Your Most Important Relationship: Yourself
Updated: Mar 6, 2019
Did you ever hear the saying "No matter where you go, there you are"? I think it's a quote that speaks to the futility of trying to "run away" from our problems. But more importantly, it speaks to our relationship with ourselves. "We" are truly our only constant. "We" are here from birth to death. So why not make ourselves a healthy, supportive life companion?
Yourself and Stress
Imagine this: You have a job interview scheduled for 2:30pm. It's 2:20 and you realize that you've made a wrong turn. You will have to turn around, and you will have to sit in the same traffic you've just gotten through. What kind of thoughts are in your mind? What are you saying to yourself?
Here's another one: You have a four year old. You are dropping them off at their preschool on your way to a busy day. As you approach the school, you see the other four year olds kissing their grown up goodbye and happily bouncing off to meet their friends. When you pull up, your four year old starts to cry. They are clinging on to you with magnet strength. You literally can't seem to unwrap your kid from your legs. What thoughts are going through your mind? What are you saying to yourself?
One last example: It's the holidays. Lots of things are coming up...family dinners, gift-buying, celebrations and obligations. Before bed, you start feeling quite anxious. So much so that you are having trouble falling asleep. Your heart is pounding, you can't stop thinking... What thoughts are going through your mind? What are you saying to yourself?
Life is Hard
Life is hard, and is always going to be hard, no matter how privileged or blessed you may be. How you relate to yourself through the ups and downs of life matters. ALOT. If you are critical of yourself, you will struggle more. If you are late to the job interview, and you are busy yelling at yourself, "I can't believe you didn't plan more time to get here. How could you have made a wrong turn! Now you're never going to get this job!", you will feel even more stressed and emotional, even with the potential to sabotage your interview. If, when your kid has separation anxiety at school, you are harsh with yourself, "Look at all these other kids, they are fine. Why does it have to be my kid that gives me such a hard time? Am I doing something wrong as a parent? Are they anxious because of me?", you are likely to become emotional, stressed and anxious yourself, likely exacerbating your kid's anxiety too. And finally, if when you're experiencing anxiety, you tell yourself "What's wrong with me? Am I going crazy? It's the holidays, I'm supposed to feel happy. Why can't I just go to sleep? Why can't I just be normal?", you're only going to feel more anxious...and depressed...and angry.
Life is hard, and we all have ups and downs. learning to support yourself through the hard times will help you to thrive through them!
How to Develop a Supportive Relationship with Yourself
1. Name your vision to develop a strong, healthy relationship with yourself.
2. Look for models of healthy relationships. Read my post on Kind and Firm--it's about parenting younger kids, but hey, we're all parenting our own inner children. Decide what it means to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
3. Catch any negative self talk, criticisms, judgments, comparisons, "shoulds". What I mean is, notice that you're engaging in this kind of conversation. Replace these kinds of thoughts with healthier, more accurate and more compassionate thoughts. For example, "Ok, I could have left earlier, but I didn't. I'm here now. Mistakes happen for everyone, and traffic happens. All I can do now is my best, and that will be good enough". Or, "Ok, my kid has separation anxiety. I wonder what is going for them, poor kid. I wish kids came with a manual, but they don't so I can only do the best I can". Or even, "It's the holidays and I'm feeling stressed. Okay, that's normal--this time of year is hard. I'm going to push through this, and I will be okay."
4. Maintain a stance of curiosity, understanding, compassion and acceptance. Read more about curiosity here.
5. Know that kids often make sense of their worlds--and protect their relationships with their grown ups--by taking the blame when things get hard. Parents getting divorced? Probably my fault. Brother has the flu? Is it because I wished he would get sick so I could have alone time with Mom? Dad's drinking too much? Because I'm so hard to deal with. This is simply what kids do. But these beliefs stay with us, even as adults, and of course they get in the way of our relationships with ourselves. When this is happening, it's time to practice some forgiveness with your inner children.
6. Surround yourself with positive, kind people. It's way easier to be kind to yourself if you are around others who are kind to you as well. I can't stress this one enough!
7. Practice patience! You've probably learned how to relate to yourself from your earliest childhood experiences of being cared for and watching others care for each other. You've been doing this for a long time. It is unrealistic to think that you will change your self relationship quickly. It will take a process of observing, practicing, unlearning, re-learning, practicing, observing and so on. Practice patience--and compassion!
At Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, no matter what other goals you identify for therapy, I understand part of my role as a support to strengthening your relationship with yourself. Because if you can relate to yourself with understanding, compassion and acceptance, you can "surf the waves" of the ups and downs of life, giving yourself credit and celebrating the great times, as well as having compassion and kindness for the tough times. You can invite and accept all of your "parts"--all of your feelings, thoughts and patterns. And when we can understand and accept ourselves--in whole--we are then free to be our best selves and to make choices that support our best selves.
Call today to schedule an appointment! 856-281-1664