Relationships are one of the most amazing aspects of being human. Families, friends and intimate partners have the potential to provide the soulful sustenance we need to feel secure, connected and loved.
With as much energy people put into how to have the best relationships with others they can have – an important question can get overlooked:
What's your relationship like with yourself?
A follow-up question to consider is:
How can you fully love another and be open to being loved by them – if you do not love yourself?
Many people feel secure with themselves, believing they deserve love and have much to give. Others are filled with doubt about their worth and lovability, sometimes also inhibiting their ability to receive love. Your relationship with yourself is important in and of itself - but it's equally important to the quality of relationships you have with the important people in your life.
If you're not quite sure how to analyze yourself this way, let's explore a few things that might inhibit a loving relationship with yourself. The following are possible indicators you might benefit from a little self-care in this area – and ideas about how to do that.
Poor self-esteem. If you experience a lot of self doubt, it's possible you attract others who believe the same thing about themselves. Those who are insecure often bond with others who are insecure and dysfunctional relationship dances can ensue. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are helpful to disrupt unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns.
• Identify your triggers to feeling badly about yourself
• Notice the self-talk that follows and analyze your interpretation of the events.
• Challenge negative and inaccurate thinking.
Old, unhealed wounds from the past. My therapy practice (and life experience) has demonstrated to me that there are many people struggling with their lives in the present because of things that have occurred in the past. The way people are in relationships is often reflective of prior relationship and family of origin wounds. Being stuck in this way can negatively impact the relationship to yourself in ways that might look like substance abuse, self harm, depression, anxiety, codependence, patterns of abusive relationships, etc. Identifying your unhelpful core beliefs can be one way to start to understand what this is about.
• Identify your emotional triggers. (e.g. "My friend canceled our dinner plans.")
• Label how you experienced each of the emotional triggers. (e.g. "I felt angry when she canceled on me.")
• Identify what you perceive this to mean about you. (e.g. "I'm not important.")
•Look for possible sources of your belief systems. (Are there times in your past, particularly during childhood, when you didn’t feel important?)
•Listen internally for confirmation. (Sit with the thought and notice what comes up. Any emotions, physical sensations or other messages? )
•Journal, talk to a friend, therapist or other support.
If you aspire to have fulfilling relationships in your life, it's important to consider perhaps the most important relationship of all, with yourself! It's perfectly acceptable to shift your focus away from others long enough to get right with this. You deserve it – and the lasting implications of developing positive self-regard will not only trickle down into your soul, but touch those in your life who are the most important to you. It might also provide clarity around who deserves your time, effort and attention – and who does not.
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is a writer and creator of one of the original therapist-created resource websites. The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com provides tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health by Lisa and other therapy, counseling and coaching professionals.