everything we do consistently. As they say, "Self-love is the best love." Meditation teacher Kirat Randhawa echoed a similar sentiment, “An element of developing sensuality with self is to practice receiving yourself just as you are - in all of your emotional states - with loving awareness. This receptivity is integral to restoring a sense of wholeness and releasing the fear of what we might encounter if we turn inward. Pleasure is a beautiful way to soften into our hearts and bodies while feeling resourced and supported to navigate anything that may arise.”
2. Engage in sensuality through meditation.
There is nothing like a little one-on-one time with yourself, where you can go to a safe place and release it all through stillness. “Meditation is a practice of becoming deeply familiar with yourself and your moment-to-moment experience with tenderness,” states Randhawa. “What is more sensual than befriending the self with such openness? When we practice this awareness in meditation in relation to how we receive the breath and the different sensations and thoughts and practice softening into those experiences irrespective of our expectations, we cultivate an opening of the mind. This is key to identifying the different aspects of ourselves and rest there with more ease. It allows for a balanced indulgence.”
"Meditation is a practice of becoming deeply familiar with yourself and your moment-to-moment experience with tenderness. What is more sensual than befriending the self with such openness?"
Also, for anyone that has a rough time with mediation because they feel like they can’t pause their mind, I highly suggest using the Calm or Liberate app that provides guided meditation to help zero in on tuning out your thoughts and following the background noise (examples is like the sound of waves or rain drops) all while actively listening to the instructor's voice. If you find stillness difficult, even with guided meditation, trying out movement meditation could be more helpful.
3. Be more sensual through breathing techniques.
Breathwork is a skill set we should all learn because it’s an amazing self-soothing tactic that helps regulate our physical and emotional well-being. There are several different types of breathwork techniques; Randhawa recommended “the five-count box breathing technique to simply restore clarity in the mind and presence with the body -- you inhale for five, pause for five, exhale for five, and pause for five...and continue this for a few minutes. It allows one to experience a more spacious feel of the moment and awaken to the beauty that is here right now.”
4. Deepen your journey to your feelings and senses through writing.
It’s our words that paint every scenario we envision or go through, and it’s our words that help us dive into understanding our feelings more. Exploring your feelings on paper or even in your notes section on your phone can aid in profoundly exploring sensuality. Writing and creative expression coach Nkem Chukwumerije states, “In order to get to a place where we are writing from a place of freedom, and true connection to our inner worlds and outer surroundings, we must have a connection with our sensual selves. This means, for instance, when writing a scene depicting the breeze in the air, as readers, we want to know what kind of breeze that is and how it feels to feel that breeze. So, as a writer, we must relax our minds, wander outside into the breezy early afternoon, and sit in the center of a near-empty park, allowing the breeze to stroke our skin. We must feel each molecule of air as it dances with our face, arms, body and begins to articulate just how this feeling touches us.”
Reading has been my favorite hobby since I was a little girl, and I’ve always noticed the best stories are depicted through minuscule detail to make you feel like you were there. Coming home to your sensuality is paying attention to the details surrounding you in slow motion. “After we feel, we can conjure up words to articulate that feeling and translate it onto the page where readers will not only read about the breeze but feel the same breeze we felt because we took the opportunity to be present with our embodied senses and write from that magical place."
She adds, "I often use the phrase 'experiment, explore, and allow' when it comes to writing because when we desire to express ourselves, I believe it must start from a place of pure possibility, freedom, and flow, and what better way to access what is and what can be than through our senses?”
5. Indulge in your sensual self through dancing.
There are so many ways to come home to self, and dancing is a cure in its lane. When I’m in a funk, I turn on some of my favorite tracks and dance in my mirror and speak to my insecurities and make jokes about them, as Issa did in Insecure. It sounds lame, but it’s so soothing to have fun in emotional turmoil; we’re the most adaptive mammals on this planet, but change isn’t always easy to walk through, so it’s best to find a way that works for you to come home to yourself.
“Coupling somatic practices – such as yoga, qi gong, dance, EFT/tapping – with remembering the narratives about our bodies or intentional emotional feeling can be extremely powerful in healing both emotional blockages, and ailments/dis-ease in the body," states Chukwumerije. "When we practice becoming present in our bodies and aligning our emotional experience to our embodied experience, we can access more and more of our sensuality. Life is then never the same.”
