My relationships are one of the most important aspects of my life. Each relationship I have is different, bringing a new perspective and sense of joy into my life. At the same time though, relationships can take a lot of work. There are always disagreements and sources of tension which leave a pit of despair in the bottom of my stomach that seems unshakeable. Relationships, no matter on what scale, take commitment, compromise, and a lot of compassion. Each person we hold a connection with receives a place in our lives, with some holding more priority than others. I will always put my family first, followed by my closest friends, and then others whom I care deeply about. But, in many cases throughout my life, I have realized that the root of many of my issues has been neglecting one of the most important relationships — the one I have with myself.
I witness it all the time. Most of the things we do, especially as young, naive teens often reflect what we think we should be doing. You dress a certain way because it’s what others expect you to dress like. You eat a certain way because you think you should. You hang around of group of people because it’s just what you do. Soon enough, you look around and realize that you are living your life for everyone except yourself.
It can be hard to strike the balance between taking care of both yourself and your obligations. Still living at home, and at the same time itching for independence, makes it confusing to understand how to develop a healthy and evolving relationship with yourself. As we grow older though, it is vital to tune in to what you need and how you can best take care of yourself. This is a very individualized, ever-growing journey, but it starts today.
The first step is to identify your own needs: what are the unhealthy habits you are prone to, and how can you work to combat them? Everyone has their weak spots. For me, there is a fine line between healthy and obsessive. I often have a hard time pressing the breaks; I easily push myself to exhaustion. It’s important for me to check in with myself: “Am I tired because I am working hard or because I am not allowing myself to rest?”, “Am I ordering the salad instead of the burger because I want it or because I crave control?”, “Am I skipping going out with friends because I want alone time or because I am isolating myself?” These questions are essential to remaining healthy and in the long run, will serve me more than copying others or falling into habit.
The second step is remaining intentional and consistent. A strong relationship with yourself, like any other one in your life, will take a long time to develop. It won’t happen with inconsistent, aesthetic self-care attempts, and even with directed efforts, there will be times when you fall down to find yourself at low points. Being intentional and persisting through those points is the thing that will propel you to stability. Each morning I start my day with a little journaling, writing a few goals for the day, three things I am grateful for, and an affirmation for my day. Each night, I check in again. Even if I don’t have time to write full pages about my day, I at least take the time to reflect: 3 amazing things that happened to me today, a word that summarizes my day, something I could have done to make the day better, and finally, one reason I am proud of myself. Staying intentional and present helps you to better understand what you are feeling, and more, why you are feeling it. So, even if it means simply speaking to yourself, asking “what do I need at this moment”, any small effort you make for yourself will only benefit you in the long run. After all, people come in and out of our lives, but the one relationship we must nurture, the most important, is that we have with ourselves.
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.” -Rupi Kaur