I’ve long believed that the most important relationship we have in our lives is the relationship we have with ourselves.
When our relationship with ourselves is poor, that’s when we start to reach out to others in needy, and sometimes codependent ways. We might find ourselves falling into the trap of caretaking others (cos, you know, someone else’s problems are much easier to look at than our own!). We might start behaving towards our loved ones in ways that are irrational or don’t make sense— erupting in anger, shutting down, breaking agreements, running away— or we might start to engage in self-destructive and reckless behaviour (like taking irresponsible sexual risks, substance use, or acts of self-harm).
Let’s face it: even if you were raised with ample love, connection, and support, the world we live in today is one that is not always supportive of you having a great relationship to yourself! The messages we receive about how to measure our self worth are often conflicting. We are told to be independent and bold, and cautioned against ego. We are shamed for sexual activity, yet told that our worth is dependant on our sexual desirability. We are taught that our value in society is relative to how self-sacrificing we are able to be.
Work hard. Socialise. Develop yourself. Push harder. Be present. Show up. Honor your word. Be Perfect and Be Everything For Everyone.
Ooof. That’s a lot of pressure.
Is it any wonder then, that so many of us feel overwhelmed?
When I’m talking with my clients, something that comes up over and over, is how their relationship to themselves is impact the other relationships in their lives.
- The woman whose work stress has left her with little emotional capacity to have difficult conversations with her partner.
- The man who is struggling to take care of his aging parent, his own health, and to keep a roof over his kid’s head.
- The wife who just had a second miscarriage, quit her job, whose marriage is struggling, and whose cat just passed away.
- The Baby-Boomer coming to terms with grief after the death of a loved one, whilst also trying to make new connections in a new community.
- The Millennial working three (or more!) jobs to pay rent, facing renoviction, and desperately trying to maintain their social connections.
- The polyamorous person facing overwhelm because of the stress of interacting with their metamor (their partner’s other partner), whilst also emancipating themselves from a toxic family member, and working to make enough money to afford therapy.
The list is endless.
I’ve had a few times in my life where I’ve hit Overwhelm, and I learned first hand just how devastating an effect that overwhelm space can have on one’s relationships.
That example earlier about the woman who had the miscarriage? That was me, back in 2009. And since then, I’ve focussed intently on learning how to have a healthier relationship with myself.
Self love isn’t the same as self indulgence. It’s about self-recognition. It’s about knowing yourself and loving what you find, even if that’s uncomfortable sometimes. It’s about embracing the mindset that not everything needs to be tolerated and endured, and that asserting boundaries can be a radical act of self-care— no matter how much others may feel your boundaries are unfair to them.
And, there are some things that we do find ourselves needing to tolerate.
Life can be shitty, and we do need to learn how to endure. I have a friend who is a living example of this: he is one of a handful of people in the world who has a very specific and rare pain condition, one for which there is no ‘cure’. The pain is never going to go away, but he has developed a way to have a healthy relationship with it; he has developed resilience. I’ve learned a lot from this friend. He’s taught me that we can’t be comfortable 100% of the time, but that we can work to resource ourselves so we are better equipped for resilience in the face of adversity.
You can start developing resiliency at any time. You can start right now!
Take a breath.
Pause for a moment.
Tune in to your Self. Notice where your face might be tense. Are your toes scrunched up inside your shoes? Are you hungry? Are you tired? What would feel good for you right now? What’s something that you wish someone would give you, that if you got it, would totally make your day? Maybe it’s as simple as a cup of tea. Or time to rest. Or a shoulder rub.
Now, what if you could get that for yourself? Or if you had permission to ask for that for your Self?
Self-Love is a full spectrum experience. Many of us might stick with the obvious physical self care things: food, exercise, and sleep/rest. But we are more than our physical bodies, and we need to engage in self care for our heart, our minds, and our spirits as well.
Spending quality time with people whose company is nourishing (be it your cat, a neighbour’s dog, or a best friend) supports our emotional well-being. Creative expressions, through art or song or dance or writing, gives our minds a space for self-care and nourishment. And for our spirits, we need to discover what gives us pleasure. Can you find pleasure in the touch of a soft fabric, or in the smell of fresh herbs?
There’s so many things we can do for Self Love and Self Care. What will you do for yourself today?