Healthy and loving relationships with others are one of the most important components of a satisfying and healthy life. A variety of relationships bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. In fact, healthy relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners top the list of influential factors of individual’s overall happiness and life satisfaction. Many adults deem the relationship with their romantic partner or spouse as the most important and intimate in their lives and hold other relationships such as the ones with close friends and family in high regard. Romantic or platonic, our personal interactions and relationships with others start by how we see and treat ourselves.
Interestingly enough, the relationship that is the most important is the one that is most often misunderstood, overlooked, or forgotten about. This is the relationship we have with ourselves. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with self is the first step in having one with anyone else. Loving and accepting ourselves is the foundation of developing healthy relationships with others. Its also one of the most difficult to understand and maintain. However, the outcome is undeniably worth the effort.
The initial hurdle of developing and fostering a healthy relationship internally is conceptualizing and understanding what one looks like. Developing a positive relationship with yourself starts with increasing self awareness and ultimately getting to know who you are and want you want. Ironically, getting to know yourself and your own wants and needs can be very difficult. Identifying personal interests and clarifying personal goals can be confusing and at times conflated with what others want for us. Taking moments to stop and focus on your thoughts and emotions can help build self awareness which enables the identification of personal desires. Consider yourself often by assessing your personal strengths and weaknesses. Afterwards, work towards completely and radically accepting both. Be patient and loving to yourself by treating yourself and like you would a close friend. Just like you wouldn’t talk badly about someone you love, try to stop your own negative self talk and notice your emotions when it starts to happen.
When I begin the therapeutic process with a new client, I usually start by asking about personal goals and desires for the future. I spend time assisting clients with identifying what they really want (not what others want for them) and what they don’t want. I find that spending time with developing a stronger sense of self and developing self care skills enhances the ability of improving relationship and meeting personal goals. After gaining a higher level of self awareness and self expression, many people find that they are able to stand in their own strength, clarify their identity, gain self confidence, and increase effective emotional expression. These results tend to yield improvement within relationships because loved ones also gain a greater understanding of that person, their needs, and learn ways to meet them.
Our hectic lives and vast responsibilities can easily take priority over personal care and self consideration. Prioritize yourself. When we stop taking care of ourselves, we are unable to sufficiently take care of anything or anyone else. Self care can come in many forms like ensuring physical health and healthy habits, engaging in enjoyable activities, and expressing our true emotions to the ones we love.
To assist with enhancing your relationship with yourself, I am including Virginia Satir’s “Five Freedoms.” Satir was a very influential family therapist who believed that caring and acceptance were key elements in helping people face their fears and open up their hearts to others. I challenge you to explore these freedoms and utilize them within your own life.
Virginia Satir’s Five Freedoms:
The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what “should” be.
The freedom to say what you think, instead of what you “should” think.
The freedom to feel what you feel instead of what you “ought” to feel.
The freedom to ask for what you want instead of always waiting for permission.
The freedom to take to take risks on own your own behalf instead of choosing of only to be secure.
What do you think about the Five Freedoms and their influence on self love? How did you develop a healthy relationship with yourself and what steps do you take to ensure its maintained?