For most of my life, I’ve had a terrible relationship with myself. No matter how hard I tried I’ve constantly felt that I’m not good enough for or worthy of many things and my own thinking has held me back in so many ways. I’ve fought for years against looking at myself in the mirror. I’ve been driven by an unrelentingly critical, negative and ruthless inner voice, expecting that if I could get control of things externally that my self-talk would naturally settle down. Of course, that logic is flawed and the result was that my constant comparison of whom I was against others, the outlandish expectations that I set of myself and for others and the constant anxiety about missing the mark created layer upon layer of guilt and shame that prevented me from being able to build meaningful relationships with other people. My outer façade was hedonistic and connected but in reality, the acquaintances were fragile and inside I was crumbling.
How could I connect with other people when I didn’t even know who I really was? I was forced to face the reality that in order to build relationships with other people, I first needed to fix the relationship I have with myself. It’s not easy admitting that you don’t really know who you are. And it’s even harder reaching and asking for help. It requires more than a reading a few self-help books and listening to one of the hoards of social media marketing “gurus” who sell their services. This requires real work and a commitment to change.
I’m certainly not close to the end of this work just yet, but I’m a long way from where I began. Here are a few things that I started that have helped me to refocus my energy on learning who I am as a person:
Before I open my consciousness to the world and my email inbox, I take 5-10 minutes to meditate and reflect inwardly on my intentions for that day. I use an app called Insight Timer to keep my mind focused.
I then write down 5 things that I’m grateful for, making sure that I’m specific about the detail of why I am grateful for someone or something. Doing this before I allow anything else to distract me in a day helps me to focus on what’s really important in my life.
I could probably do this more often, but at least once a week I look at myself in the eyes in a mirror and remind myself that I love myself. It’s not about my ego. This practice allows me to acknowledge my own soul and at a deeper level, it enables me to accept who I am. Try looking at yourself square in the eyes and telling yourself that you love yourself. It’s sometimes harder than you’d imagine to start doing this, but it is a profound practice.
It’s important to accept that if you don’t change where you’re headed, you’ll end up where you’re going. I had a couple of false starts but I’ve found a coach to work with now that I trust and feel I can be completely honest with. Personal development work with a coach helps you to know and understand yourself at a deeper level than you’re able to go to on your own. In doing so I’m able to focus more on recognising my emotions as they rise up to the surface in challenging situations and how to act as opposed to react. When you’re able to recognize that your old patterns and beliefs no longer support you, you have an opportunity to view and experience life very differently.
I’m learning to not be so hard on myself. Changing my patterns of self-criticism requires me to be present with myself in every moment. I’m learning to acknowledge my strengths, my achievements and the qualities that make me uniquely me, without judgment or comparison.
Our biggest learnings, opportunities and rewards in life are found in our connections with others. Life is, after all, about giving and receiving and without others these transactions are impossible. But it’s important to realize that the relationship we need to nurture first, foremost and most diligently is our own relationship with self. This, I believe, is the key to true joy and happiness. When we have these things we are able to give them away to others, and the world certainly could use a little more joy and happiness.