6. Explore your sensuality further through sexual self-pleasure.
I know before reading this article, most people associated the word “sensual” with "sexuality," but I hope that after indulging in all this new information, you have a better understanding of exploring your sensuality in a multifaceted way. Smith echoes a similar sentiment, “I believe too much of the discussion about sensuality revolves around sex rather than the pleasure we actually feel from what we experience from sex. Sex, however, almost always involves some level of sensuality. But one can experience and become sensual in numerous other activities that may give us that same level of pleasure. For instance, 'having an orgasm in our mouth' (when something tastes good) may do the same for our endorphins and overall sensuality as having an actual orgasm (sex).”
And though I didn’t want to put sexual sensuality at the top of this article, I did want to highlight that sexual exploration with self is one of the highest forms of fulfillment you can experience sensually. Randhawa states, “I believe that sensuality originates from within, stemming from our relationship with ourselves. And when we can be present, open, and nurturing towards the self, we can extend that to others. Sensuality is a state of pure openness and receptivity, and offering this to ourselves can help us share it with others, and experiencing it with others can help us strengthen this connection even more with ourselves in turn.”
"Sensuality originates from within, stemming from our relationship with ourselves. And when we can be present, open, and nurturing towards the self, we can extend that to others."
And I could share my own testimony reflecting on her words; for years, I used to be very irritated with sexually pleasing myself because of emotional turmoil I didn’t know how to work through at the time and shame around current fantasies I’d have. But I’ve challenged myself to talk it through in therapy and with close friends, and I never felt so liberated and excited to explore myself sexually, with toys and all. And it’s made sexual intimacy with another person heightened because I finally have so much autonomy of myself sexually.
Women are such fascinating and unique beings when it comes to sexual exploration, and I highly encourage watching the docuseries,The Principles of Pleasure, which is all about exploring female sexuality, and watching Sex, Love, and Goop which gave amazing tips on exploring sensuality through partnership.
7. Let go of your negative thoughts and discover your truth as a sensual being.
It took such a long time for me to accept that I’m a highly sensitive individual and that nothing is wrong with that. I was often gaslit as a child, which is one of the major reasons I often overthink my thoughts and feelings because I feel like they aren’t valid. It wasn’t until getting myself into therapy that I was actively ready and willing to deal with this super-soft part of myself. And taking that approach has been a game-changer because I’m better equipped to work through my emotional turmoil and support others with their issues instead of repeating the same cycle because I didn’t know myself at such depths.
Smith mentions, ”It’s all about how we feel in our bodies, so feeling at the maximum level helps. This is often tough, though, as some of us battle intrusive thoughts and avoidance patterns that prevent us from truly 'feeling.' Letting go of the negative thoughts, appreciating every day, getting out of our head, and emotionally being in tune with what’s going on will help others explore personal sensuality.”
All in all, exploring sensuality on a daily basis should be something we actively try to fit into our schedules in some form or another because no one can soothe us like we can soothe ourselves. No one can feel all that we are going through like we can, so take a deeper dive with self-exploration; your mind, body, and spirit deserve it.
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Thus far, this year feels so refreshing compared to the last two years we’ve all experienced. And it’s safe to say that people are feeling safer traveling internationally again — which fills my heart to see people basking in joy exploring mother Earth! I had the time of my life treating myself to a solo trip to one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to, the one and only Pura Vida lifestyle, Costa Rica!
Costa Rica is such a beautiful place to explore for any age group; it’s filled with various things to do all over the country. It was the first country I’ve ever been to in Central America, and it’s already my favorite one because of all the unique things they have to explore, the food that I couldn’t get enough of, and the Costa Rican natives being so welcoming and sweet.
I had the pleasure of staying in the capital, San José, but anyone who’s ever been to Costa Rica would say the best parts of the country to explore are outside of the city. But as the city girl that I am, I wanted to challenge myself to explore both sceneries, and I did just that, exploring different rural towns during the day and wandering San José for the nightlife scene.
Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.
