The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. Sure, you've heard that from countless articles and books and Sex and the City plot lines. Sure, it seems true, but you may not know exactly how or why. The reality is that the way we perceive other people has almost everything to do with how we perceive ourselves. We are our only frame of reference. The only context we have to work with is the one we experience each day. Traits, behaviors, motives, and obsessions that we haven't personally experienced are completely foreign to our brains. We literally cannot comprehend them in other people unless we have experienced traces of them ourselves. This is why working on our relationship with ourselves is so crucial: the way we love ourselves is the way we will know how to love other people. The way we hate ourselves is how our issues in relationships will manifest most often.
Working on your relationship with yourself is the only thing you need to do to change your life. If you are conscious of what it is you want in your life, yet you're struggling to achieve it or feeling resistant to it or self-sabotaging; if there's something you want in your life but it's just not coming and you're constantly feeling lesser-than and without and as though you're suffering, the problem is not how you can best manipulate the world around you to align with your needs. It is your thoughts, and then your feelings, and then your choices that need to shift instead. Everything else will follow suit.
Of course, even if all of this seems like "no, duh" to you, everyone struggles with the how. How to like yourself enough or how to choose to cope with your life in a healthy way. These things are really difficult. In fact, it is some of the hardest work that has to be done, and everyone has to do it, which is just another way to say: you're not alone. The truth is that you will have to work on your relationship with yourself for the rest of your life. It will be constantly evolving. Here are a few tips that can aide you in the process.
Listen To Yourself
I'm sure you glanced by that and thought "yeah, yeah" as though it's advice you've heard a thousand times (it probably is). But hear it again. Listen to yourself. If something makes you uncomfortable, figure out why. If you are in pain in any way, that means something is not right. That "something" could be a choice to change your life (a new job, a different partner) but most often, it's a shift in how you see yourself and what you focus on most. Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself.
Identify The Root Of Problems
If you struggle with low self-esteem, imagine the first time you felt ashamed of yourself. Who made you feel that way? Why? Trace the lineage of the problem all the way back to where it started. This is the only way you can truly rectify it. Once you know where it began, you can realize that you perhaps adopted the wrong idea about yourself based on what you thought was true in the moment. Inform your "child self" of what's true now. Validate them. It will change your life in ways you can't imagine.
Take Care Of Yourself In The Practical Ways
If you're able to, go for wellness checks. Make dentist appointments (yuck, I know — important, though). If you need to sleep and choosing sleep over work will not result in your immediate termination, go to sleep. Eat well and often. Wear weather appropriate clothes. Wear shoes you can walk in (or at least, that you're comfortable in). Go out of your way to talk and connect with people who matter and make you feel loved. Save some money. Have your own back before you expect anyone else to.
Practice Identifying Your Feelings
When you know what they are, they're not scary anymore. When you know that you get headaches when you don't drink enough water, it becomes a quick fix, rather than a two day dragged out nightmare. Practice listening to yourself, and trusting what you're told.
Stand Up For Yourself More Often
If someone is out to make you feel lesser-than, you're not going to change their mind. In fact, any kind of retaliation will probably make the problem worse. I'm not telling you to stand up for yourself because it's what's going to smooth the situation over well. I'm telling you to do it because you need to do it for you. You won't start a war to saying: "I don't appreciate you speaking about me in this way, thank you very much," but you will reinforce a kind of self-empowerment that most people never develop in the first place.
Be Honest About What You Think — At Least With Yourself
So we all know that we can't be unconditionally honest no matter what. We have to reserve our politeness so as to ensure we stay in good standing at work and don't destroy a friendship over a tiff, if you get what I mean. But just because you can't always speak your entire truth does not mean that you don't have to consciously acknowledge what it is.
Have A Plan
Know what you'd do in the event of a breakup, a job loss, the freaking apocalypse. Have a savings account, an escape already planned. The "just in case" will become the case eventually — that's just life. It's not a matter of whether or not things will go wrong, but whether or not you'll know how to cope with it when it does. This is not something you wake up having mastered, it's a function of your relationship with yourself. It's something you develop, and something you can start working on now.
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