How to build a healthy relationship with yourself?

You have heard a million times that the most important relationship is the one with yourself. But when you're always looking to others for reassurance, then what does love yourself first even mean?

Just like you can't tell yourself to fall in love with someone else, you can't dictate your relationship with yourself either. You have to build and nurture it step-by-step.

Often people become so fixated on things they don't like about themselves that they start setting these arbitrary rules that when they will achieve so and so, they will be happier - when they will be their ideal body weight, they will be happier. When they have a kid, they will be happier - making it conditional on some changes in your life first. But if you're waiting to like yourself till a certain point, then you will be waiting forever. So let's start clearing this jumble of self acceptance, love, growth and improvement, etc.

When it comes to building your relationship with yourself, there are four steps.

Self Exploration

The first step is self exploration and discovery. For example, most people love bacon and what's not to love? Great taste, amazing smell and wonderful crispiness. Almost everyone loves it, except me! It goes back to my grad school days, where I was working in cafeteria part-time. I was running the register, which was right next to the grill. I would smell that bacon being grilled 20 hours a week. I loved it initially, but after a few weeks and months there smell started to get to me.

Now does this understanding of why I don't like bacon has any significance in the bigger scheme of my life? Not really. But when someone remembers that I don't like bacon or why I don't like it, I feel special and I feel cared for. And that wouldn't be possible if I didn't have that understanding about myself, or if I weren't able to share that with them.

Another example is that finances can stress out some people, even when they have enough money, and often it's rooted in the financial difficulties that they had at some point in their life.

Understanding this about yourself is where you really start seeing yourself, and as you continue this journey, you'll start to identify how these things are playing out in your life today. You'll start to understand what kind of friendships and relationships are you attracted to, and what do you want in those relationships.

You'll also start to understand how these things impact your choices in life. For example, most people choose careers and develop passions into things that they were exposed to early in their life. Perhaps you love sports you grew up playing with your parents, or watching with your dad on sundays. But all of this starts with you starting to discover yourself, without judgment and criticism.

This first step is all about exploring and seeing yourself in all the complexities of who you are, not fixing the broken parts of you.


All relationships are a reflection of your relationship with yourself.
Deepak Chopra

Self acceptance

As you start to understand yourself better, it's time to start accepting yourself.

There was a time in my dear friend Alison's life when she was feeling helpless because she would get really anxious around people, even her well known friends. Over time, her social anxiety started to get so bad that she started avoiding going out, which in turn led to her becoming more and more isolated.

But the worst thing was that she was blaming herself for all that. She looked at herself as broken or fractured because her anxiety was crippling her. I suggested her to start journaling to help her process the underlying reasons for why she was avoiding her friends. Not just that she felt anxious, but why she felt anxious. It was then that she started understanding how she felt judged by her so-called friends.

She felt unwelcomed and had to walk on eggshells because they would talk behind her back. Now this understanding did make her feel more comfortable to hang out with her friends, but it helped her understand the context of her anxiety.

It became easier for her to accept her avoidance of this group of people, without criticizing herself, that eventually led to her feeling more confident and in building new connections and friendships where she felt more accepted and loved for just the way she was. And this is exactly where understanding how you came to be, the person you are today, comes in handy.

Self love

And as you start taking more and more steps towards this self acceptance, you eventually get to the point where you start to fall in love with yourself.

I'm the kind of person who needs intellectual stimulation. Having deep, meaningful conversation is something that's very important to me, but it's also my shortcoming in relationships. After having a couple of failed relationships because of this, I started thinking that I'm the kind of person that gets bored easily, but I couldn't understand why that only happened in some friendships and relationships, and not all of them.

Through self-reflection and awareness practice, I started recognizing that it wasn't me getting bored, but was rather about emotional compatibility. I understood myself better and I accepted myself, but was I loving that side of me yet? Of course not, and it took me a while to bridge this gap between self acceptance and love. The difference was in me realizing that my needs were only holding me back when I was forcing myself to change, and fit into sudden kind of relationships.

As I continued to embrace who I am, I started meeting and connecting more with people who are like me. That need for meaningful conversation started being the thing that helped me stronger and deeper bonds with them. What I considered a shortcoming for most of my life was actually my strength. I only needed to embrace it a little.

Self-love is about losing the judgmental view that you need to be flawless to be loved for who you are. It's like being in love with someone, even when you know that they are not perfect. Being in love doesn't mean that you have to be blind, but it simply means that you still love them and all the positive things that they bring to your life, despite having some shortcomings or weird quirks.

And that's exactly how you should love yourself as well.

Self Growth

The real self growth can only come from the foundation of self-love, not hatred. You really need only three things:

  1. A clearly defined goal: knowing what is it that you are seeking and why you are seeking that.
  2. Taking one step at a time, because that's all that's really in your control, just make sure that your step is in the right direction
  3. Patience because there's a long process and not a smooth one, which is exactly why having their self acceptance and love is so important. Without that, you're going to be desperate about fixing things that make you broken, and desperation is the opposite of patience.

For example, often people try to find their way to fitness by hating their body, working out, eating healthy, keeping bad temptations in check are all difficult choices that you have to make over and over again. It is an investment. How are you going to invest in something that you hate?

It might seem like your hatred for your body will motivate you, and might for a day or two, until you start to become stressed out, only to fall back into your old patterns. People often attribute such failures to a lack of discipline, when the truth is that they could have never succeeded in the first place. The foundation of their self growth wasn't rooted in self-love but rather self-loathing and hatred.


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