La Paz Waterfall Garden Nature Park & Wildlife Refuge
La Paz Waterfall Garden Nature Park is located in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Arguably one of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, La Paz is a must-see! It has five different waterfalls layers that look like it’s stacked on top of each other at different altitudes. The names of all of the waterfalls are Templo, Encantada, Magia Blanca, and Escondida, and the most acclaimed of them all La Paz.
La Paz waterfall is the most unique waterfall out of the five because you can see it as you drive on the road; it flows exquisitely in the La Paz River.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park is actually split up into four parts that you can explore separately, the peace lodge (which is their five-star hotel, overlooking the waterfalls area), hiking trails, a nature park, and wildlife refugee. I would advise wearing active/comfortable attire and sneakers on your visit if you choose to explore multiple areas of the 70-acre park because it requires a lot of walking. The rescued wildlife refuge preserve is home to over 100 species that are native to Costa Rica and was quite a sight to see.
If you're a big animal lover like myself, you will really enjoy this! I got to see two-toed sloths for the first time in person, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, black-handed spider monkeys, toucans, and they had a whole butterfly observatory where the butterflies got to fly freely, and there was even an area where you could see them coming out of their cocoons.
Poás Volcano National Park
Costa Rica is the home of nearly 70 volcanoes, 61 of them being extinct or dormant, and six of them are active volcanos like Poás Volcano (which is not erupting when visitors visit), located in the Central Highlands of Costa Rica. Poás Volcano is about 8,887 ft tall. It was such an interesting experience feeling the weather shift; it went from low 80 degrees to several degrees cooler and cloudier the closer we got to the volcano site. The time I went to the Poás Volcano wasn’t the best time to see the volcano, it was very cloudy, and it only popped up for about 10 minutes during the 20-minute gated tour that was only 300 feet from the volcano itself.
It’s best to see the volcano around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., but fortunately, I wasn't able to see it until around 1. When you're in the gated area to see the volcano, you’ll see that there is a light system indicating safe times to be around the volcano so people can leave the scene when it’s near the eruption stage. It was such a breathtaking sight; I highly recommend it!
Hacienda La Chimba
Hacienda La Chimba is definitely a must-see to add to your list if you enjoy adventurous outdoor activities! It’s located 20 minutes outside of San Jose, in a town called Santa Ana. I’d highly suggest going there in the morning and spending the whole day there because they have multiple activities that can be quite time-consuming. Out of all the activities I’ve done there, I loved ziplining most. It was my first time ziplining, and it couldn’t be a more perfect experience. They had about 5-6 ziplining areas ranging from different altitudes.
Then there is the high rope course that takes about an hour to complete, I’m a thrill-seeker, so this was a fulfilling experience for me to work through a physical obstacle course.
The park also features a coffee tour and a 5-9K hiking trial you can do that has different prompts to take pictures along the way. My biggest tip here is to stay hydrated and wear active gear. As an added plus, there was a restaurant there that served bomb-ass food and drinks that I was in heaven while indulging in it.
Doka Estate Costa Rica Coffee Tour & Plantation
Costa Rica is notorious for its coffee production, and let me tell you, I had about 3 cups of coffee some days from different areas because the coffee was so rich and smooth. There are coffee farms all over the country, but Doka Estate Costa Rica Coffee Plantation is one of the most famous and oldest ones because it’s a coffee plantation by a third-generation Costa Rican family.
The coffee tour the plantation offers is so thorough, taking you through all the meticulous steps of how coffee is made. From how to harvest it to sorting out different qualities of coffee beans and molding it, there are many steps in cultivating the coffee from the 45 coffee beans it takes to make a cup of coffee.
There’s a bunch to explore in San Jose, from history and museums to culture. By far, restaurants and bars were my favorite. I had the best sangria, and tres leches dessert at Restaurante Silvestre; it’s one of the oldest yet most contemporary restaurants in the city.
One of the best areas I’d recommend to bar hop or explore restaurants is in Barrio Escalante; it is such a cute and hip section of the city, and so many things are so close for easy access to try out different places back to back. El Social is a modern yet edgy bar nearby where you can enjoy great music, watch a sports game, and have drinks in a mixed crowd.
