Relationship with Self

January 23, 2018
Antonia Clews

What’s the most significant relationship in your life?
It’s the relationship you have with yourself.

We have a continuous and inescapable relationship with our self. And it’s the most fundamental relationship in our adult life. But our relationship with our self can flux and suffer. It needs appreciation, attention and investment like any other.

The self is our personal experience of our aliveness in the world. Our relationship with how we experience our living of life, our beingness.
Our ‘simple self’ is our essential capacity to enjoy being our self as is. This is our inherent value and worth, contribution and connectedness in the world. We don’t have to be any other way.

We often spend time thinking about and investing in relationships between us and others because we tend to focus on them as the source of connection and meaning; meeting our vital needs for belonging, love, recognition, value: and so a source of esteem, worth, confidence.

We seek and internalise the responses of others, feeling these about our self as if we are looking into mirrors. One of our layers over ‘simple’ self are strategic adopted behaviours, to get our needs met and to see ourselves positively reflected; to please and meet others’ expectations. Even when these are un-acknowledged old parental messages or cultural conformities, they drive us to project our self and see ourselves in certain ways. The way we stand in front of a mirror and scrutinise our reflection; examining the flaws or trying to improve our appearance.

Relationships with others cannot give us everything we need and if we become overly focused on others – external verification – we create a co-dependency, risk losing our sense of self and ironically our self-esteem and self-worth. We can internalise negative as well as positive feedback which may start to create internal fragility and over-sensitivity; self-doubting seeds are sown and with rumination, root and fester. We can begin to dislike and judge who we are, directing feelings of disappointment, frustration, failure, towards our self; inwardly attacking, and so a cycle becomes entrenched as our capacity to feel a sense of ease in the experience of our self living becomes diminished. We begin to feel heavy.

Do you think it’s other people, events that are affecting how you feel about yourself? That’s where your own relationship with yourself needs some attention. Our offended sensitivities are not others’ offence. They are our own sensitivities.

When you feel like you’ve let yourself down, made mistakes or not done something as well as you could have and you tell yourself you weren’t good enough, aren’t good enough, beat yourself up, put yourself down, tell yourself you are lazy or unloveable, you are judging and criticising yourself. Usually more harshly than you would any other person you have a relationship with.

This is the time to question how you are relating to yourself.

Instead of judging and criticising yourself, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when discomforted by your hurt and pain and confronted with your human inadequacies and imperfections, even if others show them up to you. We are our own critic but also our own parent, child, partner, friend, confidant. Be kind to yourself. This may sounds trite, but it’s the most empowering and healing thing you can do in service to your self, for your self. Kindness is the essential quality of any positive relationship. Kindness incorporates aspects of empathy, consideration, non-judgement, generosity. To be kind is to be gentle.

Being gentle within our self, to our self establishes a peaceful core. A peaceful centre creates stability which is less susceptible to interference and less fragile because it seeks and needs less as it is already resourced.

It’s worth noting that when we are in a positive relationship with our self we are not consumed by thinking about our self. We are more present and focused on being as is. Being in the moment, being in relationship with others without expectation, open to what is around us, less guarded, defensive, sensitive and prickly. With more ease in our self, we feel life is easier and we are easier to others. We naturally have self-worth, self-value, self-respect, self-trust, self-esteem. Kindness to our self lets us be ok as we are.

Self-confidence is the quiet place of being comfortable with simple. We have self-confidence when we have self-compassion.

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