Part Three: Strengthen Your Connection To Self
The most important relationship you ever have is with yourself.
When going thorugh difficult times, it is more important than ever to foster this relationship, for at the core of all healing lies self-compassion.
We often think that putting ourselves first may appear selfish, but consider this – the most compassionate people also have the strongest boundaries.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries – don’t leave home without them!
My personal guru, my cat, Lucky Boots (in fact, all cats) has taught me a lot about putting one’s own needs first. I’m never short of love from him, but there is no doubt at all, that top of his list of priorities is him. Feeding himself, cleaning himself, going out playing with the other cats, and knowing when to rest.
He knows what he needs in any given moment, and he doesn’t let other cats dictate what is right for him, he doesn’t wear himself out putting everyone else first, and he doesn’t seek the approval of other animals. He just does what he needs to do.
When it comes to relaxing, and playing, and just being himself, he is the master!
I track back to how much time I have wasted in my life worrying about what other people think, and I want to make sure I don’t waste a moment more. I have found when I take care of myself first, I have more to give others. And when I realise myself from the judgements of others, what I create gives me much more satisfaction.
At the heart of all this lies “self-acceptance”, which can only be fostered over time. Yet there are a few practices we can adopt which will help in this.
When I first read heard Brene’s Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, it changed everything. She used a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
What I took from this was that we should not worry about what other people think, that we are all unique and we create our own “art”, whatever that is, and all that matters is that we try.
I also learned from Brene about boundaries – knowing what’s ok and what’s not ok, and being strong in living according to these values. This meant saying “no” to what wasn’t right for me, and taking care to put my own needs first.
When I do this, I have more for others. When we don’r respect our own boundaries, we are literally hurting ourselves, and damaging that precious relationship we have with ourselves.
The times we are in right now, this is the ideal opportunity for us to look at how we treat ourselves, and how we can start to foster a more healthy intra-personal relationship.
Even when we have others around us to take care of, this is still an essentail practise, and for those that we are influencing, for instance children, it is a positive message for us to be sending to others to encourage them to do the same.
It is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Exercise: Life Audit
A great start whilst you are out of your usual routine, is to take out your journal, and start to look at your life with fresh eyes.
What activities nourish me and lift my soul? Am I taking enough time for these things? How could I make sure these are given more priority in my life?
In which areas of my life am I giving away my power? What people, places and situations are draining me? Where am I saying yes, when I should be saying no?
What needs to change in order for me to maintain a better balance?
If I didn’t care what other people think, what would I do?
One of Brene Brown’s fantastic recommendations is that you get a small business card, and you write on it the names of the people whose opinions really matter, people you respect, and who have your best interests at heart. It’s likely you will only have a list of 5 or less!
Then each time you are worried about what someone else may think, or someone gives you a piece of criticism you get out the card, and you check whether their name is on the list.
If it’s not, *** it! Get on with what you were doing!
I would highly recommend doing some further reading around Boundaries, Self-Compassion, and Emotional Intelligence.