Neon is a nice mix of a bar and lounge indoor/outdoor scene with great tunes playing in the back and a dance room if you feel called to move your body! If you're a beer drinker like myself, head to Costa Rica Beer Factory Inc; it’s such a cute beer brewery that offers a nice variation of beers to try.
Overall, Costa Rica is where all the action is at. My last few tips would be to plan strategically because Costa Rica can be expensive very quickly, but it’s well worth the experience. Also, if you get a chance, stay in different parts of the country to venture out more to see their beautiful beaches like Playa Flamingo and Manuel Antonio Beach and check out more adventurous sites like Skybridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest and tons more.
More than anything, stay present and enjoy your time witnessing one of the most beautiful countries the world has to offer. Pura Vida!
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I’m sure a high percentage of people who chose to click this article either are fixers, former fixers, or maybe they want to understand why fixers feel the need to make it their responsibility to change everyone. Well, for one, barely anyone who fits the bill knows why they do what they do until it exhausts them—like myself. I have been a fixer for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved fighting for the underdog. Something about being needed for the betterment of people’s lives has always felt very fulfilling to me. That is until I’d invested so much in many close relationships that it backfired on me. And like many fixers, I would question how I could have offered so much, yet people treated me anyhow in the end?
First of all, I don’t know who gave me this responsibility. It's really not my battle to fight because transforming people’s mindsets is not any person’s job. It is work that only Jesus can do. “Let go and let God” is a real mindset that fixers need to be open to.
I've realized that if people didn't see the need or have the desire to work through their own mishaps, there was nothing I could do to change the outcome of things. It didn’t matter how much I cared and wanted them to step into their so-called greater potential. Progress wouldn't happen until they were ready and willing to do the work.
My Fixer Revelation
During a therapy session, I was asked whether I liked being “everything” for people close to me, and I said "yes," feeling a bit shameful and questioning why I continued those cycles. Every fixer has their particular reasons, but I think my abandonment issues had a lot to do with it. As a child, I felt that I wanted to be cared for. I wanted to be rescued by my absent biological father and saved from being emotionally neglected by other family members.
I always felt things very deeply. I have a Scorpio Moon sign, and I mention that to signify that I am very comfortable sitting in and working through heavy emotions. It intrigues me a lot, and that’s my big way of fixing people—being their emotional backbone until it’s backfired on me in several close relationships. This is why I’m now choosing to combat this behavior of playing savior and working on being a supporter of people, not their foundations.
Let me introduce you to the fixer lens below, as I dissect this character trait with two therapists who are very well-versed on the subject:
How To Know You're A Fixer
One of the biggest ways to tell if you're a fixer is to see how much you extend yourself in relationships and to whom you stretch yourself. I often extend myself to individuals who associate themselves with avoidant or other anxious attachment styles. I also tend to play the role of fixer to avoidants because they don’t like examining their emotions, and I often like walking them through it. Licensed clinical social worker, Insha Rahman, a relationships and boundaries expert at mental health directory Choosing Therapy, says that fixers tend to feel responsible for other people's emotional stability and happiness, while they themselves are very sensitive and emotionally vulnerable.
If you like to be the giver in a relationship to the point of "saving" or being a "white knight," you're probably a fixer. Someone with a fixer mentality has to fix anything they perceive as hurt, broken, or defective.” I look at myself as an ongoing self-help project. For way too many years, I have applied the same mindset to relationships of any kind—familial, friendly, and romantic.
Licensed mental health counselor Nicole Kleiman-Reck, an expert on relationships and boundaries, mentions another perspective on how to identify whether you're a fixer. “A person can recognize if they are a fixer when they avoid getting to the root of a problem. In relationships, this is often described as being avoidant. If a person is doing all of the work to fix the problems in a relationship, they can pretty much be feeling like they are taking on 100 percent of the responsibility in the relationship. They are not holding their partner accountable for the role he or she is playing and often feel insecure in the relationship. Fixers are often very uncomfortable to see their partner in pain, but it is usually tolerating the discomfort that allows the work to be done for true resolution of problems.”
