As human beings we are continually in relationship, all day and every day, for the whole of our lives. Sometimes it is with other living beings: humans and animals. Sometimes it’s with inanimate objects - food, clothes, money - or ideas.
There is one relationship, above all others, that is critical to our wellbeing. It is impossible to live a peaceful, healthy, happy life if this relationship is not monitored and managed adequately.
The relationship to which I’m referring is the one we have with ourselves.
Let me ask you a question. How do you habitually relate to yourself?
Are you kind, compassionate, and generous? Tolerant? Forgiving?
Or are you mean, demanding, and judgemental?
I am often shocked by the harshness with which people treat themselves. Somewhere along the line they’ve learnt that it’s acceptable to condemn, belittle and criticise themselves without the slightest censorship. So many of us have grown up with this propensity for self-criticism. Ironically, very few of us would ever dream of being as horrid to another human being as we are to ourselves.
The relationship you have with yourself fundamentally dictates the quality of your life, simply because you spend every single living second with yourself. You wake up with yourself. You go to sleep with yourself. Everything you do, and everywhere you go, there you are.
It is impossible to have a peaceful, harmonious, healthy life if you do not get this primary relationship right. It’s also true to say that you cannot truly connect with another person, and be emotionally available to them, if you are not first connected, compassionate, and emotionally available to yourself.
So, what does it look like to have a healthy relationship with yourself?
Here are 6 things to consider.
1. Take Care of Your Needs
The best place to start cultivating a healthy relationship with yourself is by listening to your body and caring for your basic physical needs. This means keeping yourself hydrated, eating well, and ensuring you get enough sleep, fresh air and exercise.
Ask yourself: What does my body need in this moment?
2. Focus on Your Inner World
Regularly monitoring what is going on inside your mind and your body is a crucial first step in reconnecting with yourself and your needs. Your mind, your body, and your Spirit are continually communicating with each other. Physical aches and pains, thoughts, feelings and intuitive hunches are powerful messages that need to be heard and acknowledged.
Ask yourself: How am I feeling in this moment?
3. Prioritise Having Fun
Identify the things that give you joy and devote some time to them. As children life was fun; we all played, laughed and frolicked with little care or concern. As adults many of us have forgotten how to have fun. Laughter, pleasure and entertainment are essential ingredients in life; they help to fill up our emotional reserves and balance out the boring and mundane things we all have to do.
Ask yourself: How heavy does life feel in this moment?
4. Be Kind and Compassionate
Cultivate a warm and forgiving attitude towards yourself. Notice when the voice of your inner critic becomes loud and harsh, and choose to replace those thoughts with more caring and positive ones. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. But, it is your choice whether to use those mistakes to aid personal growth and learning or to beat yourself up. Continual self-criticism rarely leads to positive change. It’s more likely to have a damaging effect on your self-esteem and make you feel bad.
Ask yourself: Am I my own best friend?
5. Make Regular Time for Yourself
Every day give yourself space to rest, reflect, and just ‘be’. This can be as simple as sitting quietly for 15 minutes with a cup of tea, writing in a journal, soaking in a warm bath, or going for a walk by yourself. Ideally, establish a daily meditation practice. (If you would like to learn how to meditate, check out my course Learn How to Meditate.) If you quieten down your mind, you will discover a beautiful, peaceful, joyful place within which you can access at any time, irrespective of what is going on in your outer world.
Ask yourself: Am I comfortable in my own company?
6. Invest in Yourself
One key measure of a person’s sense of self-worth is the time, energy and resources they’re willing to expend on themselves. Allocate thirty minutes a day to engage in any activity that improves your awareness, develops your talents and potential, enhances the quality of your life, and/or contributes to the realisation of your dreams and aspirations. This can be done through reading books, listening to audios, watching YouTube videos, or attending workshops and courses. As Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying”.
Ask yourself: When was the last time I invested in my own personal development?
All civilized societies demand consideration and co-operation between their individual members. Consequently, we’re all brought up to focus primarily on our relationship with others.
Very few of us are taught to be mindful of our relationship with ourselves.
Neglecting or being unkind to yourself (however slight) can do more than erode your self-esteem, confidence, and joy in life: it can have a negative effect on your physical wellbeing too. Making time for self-care and learning how to cultivate a positive self-regard is the antidote; it allows you to strengthen and enhance all aspects of your wellbeing. As Mandy Hale says:
“It’s not … selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”
I would add that it’s absolutely vital if you want to be wholly and unconditionally available to care for the people that you love and cherish in your life.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. How would you describe your relationship with yourself? I’d love to hear. Leave your comments below.