It’s the time of year when Cupid releases an arsenal of arrows aimed at our hearts, enamoring us with the idea of sharing a close bond with a significant other. With so much focus on our romantic relationships, have you taken time to focus on your most important relationship- the one with yourself?
Your Relationship With Yourself Matters
Take a moment to imagine you’re in a relationship with someone you don’t love, don’t think is good enough, and view as worthless. Now imagine this relationship is one you will actively be in for your entire life. How would this impact what you think, how you feel, and what you do on a day-to-day basis? Our relationships with others are temporary- we grow apart, move away, and eventually pass away, but our relationship with ourselves is guaranteed every day. There is no breaking up, separating, or ghosting yourself – you are with you for the long haul! Your relationship with yourself is one of the most important. Like any relationship, it takes work. Practicing self-love helps this relationship blossom.
Finding Strength in Acceptance
Self-love is the acceptance of ourselves for who we truly are- all our faults, failures, strengths, and talents. Acceptance doesn’t mean we agree with every aspect of ourselves and cease striving to improve, but instead we’re able to acknowledge our weaknesses without shame or judgment. When we embrace every facet of our being, we recognize we possess inherent value that can’t be tarnished or taken away. This allows us to consistently stay strong and secure in ourselves through the unpredictable ups-and-downs of life. Conversely, if we derive our self-worth from external accomplishments or the praise of others, we place ourselves on a roller coaster ride. We’re left continuously chasing the temporary highs of compliments and success and plummeting to new lows when we inevitably make mistakes. Our self-worth is tied to and teeter-totters on the myth of perfectionism.
Taking Control of Your Self-Image
As we grow up, our self-image is molded by our experiences and relationships with parents, peers, and others. We begin to learn who we are by using the way others treat and interact with us as a mirror that reflects our value and worth. Imagine you are meeting a new work colleague for the first time. During your interaction, your colleague doesn’t maintain eye contact and leaves the conversation quickly. This nonverbal feedback may lead you to conclude that you are unlikeable or uninteresting. Interactions and relationships like this reinforce the beliefs we hold about ourselves. We must recognize the power these outside influences have in shaping our sense of self and understand these reflections are not necessarily true or accurate. By holding onto an image of self that revolves around your belief of how others view you, you give away significant control of your well-being. We tend to give more weight to criticisms and failures, distorting our self-image and damaging our self-worth. By practicing self-love, we can improve our self-image into something more accurate and realistic. Here are a few steps you can take to begin working on your relationship with yourself:
Care for Your Physical Self
Healthy habits form the foundation of self-care. Staying connected and tending to your body’s cues reinforces the fact that you are important and worthy of care. Make sure you’re practicing good sleep habits, nourishing your body with healthy foods, staying active, and taking time to relax. This builds trust with yourself over time- rather than feeling let down your treatment of yourself, you feel confident knowing what your body needs and how to care for it.
Listen to Related Podcast: Normalizing a Healthy Lifestyle: It is easy to fall into and normalize a lifestyle that overlooks healthy habits and often difficult to get on the path to a healthier way of living. In this episode, Kevin Peterson shares his steps to setting up a successful routine that incorporates healthy living into your existing lifestyle and circumstances.
Be Kind to Yourself
We talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else- make sure you’re setting the right tone during these internal conversations. While it’s important to be honest and take responsibility for your mistakes, being overly-critical and judgmental undermines your self-worth. A good question to ask yourself is “Would I allow others to talk to me the way I talk to myself?” Understand that you don’t need to accept the inner critic that compares you to others and evaluates your every move- many times this inner critic was shaped during painful experiences in childhood. Recognize the origin of these overly-critical thoughts and differentiate them from your true thoughts, feelings, and values.
Take Time for Joy
Add meaning to your life by participating in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Instead of aligning yourself with society’s view of success, focus on finding what makes you feel accomplished and satisfied. Look for activities or interests that feel meaningful to you personally- many find volunteering has a positive effect on their self-worth.