Relationship With Self
Who are you, really? Do you love yourself? Do you appreciate your strengths? Can you pinpoint your weaknesses? If you can’t answer these questions, you’ve come to the right place to start getting to know yourself.
Maybe you’re wondering why it matters. If you don’t know—and love—yourself, you’ll forever hold yourself back. When you begin to understand who you are, you can figure out what excites you, how to live with purpose, and how to grow into who you want to be.
To begin, let’s talk about relationship with self. Your relationship with yourself sets the tone and foundation for all other relationships in your life. I have spent much of my life focusing on my relationship with others, while at times completely neglecting my relationship with myself. The three most important takeaways from my journey to developing a healthy relationship with myself included:
1. Forgiving Self
2. Letting Go
3. Loving Self
Forgiving self, letting go, and loving self have taken a lot of work and tears; quite frankly, I am still in the process. In this chapter, I will present ways to forgive and find love for yourself. We have all heard the saying, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the world can you love anyone else?” I have found this to be true, so let’s set the foundation for self-love.
Forgiveness is an integral part of our relationship with self, as we have all done things, said things, and acted out in ways that we regret. Have you ever spoken cruel words to your spouse? Do you regret that fight you had with a friend? It is easy to carry that guilt around and continue to beat ourselves up over these past behaviors. Forgiving oneself starts with letting go of anything you did in the past.
For many years I carried around a lot of regret that also resulted in shame and guilt over being unfaithful in romantic relationships. I also felt guilt and shame about my sexual orientation and failing to live up to the “Christian” standards I was raised to believe were the only right way to live.
Learning to forgive starts with forgiving yourself. I have been my own worst enemy at times. I have berated myself for not living up to others’ standards. I have beaten myself up for not achieving certain things in life. I have participated in self-loathing and negative chatter. One of my greatest challenges has been forgiving myself for harboring secrets and lies in my romantic relationships. I would blame myself for relationships that went bad. This added to my relationSHIT with myself. Only after my life started crumbling under the weight of remorse and self-loathing did I realize that I must forgive and fully accept myself in order to leave the relationSHIT behind and move into a beautiful relationSHIP with myself.
Here are some things that have helped me forgive myself:
· Counseling: Seek the counsel of good and wise people who support you and who have the patience to allow you time to heal in your own way. Finding a therapist proved helpful for me.
· Meditation: Meditation helps you cultivate a mindset of valuing all human life. This attitude will make it difficult to look at those you feel have harmed you in a negative light. Meditation will help you focus on the things we all have in common so you can value all human life, because you start to recognize that we all experience the same myriad of emotions.
· Be empathetic:Think about the negative emotions that you attribute to the person you feel has hurt or wronged you and recognize that they might be carrying those same negative emotions around. Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective and understand what might have contributed to their behavior, instead of judging them. This has been a true test for me. Empathy is understanding, and understanding is the first step—however, even if you cannot understand, it doesn’t mean you cannot forgive. It has always been hard for me to accept that there are things I can’t understand. Sometimes you have to stop trying to understand and stand in your faith that whathappens is a set of developmental challenges set forth for each of us by God. Feeling empathy for ourselves and others allows us to take a huge step toward forgiveness because it helps us see that we all deserve forgiveness.
· Refrain from negative talk about others: Talking negatively about the person you feel has hurt you keeps the wound open and fresh. It’s also harder to love yourself fully when you continue to carry around negative emotions such as self-loathing, regret, and shame. Think of these emotions as your teacher. Think of your situations as learning experiences, and refrain from judging the other person.
· Find meaning in your hurt, pain, and suffering:Ask yourself, “What lesson do I need to learn in this situation?” Seeing your circumstances as a lesson, instead of just more suffering, will lead to more self-forgiveness and ultimately a healthier relationSHIP with self. If you cannot find a meaningful lesson in your pain, perhaps you are not in agreement with God’s plan or the plan set forth for you by the Universe.
· Be patient:It takes time to forgive yourself and others. Love yourself through the process. Forgiveness is a real gift to oneself. For me, forgiveness is about seeing the inherent worth of others, regardless of how they might have treated me. Then I can let go of the anger associated with a person or situation. Negative experiences in my life lead to negative emotions that get encoded in my memory, and every time I think about a negative experience, I feel the same negative emotions. You can break free from this loop. Forgiveness frees us to live in the present instead of the past—and besides, it’s healthier. One study found that letting go and forgiving helped patients experience fewer cardiovascular and immune system problems. Forgiveness is powerful.
