As a spiritual director, many people contact me because they feel a lack of meaning, purpose or fulfillment in their lives. It’s not uncommon for someone to search for a solution in their relationship to God or relationship with others. Most people, however, don’t think about their relationship with themselves.
A central component of living life well is having a positive and constructive relationship with oneself. People often sabotage their own happiness through self-defeating inner dialogue, self-imposed limitations and failing to care for themselves properly.
Having a constructive relationship with yourself begins by acknowledging your ability, capacity, tools and skills to guide and direct your life meaningfully, ethically and effectively. Through the use of natural human means such as self-determinism, reason and moral intuition, you can capably lead your life.
Consider the following areas in cultivating a vital relationship with yourself:
Self-awareness: taking time to explore your authentic and innermost thoughts, feelings, beliefs, needs, desires, fears, motivations, patterns and habits.
Self-love: an attitude of high regard for your own welfare and well-being, and choosing to give yourself what promotes them.
Self-acceptance: seeing the totality of yourself without judgment, and feeling satisfaction with oneself, given both the strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and deficiencies, and past successes and mistakes that are common to all human beings.
Self-compassion: extending kindness, gentleness and patience to yourself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or suffering.
Self-care: employing actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of physical, mental, emotional well-being and health, and supports the daily rhythm and routine of one’s life.
Self-trust: listening to and following what your own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intuition, convictions, values, judgment, insights, and body is telling you.
Self-confidence: feeling empowered to rise to new challenges, seize opportunities and address difficult situations, and operating within one's own abilities, skills, capacities, and resources to accomplish goals.
Self-actualization: taking steps toward realizing your highest potentialities and possibilities, and fulfillment of one’s sense of mission or purpose in the world.
Self-expression: being comfortable and confident in authentically displaying one’s individuality and style, and expressing your feelings, thoughts or ideas in your own unique way.
The repeated use of the word “self” in the above examples may be cause for concern for some people. We are often conditioned to think that placing emphasis on ourselves is selfish or self-centered. But by thoughtfully reflecting upon these areas, one realizes they would be in a much better position to love and contribute to the lives of others. A strong relationship with oneself is a cornerstone of healthy relationships with others, and is the best preventative measure against living harmfully or recklessly.
Placing attention on ourselves doesn’t mean we do life perfectly. We learn to offer ourselves acceptance, patience and compassion, and not demand perfection from ourselves. Nor does it mean we do life on our own. Cultivating loving, caring and affirming relationships is one of the best ways we can give ourselves what we need. We are also capable of seeking professional help and support when we need it. These actions are a sign of strength and not weakness.