The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with you. Considering that you are with yourself every minute of every day, why not make this your most loving alliance?
While there are many reasons for not having developed a great bond with yourself, there’s no upside in cataloguing them. In lieu of focusing on the past, here are some ways to cultivate an enjoyable, dependable, tender relationship with yourself.
As the Buddha said: There is no one more deserving of compassion than you. By fostering a gentle, patient litany of self talk you will reap more benefits than you can imagine. Think of all the harshness you have heaped on yourself. Perhaps, it was setting perfectionistic, unattainable goals, or an incessant catalogue of self-criticism. Decide today that you will counter those old tendencies towards self-downing with tenderness. If you hear yourself being judgmental of the way you are handling some aspect of your life, stop, take a breath, and talk to yourself kindly, the way you would calm a child. Those same messages will soothe you and, more importably, build inner trust. In time, you will be able to count on yourself for compassion and self-nurturing. You will be that safe haven for you.
It may sound banal, but taking good care of yourself begins with eating well, including treats. Unless you are someone who eats to live, and doesn’t really enjoy your food, eating something delicious every day is another way you show yourself that you matter. Getting enough sleep is crucial, too. Just like the people who think they can have one drink and drive, while every study shows they are impaired, many think they can do just fine with six hours a night. Perhaps, you are one of the very few who can, but most need seven to eight hours to function well. Last, but not least, is exercise. Move your body. It really doesn’t matter what you do, but do something on a regular basis and it will improve your outlook, as well as your physical health.
Meditation is a wonderful way to befriend and better understand your mind. What are its tendencies? Do you focus on all the tasks that still need doing? Are you preoccupied with everyone else’s problems, worrying day and night? Do you live in the future, waiting for your ship to come in, lose 10 pounds, or meet your ideal mate? Whatever your predilections, you can learn to re-focus on your breath and quiet some of the incessant noise. Meditation is also a great way to notice any tendencies towards self-downing, or habits of assuming the worst. Once you see a trend you can actively work towards substituting unhelpful thoughts for positive ones. (See Affirmations.)
Even your sex life can benefit from a better relationship with yourself. By getting to know your body’s reactions you can please yourself, if going solo, or help your partner understand what you like, if coupled.
Socially, you can develop comfort within yourself, so going out alone is not a hardship; but, something you might choose on a regular basis. After all, you are always available without prior notice and you already know what you like to do. For many people, this is a very difficult thing to imagine, let alone practice. I encourage you to bravely go forth: see that movie or art show alone, go out for a meal by yourself (you may want to start with breakfast or lunch as they are often eaten without company), take a beautiful drive or walk (you will notice more when solo), do all those things you know you would enjoy and you’ll probably end up making new friends (all those other folks who like the same thing you do and who didn’t want to call their friends to see who wanted to share the experience). I am sure that right after people’s fear of public speaking (the number one anxiety in this country), is venturing out by yourself. Wouldn’t it feel like a great coup to tackle that old irrational belief? You know, the one that says you’re a loser if you’re alone. You’re not. One third of all adults in the U.S. live by themselves.
Attending to your spiritual side, developing a deep bond with the ineffable qualities of life, and finding peace within are all ways of enhancing your joy. Trust that you will find your way to that still, small place inside where all goodness dwells. By practicing being there for yourself, in all circumstances and on all levels, you will watch joy ripen in your heart. You can choose to feel truly loved right this minute. Don’t take my word for it, just go for it. It’s a radical step, but one you’ll never regret.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang