This Is a Story About Self-Love:
I Was Trapped in a Decades-Long Relationship That Needed to End
It was a relationship I couldn’t muster up the courage to walk away from. By all measures, it wasn’t good. At times it was just lackluster, but at other times it was excruciating.
The relationship was characterized by all sorts of negotiating and begging and judging and criticizing. Then there were days when I was drenched in anger and hate. Other days there was more compassion, but no matter how hard I tried, the dots never seemed to connect the way they should … it was simply not the way a loving relationship should be.
Every day was a struggle. The only moments I didn’t struggle was when I was escaping, running to things that would soothe me … in my case, that was usually high fat, sugary food. I had other coping mechanisms too, including excessive spending or sleeping. I even dabbled in zoned-out fantasizing to distract me from my utter dissatisfaction with the relationship.
It wasn’t working. It really, really wasn’t working. Worse, it was impacting every single aspect of my life. My job. My relationships with friends. My ability to have any sense of passion or purpose or direction in life.
It was so confusing. I was so conflicted. And all of this was because of this one relationship … this one lousy, lousy relationship.
I Just Knew My Life Could Be Better, But I Wasn’t Sure How
If I could make the relationship more loving, I knew it would make all the difference in the world. But it wasn’t loving. It wasn’t kind. And it definitely wasn’t working out.
After years and years and years of going down the same road the same way, I knew something had to change, though I really didn’t know how I was going to make a change. Still, this couldn’t go on. The pain of staying in the relationship as it was, was far too great. I had to find a way to begin again. It was time to start over.
So, here I am in the middle of my life in a brand new relationship. This time, it’s going to be different.
The relationship is with me. And, that’s why I can’t just walk away.
Here’s What I’ve Learned About Having a Happy and Loving Relationship with Yourself
We make a lot of choices in our lives. We take on a lot of habits that we think will protect us and make our lives easier. We use our experiences to come up with our own list of “rules” of how life works and we play by those rules, even if we’re not always aware of the games we’re playing.
Then one day, some of us look at our lives as say “What the hell have I done?” Well, that was me anyway.
Some life-defining decisions are made when we’re very small children who didn’t have the full capacity to analyze situations and understand what was actually going on.
I came out of childhood believing it was best to be very hard on myself. I believed it was very important to seek approval and validation from others. I learned to set low expectations for my life, but to work very, very hard anyway.
Without realizing it, I also adopted the self-limiting belief that it was okay to be mean to myself. It never occurred to me that the relationship I was forming with myself was shaping all my relationships with others, too. Man, what a mess I was!
Deep Down, You Know What Real Love Looks and Feels Like. The Secret Is Choosing to Give Yourself that Love.
I believe each of us is born into this world with a full comprehension of what divine love looks and feels like. We understand the beauty of what’s possible because we know we came from love.
Yet, little by little, we lose our memory of that love and instead instinctively seek the best versions of human love that we can find. We learn about the “rules” of human love from the people who are around us, usually our close family.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see how absurd many of those “rules of love” were and it is not at all surprising that I was ill-equipped to form the kind of self-love that I needed to navigate my life.
Today, I look back on my developing understanding of self-love with a new understanding. What if the lesson I was brought here to learn (and possibly teach) was the importance of self-love? And, what if it took me this long to accumulate all the experiences I needed to understand what I needed to understand? Then those experiences I went through were not in vain. They had a purpose.
Maybe there’s a purpose to your struggle in your relationship with yourself, too. Maybe you’re here to rise to the next level and this is your moment in time to do so. It didn’t happen for me earlier because I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now. It didn’t happen for you before because you weren’t ready. Now you’re ready.
Self-Love Lessons: 7 Steps to a Happier, More Loving Relationship with Yourself
1. Keep Your Word to Yourself.
In Miguel Ruiz’s best-selling book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), Ruiz lists four agreements you need to enter into in order to live a better life. The first is “Be impeccable with your word.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found it easier to keep my word to others than to keep my word to myself. That’s a mistake. When you tell yourself you’re going to do something for yourself, start doing it (if you need help, read: How to Start Keeping Promises to Yourself). You are every bit as important as the other people in your life to whom you always keep your word.
2. Self-Discipline Is Really All About Self-Care.
You don’t think twice about brushing your teeth every day, do you? You know that failure to do so would have ugly consequences in your life. The same goes for bathing. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
You already practice self-discipline in many areas of your life. Yet, there are probably at least a few areas where you’re dodging stepping up to the plate to commit to action. Examples of where many of us fall down: Healthy diet and exercise. Taking time to relax. Improving discipline with managing money. Budgeting our time wisely. Again, you get the picture.
