How To Develop a Relationship With Yourself
As we’ve discussed before, self-esteem is all about having a relationship with yourself. If you have a good relationship with yourself, that is, if you like yourself, then you’re going to have positive self-esteem. If you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, that is, if you don’t like yourself, then you’re going to have low or no self-esteem.
The logical conclusion, then, would be to develop a good relationship with yourself. While this may appear to be obvious, it is not so easy to do. Certainly many of us do not have a good relationship with ourselves. A big part of this is how our lives are structured. We spend most, if not all, of our waking lives working to please others.
We do this because at best it’s what we’re used to, at worst we feel hostage to others’ approval for our livelihood, our social needs, and basically being able to get things done. This is especially true here in Southern California. The weather is nice most of the year and we live very close to people (result of high real estate prices), so we are probably interacting with others more than in other parts of the country.
Almost right from birth, we are “programmed” to please others. As kids we have to please our parents to get material things such as food and clothing; later on as we grow, we have to please our peers to get accepted; into Adulthood, we have to please bosses and co-workers or clientele to keep our jobs and get ahead. In the process, we tend to mold our personalities to fit others’ expectations and get their approval. In the course of pleasing others, we lose track of who we are.
So, we take it back to the beginning. We work on discovering who we are because this is the start of learning to like ourselves. Think of when you meet new people. You start talking to them to find out a little about them. Then you find things in common. As you interact more and more, you get more comfortable with them. In that comfort, there is a more relaxed feeling as you like them more and more.
We do this with ourselves. We spend time getting to know ourselves. As we do that, we start to appreciate more and more who and what we are. In the process, we like ourselves more and more and feel more comfortable with ourselves.
The best tool to use is a journal. We start out writing in it every day. We write basically whatever we want: how our day went, with whom we interacted and what it was about, even—and this is scary—how we felt about it.
Feelings are very important. We hide our feelings because we’re afraid that some people will not accept our feelings. If they don’t accept our feelings, they won’t accept us. If they don’t accept us, we’re no good. This is how we lose ourselves into the depths of low self-esteem.
The great thing about writing our feelings in a journal is that there’s no one to judge us. Now this is very important—do not judge yourself! If you qualify or try to justify your feelings, you’ll get lost again. Just express your feelings, but in the context of reality. “I felt angry today when my boss gave me my work back, told me it was sloppy, and that I had to stay late to do it over again.” Period. Done. Of course, this is something we probably wouldn’t say to our boss, right? He or she would be angry that we were so insolent and maybe take some action that would put our job in jeopardy.
Yet we still have those feelings. This is why we do dumb things in life. We are angry at our boss and we can’t really express it, so it builds up. Then on the way home, we run into traffic, and here in the Inland Empire, we typically drive more than most people, being on the periphery of LA and San Diego, so we are almost always running into traffic! Combine that with sitting in a hot car with our hot weather, and next thing you know, we’re getting drunk, or starting a fight with a hapless customer service person on the phone because we know we can abuse them and get away with because we’re the customer and in this case we’re right, or we’re arguing with our spouse, etc. Instead, we’re going to do something constructive: we’re going to write down our feelings appropriate. “I’m feeling angry today at (not ‘because’ since that would invite analysis, take us out of our feelings and not allow us to truly vent our frustrations) my boss for yelling at me”. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel.
Now, we’ve scratched the surface. As we continue to explore ourselves, we will grow close to ourselves and start liking ourselves. The best thing is that we’ll be our own support.
More to come next time….