"Fixers are often very uncomfortable to see their partner in pain, but it is usually tolerating the discomfort that allows the work to be done for true resolution of problems.”
Who would have thought offering your partner space to figure it out for themselves, in their own timing and way, is more beneficial for both parties?
Why You Like Fixing Other People
“Fixers feel the need to fix others because of an underlying need to validate and give meaning to their own lives," adds Rahman. "Many times, fixers are survivors of some kind of past damage such as abandonment or loss of a caregiver. Although their intentions may initially be positive, fixers want to be the one figure everybody looks up to for all the answers.”
Unfortunately, I have felt this as my “calling” to help others in such a capacity, not knowing it was also causing a lot of heartaches as well. I was investing an abundance of self-work that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the other person. Just because I see and often treat myself as a project doesn't mean others should be depicted through that lens. Just think about how hard it is to unlearn and change aspects of yourself.
To think that’s an easy 1-2-3 for others is literally insanity.
The Backfiring Aspects of Being a Fixer
Many people admire fixers because sacrificing themselves at such a capacity can be disguised as deep-rooted love or care for the other person. In reality, it builds an unhealthy attachment instead of a support system with boundaries — which every relationship needs.
Kleiman-Reck states, “Fixing is unhealthy in relationships because it will get in the way of true intimacy. It's a one-sided relationship, and it can either lead to codependency and enabling of the partner to take responsibility for the changes they need to make on an individual level or will be downright exhausting for the fixer, and they will often get into the habit of fixing, even when there is not a problem. Fixing can get in the way of differentiation in a relationship, which is essential since both partners need to be able to express their individual needs. Being able to openly communicate this is essential in a healthy relationship, and fixing is unhealthy because it prevents this growth.”
"Fixing can get in the way of differentiation in a relationship, which is essential since both partners need to be able to express their individual needs. Being able to openly communicate this is essential in a healthy relationship, and fixing is unhealthy because it prevents this growth.”
As someone who has had my fair share of one-sided relationships, when they came to an end, I felt so empty. It was like, 'Wow, I gave so much.' And in the end, it was never enough. It was just in the last few months of therapy, as I unpacked a lot of my patterns in relationships, that I started to see the role I often played. I questioned whether I was playing this role as a trauma response to underlying abandonment issues.
“Being a fixer can be a trauma response to past abandonment issues that stem from an ingrained sense of being damaged," Rahman says. "And abuse damages self-esteem. Often children who were exposed to parental disapproval, rejection, and physical or emotional abuse will end up with a sense of blaming themselves for their parents' abuse. Then in adulthood, that person might project [their] damaged self onto partners whom they see as in need of repair. In other words, by fixing their partner, they are fixing themselves.” And so, the cycle continues.
Unlearning Habits and Implementing Secure Boundaries
Kleiman-Reck says that in helping fixers through their challenges, she empathizes with "the fixing role they have been playing" and she encourages self-compassion since a "fixing mentality usually comes from a place of deep hurt but also has positive intent." She also reinforces that making it to therapy means that a fixer realizes there is a disconnect in the relationship, which is "huge progress." She helps clients to recognize internal conflicts and works with them to "normalize the two parts of themselves" and have a "healthy dialogue" between the part of themselves that wants to evolve and the part of themselves that wants to fix others.
"I would also support their own discomfort during their process of change and reinforce the beauty that is on the other side of a truly healthy relationship. I would teach them how to get curious about their partner's actions by encouraging them to ask questions (and would guide them through healthier questions to ask)."
"The goal of unlearning their fixing qualities will be to better understand why they feel compelled to fix while normalizing the discomfort that comes from growth. Seeking support would be an ongoing focus while they take action with boundary-setting," she adds.
To all my fixers out there, I know your heart. It is pure and always looking to play the role of a warrior. But a sustaining and healthy love needs space for people to figure out their own mishaps. The best you can do is acknowledge whatever issue comes up with compassion and be patient with others during their healing process.
You need to focus on their discernment and being responsible for your part. You can also release the burden off your shoulders if you admit the work that is meant for you to do in the relationship versus work that the other party needs to tend to.
Every loving relationship needs boundaries. Stop enabling work that wasn’t meant for you to do.
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