Think for a moment about your life and where you’d benefit from being more self-disciplined. Your relationship with yourself will be infinitely better if you identify what you want and commit to the self-discipline required to get it.
Recommended resource: Daily Self-Discipline: Everyday Habits and Exercises to Build Self-Discipline and Achieve Your Goals by Martin Meadows
3. Trust Your Instincts. Listen to Your Intuition.
Your inner compass wants the best for you so it’s time to start listening to your higher self. The benefits of hearing and heeding that inner voice that’s directing you to your best life is priceless.
Sonia Choquette, considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on the subject of human intuition, offers 4 things you can do to activate your intuition.
Recommended resources from Sonia Choquette: Your 3 Best Super Powers and Your Heart’s Desire: Instructions for Creating the Life You Really Want.
4. Practice Compassionate and Self-Affirming Self-Talk.
If you’re like me, your inner voice doesn’t always offer kind and compassionate feedback. In fact, my inner dialogue when I used to discuss me was downright mean. I would never talk to someone else that way, I’m amazed I was so self-critical for so years and never realized the damage I was doing.
It’s time to stop berating yourself. Loving relationships are built on honest yet loving dialogue; that’s true for your relationships with others, and it’s just as true with the relationship you have with yourself!
Louise Hay is hands-down the Queen of ideas when it comes to letting go of critical inner voices and nurturing yourself with uplifting messages. If this is an area that you know you need to improve on, considering getting The Essential Louise Hay Collection (3 of her best books – You Can Heal Your life, You Can heal Your Body, and The Power is Within You — for less than $20!).
5. Celebrate the Body Temple and Care for It with Reverence.
Oh boy, do I have a long way to go on this path. I know I’m not alone, either.
I’ve been mistreating my body with inadequate exercise and poor nutrition for as long as I can remember. Instead of appreciating my body for the wonderful things it does for me, I admonish it for not being in the pleasing shape I want it to be in … which is ironic since I’m responsible for its round shape.
I’ve ignored my body’s plea for better nutrition and self-medicated with junk that isn’t fit fuel for anything. I’ve sat on the couch far too often when taking a walk would have nurtured both my body and spirit.
When you’re in a relationship with another person and they do wonderful things for you, you show appreciation, right? Well, you’re in a relationship with your body. I’m not expecting you or me or anyone else to change our entire relationship with our bodies overnight. Instead, I just encourage you to start looking at your body and appreciating it for all it does for you.
6. Stop Wasting Your Energy on Things that Don’t Matter.
What’s most important to you in life? I can tell you that the best way to know this is to think about the very last day of your life. That’s a time when what matters most comes into crystal-clear focus.
In Bronnie Ware’s book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, here’s what she says are the things most people wish they would have done:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had let myself be happier
It’s time to stop giving so much attention to the issues, people, and things that simply don’t matter that much to you in the grand scheme of your life.
Don’t wait until the end of your life to figure out what’s most important to you. Decide right now and then make sure your thoughts, words, and behaviors all line up to serve the people and priorities that you know matter most to you.
Recommended resource: The Four Things That Matter Most – 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living by Ira Byock
7. Remember, Your Actions Speak Louder than Anything Else.
All the talk in the world isn’t worth a hill of beans if your actions don’t back it up.
You can say you love yourself, but if you’re regularly engaged in activities that rob you of energy, steal your passion, diminish your happiness, cause you unnecessary stress, or just leave you feeling flat-out awful, then you’re not in a loving relationship with yourself.
It’s time to start making life-affirming and self-loving choices, my friend.
Go Out Start Practicing Self-Love Every Day!
Remember this song that Whitney Houston made famous? I never really understood it before now, but it holds far more meaning for me today.
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Excerpt from Lyrics to The Greatest Love of All
Written by Linda Creed, Michael Masser
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group
For me, this isn’t a random blog post. It’s a map … a dialogue … a lifeline. It’s a new way to view myself and while I’m a little scared to go on this journey, I know my soul is longing for me to do just that.
The relationship you have with yourself ultimately determines the quality of every other relationship you have in your life. Yes, it’s that important.
I’m thrilled that you too have received the wake-up call to embark upon your own journey of self-love and self-respect, and I know we can support each other along the way. This is a new day for us. Let’s get going, shall we?