There’s one crucial relationship in your life that I’m pretty sure you’re neglecting. And if you’re one of those people who gives a lot of themselves to others and always drops everything to give a friend a hand, you’re definitely neglecting it. Nope, it’s not your relationship with your partner, your mom, or even your kids. Important as those are, this is even more crucial. It’s a relationship I can guarantee you’ll have from the day you’re born till the day you die.
It’s your relationship with yourself.
So often, the one person in life who we criticise, judge, condemn and ignore is ourself. We decide that our needs don’t matter. If everyone else in our life walked out, this one relationship would be all we had left. And when we disregard our relationship with ourself, all other aspects of our life suffer: however hard we strive for success, things will always feel empty.
There are three key factors in your relationship with yourself that you need to pay attention to:
Acceptance and Love
Think of a person who you love. Maybe your partner, or a close friend. Do they have faults? Is there anything about them that irritates you at times? Of course… but that doesn’t stop you loving them, does it? They’re not perfect – no-one is – but you accept that, and you love them, warts and all.
So why don’t you treat yourself the same?
Most of us have a negative, critical internal voice that berates us for being less-than-perfect. We beat ourselves up over little mistakes … that birthday we forgot, that silly typo in an email, that time we were late, the hasty words we didn’t really mean. And we fail to recognise the many, many times that we get things right.
When we try to adopt new habits, we’re very quick to blame ourselves for not succeeding overnight. When we have big dreams and plans, we dismiss them as unrealistic.
Would you treat your partner like that? Your best friend? Your kids? Then why do you treat yourself that way? Do all the harsh things you say to yourself help you to improve your life … or do they make you feel unhappy and low in confidence?
I’m sure you make the effort to spend time with the people you love. You nurture your relationship with them by going out to dinner, or watching a movie, or playing a game together. We’re all familiar with the phrase “quality time”, and we know how important this is to our relationship with our spouse or kids.
When did you last spend any quality time with yourself?
If you’re an introvert like me (and like 50% of the world), you get your energy from being on your own: being around other people constantly can make you feel in need of some alone time. And even extroverts need some time to simply be themselves – away from the rest of the world.
How about going for a walk on your own, or going to a movie on your own? Could you take yourself out to lunch or for a coffee – without family or friends in tow? What activities and hobbies do you enjoy that are purely for you?
Don’t be afraid to be selfish. If you don’t nurture yourself, and take time for your relationship with yourself, it’ll show in your relationships with others.
The final key to having a good relationship with yourself is exploration. In your friendships and romantic relationships, you enjoy learning about the other person. You hear their history, you get to understand what makes them tick, and you watch them grow and develop.
How well do you know yourself?
Ways of exploring yourself could include meditation, prayer, learning a new skill, or reading about personal development. Exploring who you are might lead you to conduct experiments to see what habits and structures suit you best: are you a morning person? Do you like to be alone at lunch, or in the evening? What dreams do you have? What’s your mission in the world? What contributions can you make?
Taking serious time to reflect and explore the workings of your mind can lead you in new directions. It can help you discover a hidden passion. You might find that your potential is far greater than you realised. You may well have to do some work to destroy some of your preconceptions; those statements about yourself that start with “I always…” or “I never…” or “I can’t…”
What’s your relationship with yourself like? If you’ve been neglecting that relationship – and almost all of us have – how are you going to start restoring balance in your life?
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