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  • Writer's pictureAlex Steiner, LCSW

Tips on How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Yourself

Questions I receive frequently are often “how do I build a better relationship with my partner,” “how do I stand up for myself to others (significant other, family, etc.),” “how can I communicate better with my co-workers and boss,” “how do I care less about what other people think?”

Typically, my initial response is to ask: how is your relationship with yourself?

Oftentimes when attending counseling, it is the first time you have dedicated time to yourself all day, all week or longer then you can remember or care to admit. We are creatures who aim to please. When asked, “when was the last time you did something for someone else?” the answer is almost always within the same day. However, when asked, “when was the last time you did something for YOU?” the answer oftentimes is, “I don’t even really know.”

A few great questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I have a relationship with myself?

  • What is my relationship with myself like?

  • Do I like the way I treat and talk to myself?

  • Do I understand what my needs and wants are?

  • Do I take the time out of my schedule to meet my own wants and needs?

  • Can I comfort/soothe myself when I’m upset or do I look to others?

  • Do I trust my intuition and opinions, or do I find myself struggling to make decisions?

  • Do I know what I do and don’t like?

  • Do I know what sets me off? (what triggers me?)

  • Can I be okay, even if others do not approve or are not happy with me?

And lastly: do I betray my own needs?

By this I mean: I set goals and intentions for myself and despite wanting to change, find that the mental resistance is just too strong. I find myself making every excuse in the book, and just put it off for another time. When we do this, we begin to wire our brains that we are not reliable.

Despite our amazing abilities to show up for others and validate their needs, we are teaching ourselves that we are not to be trusted. When I have a need, it is unlikely to be fulfilled. I have trained myself I will not be able to and so “why try?”

It’s not that we aren’t reliable- sometimes we’re very reliable people. I know exactly how to soothe my partner and how to make my friends laugh. But at the end of the day when I am alone, I’m unsure what to do and unsure how to soothe myself or make myself laugh.

Why is it that we lose touch with ourselves and struggle so deeply to spark the relationship with self? Our relationship with self is the foundation, the basis for every relationship we ever have. Our relationship with ourselves is the longest relationship we will ever have.

When I have a secure and positive relationship with myself, I allow myself to be free of the pressures of my relationships with others. When I enter into environments and am able to be fully present, grounded, secure and aware, I find that I can make decisions with ease and clarity, trusting that I am making the right choice or that I will be “okay” even if the outcome isn’t what I had hoped for. I no longer have to seek outside validation or ask for advice, but rather, I trust that the correct answers are within me- and always have been.

TIP 1: Acknowledgement and Forgiveness

To begin to form a better relationship with yourself, it is important to acknowledge the relationship you had with yourself. Forgiveness is key in moving forward with anything- and especially when strengthening your relationship with YOU.

Remember, showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all. Acknowledge that doing something different is challenging. If you feel frustrated with yourself begin to ask, “what is this bringing up for me? What is my fear telling me right now? Is it true?”

* Optional Practice Exercise: Read silently, read aloud or write out these phrases: (add what feels true to you too!)

  • Change won’t always feel good- but it is a powerful teacher.

  • I forgive myself for selling myself short.

  • I forgive myself for the shame and guilt I carry.

  • I forgive myself for putting my wellbeing and happiness in the hands of others.

  • I forgive myself like I have graciously forgiven others.

  • I forgive myself for looking for answers and validation from others.

  • I will continue to do this work even when I fall short- I will forgive myself again.

  • What you didn’t have then, you have now.

  • I see you, I am here for you now.

  • I am glad you have found your way.

What are some ways you can forgive yourself and acknowledge how far you have come?

TIP 2: Beginning the Work

As with beginning anything new- you can expect to encounter challenges. Think: driving for the first time, playing a sport for the first time or even your first day of work at a new job. At one point, we had no idea what we were doing- but we gave ourselves a chance and learned. Grant yourself this chance and begin the work.

What can I do? How do I start the work? Here are a few places to start.

Observe the resistance with loving-kindness: Meet your inner critic with loving kindness. Approach them with curiosity. Allow yourself to simply co-exist with the resistance.

Mantra: “I am not defined by my resistance.”

Breathe: Never underestimate the power of breath. Try squared breathing. Set a timer on your phone for 30 seconds. Grant yourself 30 seconds. While sitting, breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, taking the breath into your stomach + watching your belly rise. Hold this breath for a count of 4. Release your breath through your mouth with a deep exhale for a count of 4. Repeat for 30 seconds or for 3-4 cycles. Feel the difference in your grounding and return to present moment.

Reality testing: Is what is happening a story I’m telling myself or is it really happening? What has my conditioning led me to believe is happening that may not be fully true?

Exercise: Release endorphins! Get up + moving. Allow what has been building up within you to release.

Self-care: This looks different for everyone. Some ideas? Take a bath/shower, read a book, go for a walk.

Journal: Think of it as ripping a page out of your book and starting fresh the next day. Unload the weight of the day onto your page. Become more aware of your habits. Write one thing you are grateful for at the end of each page.

And most of all: PATIENCE. We will run into challenges, we will fail. But most importantly, we will learn and we will grow. Without discomfort, there is no growth. Trust yourself and trust the process.

If you are looking for one-on-one support, I offer FREE 15-minute consultation calls where we can discuss if you are a good fit, as well as how to get started! Feel free to call me at 954.391.5305.


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