Forgiveness is about how we respond to “God’s plan” for us. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this at times. I have evolved into believing that everything we face in life is part of a grand development plan. Our “free will” drives the choices we make on how to respond to the plan. This is a bridge between our traditional religious/values teaching and more current views. FOR GIVING is just that. We are challenged to giveour responses to each situation back to God or higher power. Good, bad … it doesn’t matter. Being too pleased with something leads to attachment. Being too angry leads to resentment. I think our evolutionary step might be to learn to be in the middle. That doesn’t necessarily mean to be indifferent, but it might be that’s exactly what it takes to be in the moment. You cannot be balanced if your emotions take over. Think of the expression “FOR GIVE and FOR GET.” It really means, when you GIVE your responses back to God, you GET “grace” or enlightenment. The space you create when we give up our emotional response and forgive is filled with God’s love, which helps us on our way to further development.
How do you know when you’ve fully let go and been successful with forgiveness?
When you are able to think about a person or situation without feeling a rise in all the negative emotions previously attached to the person or situation, you’re well on your way.
Letting go or releasing an experience is always a choice. Letting go is vital for our personal growth, but it can be challenging. It requires courage and faith when we can’t see what lies ahead.
Many of the things we choose to hold onto keep us from growing and moving forward. I like to call them “unhealthy attachments.” We might be holding onto old thoughts, past experiences, past relationSHIPS, past relationSHITS, negative emotions and feelings, or even our current relationSHIPS/SHITS. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zone and allow fear to keep us from letting go. But when we hold unhealthy attachments, we prevent ourselves from fully experiencing the present as well as the future.
I recently left my job as a registered nurse in the hospital where I had worked in critical care environments for about thirty-two years. That job was my comfort zone, but it had turned into a bit of a relationSHIT. Even though I was used to it, I felt I needed to let go, for many different reasons. It was scary to leave. That job was all I had ever known. But I set an intention for exactly what I wanted in terms of a job and then I let it go and trusted. It is not our responsibility to worry or stress about how our dream will be fulfilled. When we set a pure intention coupled with positive emotions, the Universe will take care of the how.
One day, I received a call from an old nursing colleague/friend. We talked for a moment and got caught up on our personal lives. Then she asked me, “So, where are you working now?” I replied, “I am still working in the hospital ICU.” She had an incredible opportunity for me to do something I had not done before as a nurse. I stepped out of the boat and into the water. I let go of my comfort zone. It has turned out to be a great decision that has led to new growth in many areas of my life. Don’t get stuck. When something is not working, let it go.
By letting go, you make space for the infinite possibilities. As long as we have a fear of letting go of the familiar, new possibilities will not show up. As long as we have a need to understand everything, the unknown will not show up.
What are you holding onto that is keeping you from moving forward, learning, and growing? Are you in a toxic relationSHIT, or just holding onto a relationship because it is comfortable? Are you holding onto negative feelings such as anger, resentment, jealousy, or bitterness? Are you choosing to hold onto negative thoughts?
Letting go of the shit is a process. Negative thoughts and self-criticism do not make us better. They only continue to make us feel stuck and unable to move forward. Decide to let go today of whatever is not serving your highest good. Move forward, knowing that what lies ahead is something beautiful. Move forward knowing that you are enough. Choose to let go of whatever is having a negative impact on you and taking up precious mind and heart space.
Remember, new beginnings are always possible. Infinite possibilities await us all if we are able to get out of our external environment and enter the quantum unified field that is oneness. Letting go of all the shit in our past is essential for development of a healthy relationSHIP with self.
Our challenge is to know how much God loves all of us. If the love of God is within each of us … the “sticky stuff that holds things together” or the force that fills the 99 percent of the emptiness in our atoms—then we are all godlike … or a part of God. The challenge is to realize it. You ARE LOVED! Each of us has to learn to tune into this love to unleash our maximal potential. The more we FOR GIVE, the more we make room FOR GETTING grace. That grace can take on many forms. Things like wisdom, harmony, and understanding are the tools or gifts from God that we get when we forgive, forget, and learn to love ourselves.
For much of my life, I have struggled with bouts of depression. At times, the pain was so severe that it led me to think of ways to end my own life. All of this started in my childhood. Many factors contributed to this depression, such as the fact that I was gay and hiding it out of fear of rejection. I have learned that we are all unique expressions of God. Like the snowflakes, He created us to be unique. No two of us are the same. I am now at a place where I am grateful to be my unique self. I am grateful to the creator for making me exactly as I am.
