The first two weeks of February are filled with reminders about loving other people with whom we have relationships. We are bombarded with advertisements for flowers, chocolates and gorillas holding hearts among other red and pink trinkets. As a society, we made a holiday for celebrating our relationships with others; however, in general, we have a tougher time recognizing the importance of the relationship with the self and loving ourselves.
Webster defines relationships as, "an association between two or more people that range from fleeting to enduring." George Levinger said there are five stages in relationships: acquaintance, build up, continuation, deterioration and termination. In our relationships and throughout these stages we experience a myriad of emotions, which include but are not limited to: love (in many forms which vary considerably), jealousy, passion and intimacy. But how do these things relate to our relationships with ourselves? Is there an association? And how does the relationship we have with ourselves affect our relationships with others?
Diane Von Faustenberg said, "The most important relationship you have is with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself." A good relationship with yourself is not selfish; this is not about how you treat those around you. It is the foundation of all other relationships.
The absence of a good relationship with yourself makes it very difficult and at times impossible to love, respect and accept other people. A good relationship with yourself can be challenging; it requires you to be fully present, patient and kind with yourself. And let's face it we are usually our toughest critics.
The automatic thoughts we have about ourselves can be very negative at times, which creates a negative internal emotional experience and negative experiences with others and life in general. Unfortunately, this pervasive pattern of negative thinking can result in low self-esteem. In fact low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which we view ourselves as unlovable, inadequate, unworthy and/or incompetent. The National Institute of Health reported in 2010 that low self-esteem is associated with risk factors such as obesity and poor work and/or school performance. Those are serious negative outcomes!
However, if you find that the relationship with yourself is in Levinger's deterioration phase do not despair; it is possible to cultivate a better relationship with yourself.
Stephen Covey said, "Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it's holy ground. There is no greater investment." And here are five ways you can grow to love yourself more:
??Increase your personal awareness.
Ask yourself, 'Am I happy with the way things are? Am I getting what I want and/or need?' Then make a plan to increase your happiness in the areas that need some adjustments.
??As Covey said, "Be patient with yourself."
Give yourself time and be kind. Learn to be your own best friend. Allow yourself the same considerations you afford others.
??Engage in self-care activities.
Appreciate yourself and recognize how far you have come instead of how far you still have to go to reach your goals. Recognize your accomplishments with personally nurturing rewards.
??Accept yourself flaws and all! And forgive yourself.
Like many other people, you are and have been doing the best you can.
??R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me!
We determine our worth and we teach others how to treat us by what we allow them to do and say. Keeping your personal boundaries is a form of loving yourself. Learn to count on yourself to make good decisions. Don't let yourself down.
You are the only you there is! You cannot be replaced. Allow yourself the joy of loving yourself more. And allow the world the benefit of your highest and best self.
Dawn Wever is a licensed mental health counselor and has worked in the behavioral health care industry for six years. She has presented at statewide conferences on issues related to mental health and substance abuse and provides mental health training for professionals. Additional resources and information can be found on her website at dawnweverlmhc.com. You can also follow her on Facebook.