Baumeister (1999) provides the following self-concept definition:
“The individual’s belief about himself or herself [or themself], including the person’s attributes and who and what the self is”.
We’ve talked about many different relationships on the blog: from Romantic, Friendship, to Familial; we all have relationships in various realms of our lives. The most important relationship of all however, is the relationship to ourselves.
“One’s relationship with oneself is crucial to proper development. It’s about healthy self-love. We learn so much from key figures—parents, siblings, family, peers, and other adults— about how to relate with oneself. What is good, and what is bad—what pleases them, and what they clearly don’t like. Early in development, relationships with others shape the relationship with oneself. There are intrinsic tendencies about the relationship with oneself as well. As we grow up, the way we are treated by others, and the way those others deal with themselves, serve as important factors influencing how we address ourselves as adults.” Psychology Today
Research shows that if we have parents who are able to find a good-enough balance for how they meet their own needs with the demands of their children, and their work in the world, then their kids will have a better chance of growing up to have a similarly healthy balance. They won’t overly sacrifice their own aspirations and energy to child-rearing, nor will they fall into the trap of being neglectful as a result of pursuing their own activities. The way that parents balance these self-other needs in coordination with one another is a key model for kids, who see if they share the responsibilities well, given their individual proclivities—or whether there’s negative conflict from feelings about one person not being around enough, and the other person getting stuck with all the work to the point where they don’t have enough time or headspace for themselves. Psychology Today
Much of our relationship to ourselves is based on our primary attachment style formed in our early stages of life. “Attachment styles refer to the particular way in which an individual relates to other people. The style of attachment is formed at the very beginning of life, and once established, it is a style that stays with you and plays out today in how you relate in intimate relationships and in how you parent your children.”
Research suggests that attachment style is related to feelings about the self and attributions about the social behavior of others, and thus may provide a foundation for generalized social expectations that underlie working models of social behavior of significant others. However, although we each have our own unique attachment style, we can heal aspects of ourselves and ultimately form a secure attachment to ourselves and others. Thus, reparenting ourselves and healing our inner child.
Although healing an insecure attachment style most definitely requires work, it is absolutely possible. It begins with self-inquiry, learning about who we are, what we need physically, developing tools like meditation, breathwork and yoga, setting boundaries, a support network, therapy or counseling, and sometimes energy therapies to release energetic imprints and connections we’ve held onto over time (an “energy tune-up” per se).
This goes with the metaphor that we must put on our own oxygen mask first, then we can breathe and help others. Meeting our own needs is vital, and understanding what those are takes time to learn. For most of us who weren’t demonstrated healthy self-care practices during our developing years it can be really challenging to develop a healthy relationship to self. Especially being raised in homes with abuse, single parent homes and minimal financial resources. We are left to learn these tools in adulthood, and this can often lead to some difficult lessons to learn along the way.
My personal biggest lesson has been self-abandonment. “Essentially, self-abandonment is when you reject, suppress or ignore part of yourself in real-time. In other words, you have a need or desire you want to meet, and (often on the spot) you make the decision not to meet it.” National Alliance on Mental Illness
Here’s an example: I head to work on Friday, exhausted after a long week and decide that I’m going to leave on-time today for once (at 5pm), go home, make dinner and rest. At 4:45pm, a distraught employee walks in the door needing to talk and I spend the next 2 hours helping this person. Even though I made a promise to myself that I’d leave on time, I prioritized this person’s needs over my own.
This story is something that I lived day in and day out as a business owner, (and friend, family member and partner). It wasn’t until leaving that business and beginning my journey with BZen Wellness that I realized how often I self-abandoned. In retrospect, it’s easy to see but it’s often challenging when you’re in the thick of it. Yes, I’m now 34 and finally understanding how to honor my needs and stand in my own personal sovereignty. This is ultimately my greatest shadow—people pleasing leading to self-abandonment. Can anyone else relate to this?
My relationship to myself is my current work of art that I am birthing into creation. Here’s what I’m working on to honor the greatest love of my life: my relationship to myself.
Yes, I’m now 34 and finally understanding how to honor my needs and stand in my own personal sovereignty. This is ultimately my greatest shadow—people pleasing leading to self-abandonment
1. Radical Self-Care: honoring my essential needs is paramount in my daily life. Assuring that I am well-nourished with food, hydration, ample sleep, movement and meditation. Even more so, setting boundaries around my essential needs by saying NO when it doesn’t align with my values and needs.
2. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s actually a selfless act that allows us to be even more of service to the greater collective. This was a challenging concept for me to wrap my mind around being in a leadership role and of service to a team of people. In fact, I thought it was selfish putting my own needs first. Being a nurse’s daughter, I witnessed my mom time and time again taking care of everyone else and putting her needs, and ultimately her health, last. How are we able to serve if we put ourselves last all the time?
3. Time alone: a simple walk outdoors, time in nature, meditation, a solo yoga practice, a drive to town, reading, sitting at my altar, journaling, self-reflection, self-pleasure, conscious self-touch, a bath or shower, self massage, or even traveling are all great opportunities for some quality time alone. Spending time in my own energy system and not with other people is very helpful in my personal relationship.
4. Be intentional: setting the intention to develop a deeper relationship to ourselves is a fantastic way to move toward greater self-love. Te relationship to self develops over time and requires quality tending and attention. Intending to love ourselves more and learn about ourselves.
5. Practice loving kindness for yourself—it’s a difficult concept for most, but if we could treat ourselves like our own best friend, the world would be a lot different. Compassion, empathy and equanimity are all qualities to strive for—especially when it comes to ourselves. Can we be a bit less self-critical, give ourselves some slack, and allow ourselves to simply BE without constantly self-judging? Here’s a loving kindness affirmation to use and repeat 3 times aloud:
May I be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm.
May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I experience ease and well-being.
6. Seek relationships that support your goals— this includes limiting time with toxic people who tend to leave you feeling worse than you did prior to seeing them. How does your energy feel while you are interacting with these people? Do you feel more expanded or contracted? Belittled or empowered? Use caution around those who you tend to feel smaller or contracted around. Our external relationships are vital in reflecting, supporting and helping us on our journey of self-discovery.
7. Affirmations—we all tend to get stuck in thought ‘loops’. Thoughts streaming and repeating over and over through the mind that are unsupportive and self-destructive. When I notice myself looping, I notice it, and fill my mind with a different thought like:
“I love myself”
“I have everything I need”
“I am safe”
“I am serving the greater good with my work in the world”
“I love myself”
“I love myself”
“I love myself”
8. Follow-through with commitments to yourself—when we break promises to ourselves, it’s just like telling a lie to our best friend or lover. What’s worse than abandoning someone else? Abandoning yourself. When we follow through with our desires, goals and aspirations, it builds trust within ourselves and our soul can feel it.
Unfortunately, these practices don’t magically happen for us. We have to put in some effort if we want to cultivate a healthy relationship with ourselves. In reality, if we don’t have a strong sense of self and relationship to self, it is challenging to develop strong bonds with a partner or bring healthy, securely attached children into the world. It is absolutely possible to heal ourselves from the wounds we’ve acquired from the past, and I am a testament to that. Practice self-love, compassion, and honor your needs—I believe in you!
If you’re looking to sharpen your tools and cultivate a deeper relationship to yourself, I am here to support you. Reach out.
Reply here and let me know if this was helpful!
It is absolutely possible to heal ourselves from the wounds we’ve acquired from the past, and I am a testament to that. Practice self-love, compassion, and honor your needs—I believe in you!