Having a positive and loving relationship with yourself can be a difficult task. As Carrie Bradshaw once said in Sex and the City, “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”
We are bombarded every day with negative messages and the pressure to be a certain version of yourself can be massive. Though, if you accept and love yourself for who you are, you will find greater happiness and have better relationships with those around you.
As with any relationship we have, the relationship we have with ourself takes work and commitment. There will always be outside and inside influences looking to erode the foundation of that relationship. The key is to focus on the positive and believe in yourself. Easier said than done, right? The good news is there are little things we can do every day to build a better relationship with ourselves. Here are a few things to get started:
Listen to How You are Speaking to Yourself
How you speak to yourself matters. If you are constantly putting yourself down and negatively speaking to yourself, it can dramatically affect your mental and sometimes physical state. It is also one of the biggest obstructions to having a positive relationship with yourself. Studies have shown that negative self-talk is linked to higher stress levels, lower levels of self-esteem, and in some cases, depression.
So how do we break the habit of negative self-talk? The first step is acknowledgment. Start to pay attention to how you speak to yourself during the day. Are you constantly putting yourself down? Critiquing your body? Feeling like you’re not enough? As you start to recognize the pattern of dialogue, you can start making positive changes. Consider the conversation you have with yourself to be one you may have with a friend. If your friend came to you with a problem, would you put her down or build her up with positive thinking and solutions?
Once you recognize negative self-talk you can learn to ignore it. As featured in Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Steven Hayes, Ph.D., recommends likening negative thoughts to “unruly passengers in the backseat of the car you’re driving. Sure, you hear the noise and ruckus behind you, but you keep your attention focused on the road ahead”. It is not realistic to think you’ll never have negative thoughts. Though you can start to filter them and brush them aside.
Along with ignoring your negative thoughts, why not practice turning them into positive affirmations. It is as simple as turning “I can’t” into “I can”. In the beginning, it can be difficult to turn negativity into positivity, so a slow approach may work better. Be realistic and bring as many facts to the table as possible. Instead of saying, “I am so disorganized I will never get this done”, you can think of the first few steps you need to take to complete the project. “I need to better organize myself. I can start by making a list of the things I need to prepare”. It may seem small, but tiny tweaks in how we perceive a situation can lead to increased positivity and a brighter mood.
Trust your Inner Voice
Call it intuition, a “gut feel”, or a sense, your inner voice is a powerful force. Many of us will recognize the feeling of our inner voice trying to tell us one thing or another. Though often we ignore it. We let societal pressures, denial, and everyday life get in the way of trusting what we believe is right. If we continually ignore this voice, there is a chance we start to lose our inner strength and trust in ourselves. This isn’t to say that logic and reason shouldn’t factor into your decisions. It’s about tuning into ourselves, knowing ourselves, and trusting that we can make the right decision with all factors considered.
So how do we find our inner voice? We live very busy lives and are constantly moving at a million miles an hour. This makes it difficult to block out the noise and listen to yourself. If you’re struggling to hear your voice, try these few things:
- Find a quiet space and allow yourself to pause – in other words, meditate. Meditation is a centuries-old practice that provides sharpened mindfulness, improved focus, and better connection. If you’re new to the practice, experts suggest starting with a few minutes and increasing your time as you become more comfortable. According to Mindful, a basic meditation practice for beginners starts with finding a comfortable position. As you settle in, focus on your breath, paying attention to your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for a few minutes and try and notice when your mind has wandered. As soon as your mind has wandered, bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat this for as long as desired. When you’re ready, open your eyes and notice how your body and mind feel.
- Identify where you feel your inner voice. We have millions of thoughts racing through our minds every day and our bodies are very connected to our minds. Some people will “feel” their inner voice in other areas of their bodies. According to personal development expert Tracy Kennedy via Lifehack, her clients can feel their inner voice in their hearts, stomach, and head. Practice tuning in to your body to better identify the signs it gives you that something isn’t right.
- Take action. If you have a decision to make, make the best choice you can, based on the information available. Being in limbo causes a great deal of stress and anxiety and could cloud your judgment. As soon as you start taking action regarding that decision, pay attention to how you feel. While the initial decision may cause pain, tune into how you feel as you start to take steps. Are you feeling good as you move forward or is every step causing you to feel resistance? Your inner voice could be telling you what is right for you.
Trusting your inner voice allows for greater inner strength and confidence, as well as increased positivity within ourselves. Practice tuning into yourself and see how decisions large and small become easier to make.
Feeling empowered gives us a greater sense of purpose and level of satisfaction. Whether that is at work, at home, or with yourself, empowerment gives us the power to “do” and the confidence to do it. Though, sometimes it can be difficult to feel confident and proactive. We’ve all been there! The good news is there are many things you can do to lead you to a path of empowerment.
- Create Goals: Working towards the completion of a goal is a great way to increase confidence. Set out a few things you would like to achieve, be it running a mile without stopping or writing that book you’ve always wanted to write. Plan out the little steps you need to take to achieve the goal and congratulate yourself as you move through the checklist. Sometimes the hardest part is starting, but once you take the first step you will be surprised at how quickly the steps after follow.
- Surround Yourself With Good People: People have the power to build you up or tear you down. By surrounding yourself with only good people, you can trust that the people around you are influencing you for the better. Make sure to schedule time with people who make you happy. Having a strong support team only makes you stronger.
- Eliminate Excuses: There will always be a reason why we can’t do something. Instead of focusing on why something won’t or can’t happen, focus on how it can. By putting your energy into solutions, you will soon find how much more you can achieve.
- Stop Minimizing your Success: Many of us have a habit of downplaying our success. If you had a win, take the time to appreciate it. Be proud of yourself and acknowledge the time and effort it took to achieve.
- Stay Open to Possibilities: “You have the power and the responsibility to find that place inside of yourself where everything is possible” writes Psychologist Sherrie Campbell for Entrepreneur. Focus on always having an open mind. Closed minds block out opportunity and miss the numerous possibilities around us.
Practice Positive Thinking
There is an old Cherokee story about two wolves that an elder was passing along to his young grandson. He started, “We each have two wolves living inside ourselves that are constantly fighting each other. One is full of anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and guilt. The other is full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, empathy, and compassion.” The young boy thought a minute then asked, “Which wolf will win?” The elder replied, “The one you feed.”
The story always served as a reminder that we are in charge of the way respond to the world around us. It is much easier said than done, especially when things happen that are out of your control. Though practicing positive thinking has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety and even improve your overall health.
- Increased life span, a lower rate of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.
That alone should be enough to encourage you to practice more positive thinking! There are many ways you can start to shift your negative thoughts into positive ones. Start by practicing gratitude. Life isn’t all roses, so of course, there are many things to feel anxious, angry, and sad about. Though there are also many things to feel grateful for. Start each morning by listing three things you are thankful for. No matter how small, it is nice to be reminded of the good things in life rather than the bad.
It is also helpful to start including more positive words and phrases into your everyday vocabulary. Instead of starting a conversation by jumping straight to all of the problems, start the conversation with a positive sentence. Michelle Gielan, the author of Broadcasting Happiness, wrote in The Oprah Magazine, “One of the biggest ways we transfer stress is verbally. So jump-starting a conversation with a positive statement can set the tone in a different place.”
Bottom Line – on having a positive relationship with yourself.
Remember a relationship is ongoing and requires work. It is unrealistic to expect change to happen overnight, but with a little effort each day you will start to notice a positive change. Always know your value, know that you are enough, and trust yourself. Most importantly, be kind to yourself on your journey to building a better relationship with yourself.
You are more powerful than you think.