I don’t spend much time thinking about the quality of the relationship I have with myself. I’m just there.
I don’t think I’m uncommon. We’re not taught to spend time on the relationship with have with ourselves, to analyze and improve it. Which is strange, when you consider its duration.
Too many of us are not our own best friends. We treat ourselves poorly at worst and as an afterthought at best. We need to do better. We will never have another relationship that is as close or intimate. And, a better relationship with yourself improves your relationship with other people. So, seeking better is a win-win.
The fact that I don’t reflect on the relationship I have with myself is odd when you consider how I spend my days. I read about self-love and self-care and depression and mental health and philosophy and eating disorders. I implement procedural changes but I don’t spend an equal amount of time thinking about the way I think nor do I work on changing my fundamental beliefs. And f you don’t attack them at the root, they keep sending up shoots.
I take the relationship with myself for granted. Sometimes it’s okay. There are times when I don’t think nasty thoughts. There are times when I don’t hurt myself. There are times when I treat myself well. Then there are the other days; the times when the relationship becomes downright abusive.
I try to mitigate the abuse when I become aware but again, it’s primarily through behavioural changes. I haven’t really worked on addressing the nature of the relationship itself. It doesn’t feel urgent. I don’t feel the same kind of pressure to make the relationship and good and healthy one. After all, it’s not like I can leave myself if the relationship is going badly. Where would I go?
I spend time on the relationships I have with other people. It’s a conscious effort. I work hard on being a good friend. I maintain contact, I listen to what they have to say, I remember the important things, I follow up in times of trouble. I try and treat them well. I’m not one of those people who expect relationships to be effort-free.
Except, apparently, the one I have with myself.
I should attend to it more. It’s important. A recent comment made on a previous post summed it up very well:
“no one is going to be with me forever other than me (body, mind, soul). That is a fact. So, I better take better care of myself. This is not selfish as long as [I] don’t take care of [myself] at the expense of others.” –Betal Erbasi
The problem is architectural. I built a house with damaged material. Instead of committing myself to structural repairs, I use behavioural changes to mitigate and shore up cracks. It’s like putting out a bucket for a leak. It’s a temporary fix, but the underlying problem remains.
I think some part of me hoped the relationship would change naturally, that I’d automatically become more of a friend to myself as I work on my neuroses. I think part of me hoped my thinking would naturally evolve and improve. That I would simply be able to write over the bad code without actually looking at it and making deep edits. This is not the case. If I correct the thoughts without chasing them back to their point of origin and looking at that, the problems will continue to recur.
My external behaviours are improving overall so the work has been partially effective. But it will remain unnatural and work until I start addressing the core beliefs. I just don’t like to go there. It’s dark and ugly and uncomfortable and sad. It will be hard work.
Danger, Will Robinson. Hard work and difficult times lie ahead. Still, it will probably be worth it, at least when I come out on the other side. When you dislike yourself, when you are fundamentally dissatisfied, your ability to enjoy your life is diminished.
How to improve your relationship with yourself.
1. Value yourself. Embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Own who you are and learn to accept it. Better, learn to like it. Let go of dual standards: the ones you apply to yourself versus the ones you apply to others.
2. Embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Let go of the need for perfection; do things your way and congratulate yourself on being authentic.Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Get comfortable with things being messy. Life is not a clean and tidy business.Be real with yourself. Listen to your circle. Hear the things they tell you about yourself. Own your strengths – stop self-deprecating and practicing false modesty.
3. Take care of your needs. You cannot address things like love, belonging, self-esteem, and fundamental beliefs if your basic needs for physical and psychological safety are not being met. [Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs] * Take care of the body first, make yourself healthy and safe. Then move on.
4. Make time for happiness. The things that bring you joy and contentment are good things; prioritize them. Would you want a friendship with someone who always put you last and didn’t care about what you like or makes you happy?
5. Make time for yourself. You can’t be a friend to someone who’s never there. How can you hope to understand and appreciate yourself if you never spend time with yourself, getting to know you? Get to know yourself intimately, all the bits and pieces. Journaling and meditation can definitely help with this. The latter is particularly helpful in developing an open-minded and compassionate outlook, which is a good quality for a friend to have.
6. Boundaries. Yes, it always comes back to them. You can develop a better relationship with yourself if you respect yourself. Having and enforcing boundaries is a big part of that.
7. Accept failures. Failure is not the end of the world and it doesn’t say anything at all about your worth as a person. It’s okay to fail. It’s also inevitable so accept that reality. You are not now, nor have you ever been, nor will you ever be perfect.
8. Volunteer. Like boundaries, it comes up a lot when you list things that contribute to feeling good about yourself as a human being. We’re better friends when we feel good ourselves. Altruism is definitely a winning choice.
Do you have a good relationship with yourself?