Choices come with consequences. Some choices lead to amazing outcomes, while others lead to suffering and pain. For better or worse, each choice is the unavoidable consequence of its predecessor. Learning to love yourself is a choice, too.
My depression and lack of self-love have been the consequence of my words, thoughts, and actions.I amlearning the importance of giving this back to God. It’s my response to the plan set forth for my soul in this lifetime. Hard stuff. No need to look at or blame anyone else. It is the choices I, and I alone, have made that have brought me to this moment. This was a difficult reality for me to admit, but it was necessary to help begin the healing process so that I could truly love me. Blaming others doesn’t solve anything. People are who they are. Are we influenced by others? Yes. Do we have a choice about how we will react? Yes. Are we in control of our own happiness? Yes.
So, where does true self-love lie?
It lies within our choices. We get the beautiful freedom to decide how or if we will be influenced by others in such a way that it steals our happiness and ability to love ourselves. We create our own experiences based on our choices. Loving self is all about what we choose to think, how we choose to act/react, and what we choose to say.
At times, I have let myself be so heavily influenced by others that I have allowed them to steal my joy. I made that choice to be influenced. The consequences were sadness, depression, self-loathing, and feeling unworthy. I allowed others to define me and to define what was lovable and what was not.
The same is true for my personal behavior and actions. I have not always made choices that were within the best interest of my personal, spiritual, and mental growth. The consequence for me was getting stuck in my emotions and spiraling downward into a depression, until it was nearly impossible to love myself. I now know it wasn’t the actions themselves that caused the depression and spiraling. Instead, it was my judgment of those behaviors and actions. This has led me to understand the importance of full acceptance of myself and my actions. More importantly, it has prompted me to ask, “What’s the lesson here?” Replacing self-loathing, self-judgment, shame, and guilt with acceptance, love, and understanding has led me down a path of deeper self-love.
At times, I am reminded of the story of Jonah and the Whale. Jonah made the choice to not listen to God (Spirit) and he ended up in the belly of the whale. I often feel myself asking, how many times have I chosen the wrong path and ended up in the belly of the whale? Far too many times to count.
It is easy to say, “He hurt me” or “She hurt me.” The truth is, I made the choice to be hurt. That choice led to painful consequences. We tend to want to blame someone else for where we are. I am guilty of that. I am learning more and more to look inward. I am becoming more aware of the need to embrace where I am in an effort to love myself deeply. I still respond emotionally, but I try to get back into the middle zone as soon as I can by FOR GIVING (giving those emotional responses back to God) to make space FOR GETTING grace in return.
I recently found myself in a relationSHIT with some of members of my family once again. I think we all can relate. When I was explaining the situation to my best friend Greg, his response was, “Okay, what role did you play in this? What could you have done differently?” It’s a challenge to look at one’s self in the moment, but friends often see our situation clearly.
Every day, we are faced with thousands of choices. We make our decisions and either enjoy or suffer the consequences. These choices are often based on what we think about ourselves, the words we speak about ourselves, and how we truly feel about ourselves. Look in the mirror daily and tell yourself, “I love you.” Do it even if you don’t feel it. Keep this daily practice going until you do start to feel it. Words and actions really do eventually become our reality. If you do not love yourself fully and immediately, make of list of things you do love about yourself and post copies all over your apartment. Carry your list in your purse or wallet. Set it as a reminder on your phone. Put your lists in places that are easy to reach, so they can remind you of your worth. Starting a project like this is always difficult, but your list can help you change the way you think about yourself and your relationship with yourself.
My lack of love for self has often bled over into my other relationships, leading to break-ups, hurt feelings, and pain. I simply did not love anyone else fully because I still did not like the person I saw in the mirror every day. I hated myself for being a sex addict. I hated the fact that I identify as gay. I hated myself for being an unfaithful partner. I projected those emotions and feelings onto others. I developed a relationSHIT with myself.
The lack of self-love can also be looked at as ego. Tune into how much God, or the universe, is waiting for you to open the door to be loved. Bow to it. Surrender the need to love yourself. We might all be connected in the space between all the atoms in the universe by God’s love. We can’t access the peace, joy, harmony, and wisdom if we don’t give the emotional response to God. God is waiting for these gifts, as we humble ourselves to turn loose of these emotions and let the space fill up with the grace or love of God.
Here are some things that have helped me start the process to loving myself:
Being mindful: Having a constant awareness of my thoughts has helped me to become more intentional about changing them. As soon as my mind starts telling me, “You are not worthy,” “He doesn’t love you anymore,” “They are talking about you,” “You will never complete this book,” “You are a sex addict,” or “You are a cheater,” I immediately