“All relationship is a reflection of your relationship with yourself” – Deepak Chopra
Throughout January at Babyproof HQ we’ve been exploring the value of relationships in your life – why you need them to help you progress, how listening is a vital skill in forming and maintaining them– and how you need to learn to ask for what you want in order to get the most from them.
This week, we’re honing in on the most important relationship in your life; the one that you really can’t shake off – the one that is with you from cradle to grave, through success and adversity, through good times and bad. That is, of course, your relationship with yourself.
Focusing on this special relationship with yourself to boost your relationships with others may seem like topsy-turvy thinking. Surely the way to have good relationships is to concentrate on others’ needs and feelings; to look outwards instead of inwards, to view things from another perspective and see the bigger picture?
And of course – that’s partly right! Understanding and appreciating others’ wants and emotions is key to building and maintaining bonds with them. But prioritising your relationship with yourself is not about selfishness, insularity or narcissism. It’s about recognising that you are the commonality in all your interactions throughout your life. It’s about acknowledging that how you connect with and feel about yourself has an impact on all these interactions. Your inner self is not a neutral presence that can be forgotten about or ignored when you interact with others – it is affecting whether those interactions are good or bad, negative or positive, dynamic or hesitant. How you act in your wider relationships, then, is a reflection of the relationship that you have cultivated (or failed to cultivate) within yourself.
Think for a moment about your external relationships. You will have family relationships, partners and close friends, colleagues and acquaintances. How do you feel about all these different relationships? Are there some where you feel frustration, insecurity, or imbalance for example? All too often when we think about the parts of our relationships that aren’t ideal, we just blame our (or the other person’s!) innate personalities. Perhaps we think of ourselves as introverts and others as extroverts to excuse our reticence or someone else’s overbearing behaviour. But think deeper. This isn’t a question of character traits or personality. It’s a question of how we feel about ourselves. If we have a very negative internal narrative – this is projected onto our relationships. If we dislike and undervalue ourselves, we reflect this to those around us. If we feel undeserving of our own love and respect – we may well subconsciously demonstrate to others that we aren’t worthy of theirs.
So before you can start thinking of improving your relationships with others, take a long, hard look at yourself. This is not a blame game. Understand that in order to have equal and balanced interactions with others, you need to look into yourself, connect with the essence of who you are and what makes you tick, (have a look at my blog on finding your ‘why’ here) and have an objective and unbiased appraisal of yourself. This is not about self-love, or self-hatred – it’s about self-acceptance. Think of your inner self as you would another close relationship. Our close relationships are with people we want to value, nurture, protect, respect, love, forgive and encourage. We need to see our relationships with ourselves in the same way.
Here’s how to start unlocking the value in your relationship with yourself:
1. Look after yourself.
Self-care is such a buzz-word these days, but it’s not just some fluffy self-indulgence designed to sell scented candles and yoga mats. Spending quality time on your own health and happiness is the key to avoiding burnout and overwhelm. The better you feel, the better you perform, and the more positive you are in your external interactions. If you care about yourself, physically and mentally, you are subconsciously inviting others to care about you too.
2. Believe in yourself.
A negative relationship with yourself is often based on limiting belief systems you may have had since childhood or have learned through your background or experiences. Understand that you can change this. Retrain your brain by challenging those beliefs. Explore their origins, think about your confirmation bias, research alternative viewpoints. Use your cognitive abilities to argue against your primitive brain’s responses. Tell yourself a different personal story – and repeat it – daily. The more you do this, the more your brain will adapt to this new story. The more positive you begin to feel about yourself as a result, the more authentically positive you will become in your interactions with others.
3. Gain some perspective.
The hardest thing about properly understanding your inner self, is your inability to be objective. How do you get past the tangle of experiences, beliefs and emotions in your head to have an unbiased view of yourself? Jump into someone’s else’s viewpoint for a while. Think about someone who loves you and is close to you. What do they think about you? How do they see you? How does this differ from how you see yourself? Looking at yourself from this perspective may help you form a more accurate picture and a more realistic relationship with yourself. When you can look at yourself calmly and objectively, you are likely to be kinder, more forgiving and more respectful of yourself.
Tune into this week’s podcast #45 for more tips on how to nurture that most of important of relationships – and pop over to our Having it all Facebook group to let me know your thoughts and to chat to like-minded women. If you’re interested in signing up to my Having it all coaching programme, email me at Caroline@babyproofyoulife.com