Our most neglected relationship is often the one we have with ourselves. A healthy relationship with yourself is vital because it is the foundation on which you build all other relationships. Regardless of how you feel about yourself today, you can take steps to grow your relationship with yourself into a kind and caring one, full of self-awareness, self-respect, and self-love.
Your relationship with yourself builds through the internal dialogue continuously running throughout most of our waking moments. This inner voice is the manifestation of the way we feel about ourselves. Sometimes called the "inner critic," the inner voice constantly assesses everything going on around us. All too often, it is a harsh critic, ready to heap scorn, blame, and condemnation almost indiscriminately.
It takes work to silence - or at least mute - the inner critic that has had unfettered control for most of our lives. A healthy relationship with yourself isn't always going to be a perfect one. Here are five practices to help you on the journey.
The inner critic often reminds us of the things we should possess, what we should be doing, or who we should be. Rarely does it allow us to focus on how much we've accomplished, our strengths, and our capabilities. Making note of things you are grateful for trains you to notice the positive things all around you, which helps you see your own value and appreciate yourself more.
Every day, write down three things you are grateful for in life. Others may recommend listing five or more things, but keeping your list small helps keep it focused and real. Limiting your gratitude list to three things does two things:
It helps you focus more on those three things.
If you write a list of ten things, do you really think in depth and appreciate number seven? How much does what you listed for number eight really mean to you?
After a certain number, the list starts to become about meeting the quota rather than focusing on what's important to you. While that can be a great way to notice the small things - and there is value in that, too - it can also detract from focusing on what's really important.
It helps you stay committed to writing the list.
A short, simple list is much easier to complete every day than a long one. Let's face it, some days it can be hard to come up with more than three things to be truly grateful about.
Also, you'll wind up repeating the same five things every time you start to make a list if you are trying to sustain large lists. Most people are grateful for their health, their homes, their family, their dogs, etc., if they have them. These will always wind up on the list.
Cut to the chase. Get to the bare bones of what makes you feel happy and thankful. These are the things that are important to you. Realizing what things you value will help you know yourself better.
Failure. Regret. Guilt. These are difficult and unpleasant bedfellows indeed. These emotions show up when we need to learn from mistakes. Unfortunately, we often give them way too much power, allowing them to blot out the benefits of life experiences and cloud over our future.
Forgiveness is tough for many people. A study by Fetzer Institute revealed that 62 percent of American adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives. You don't have to wait for anyone to grant forgiveness to you. Forgiveness is already yours. You just have to accept it for yourself.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it every day. Going forward, thoughts about past events will arise, unbidden and without warning. You don't have to relive those events or let memories dictate how you feel about yourself. Acknowledge their existence, recognize that you have already learned everything you need to from the experience, and quickly let the thoughts go.
A happy, healthy relationship with yourself begins with forgiveness. Scientists have found that forgiveness even improves physical health. It lowers heart attack risk and cholesterol levels while it improves sleep and reduces pain and stress.
You are growing, learning, and doing new things. Not everything will go smoothly. If you have a bad day, a bad week, a bad year, it is not a determination of how your entire life is going to unfold.
Where you're at in life right now is only your current situation. Once, a long time ago, you were a nervous child just starting school. Once, you were an 18-year-old, knocking on the doors of independence and adulthood. In the future, you will no longer be in the same situation you are now, just as you are no longer that small child or that young teenager.
Your situation doesn't define who you are. It just happens to be where you're at for the moment. You situation changes over time. As the adage goes, this too shall pass. Be patient with yourself during the struggle.
Practicing patience is like practicing forgiveness in the present moment. It allows you to silence the inner critic before it even has the chance to misconstrue one little mistake into a mountain of regret.
Practicing happiness is easier said than done. Once you get the hang of it, you will truly start to like yourself because you will see that you are an enjoyable person.
Happiness is a choice. We can't wait for something else - a person, event, place, or possession - to make us happy. We have to choose to be happy every single day. Sure, moments of pure joy sweep us away in life. They are crests in the ocean of life. We should ride those waves with free abandon.
Daily happiness is much more simple. It's appreciating a cool breeze on a hot day. It's the ability to drop everything and play duck-duck-goose with a group of toddlers. Daily happiness is singing in the car and smiling when you're talking on the phone. Ordinary and calm, daily happiness is what sees us through the choppy waters to the next crest of joy.
To build a better relationship with yourself, you have to get to know yourself better. Journaling, drawing and mind mapping are all ways to have conversations with yourself. As you put pen to paper, ask yourself how you feel and why you feel that way. Ask yourself what you would do if nothing stood in your way. Most importantly, answer yourself honestly, straight from the heart.
The act of writing is cathartic, even if it's just doodling. Huffington Post reported that doodling helps people generate ideas, feel more creative, and stay in the present moment. All of these are great ways to feel connected to your inner self in a positive way.
Mind mapping is a creative way to access what's floating around as disjointed thoughts and emotions inside your brain. By using your imagination, mind mapping gets both hemispheres of the brain working together. Yes, you can be logical and creative, whimsical and serious, smart and silly, all at the same time.
In mind mapping, you start out with a main idea and jot down ideas and thoughts around it like streets and avenues on a city map. You don't have to compose long sentences and investigate complete thoughts. One- or two-word phrases are perfect.
The same goes for journaling or drawing. You're not turning your work in for grades or trying to earn a prize. Forget about the rules. Throw yourself into it with reckless abandon.
All of these tools reveal a fuller picture of your whole self. The more you practice, the more that self will become someone you truly love, respect and enjoy.
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