Seeing as Valentines Day is almost here, I thought it would be good to write a post about love. I didn’t want to write the typical cheesy sort of thing about what presents to get your significant other, or where to go for dinner, that’s not what this blog was about. Instead, I realised that I wanted to come back to the most important relationship for us all, but the one which is so often neglected in life. The relationship you have with yourself. A while back, I wrote a post about the importance of loving yourself first, and how it’s vital to be happy with yourself before you can love anyone else. That’s all well and good in theory, but the hard part is knowing HOW to love yourself, flaws and all, and be comfortable in your own skin. This is neither a purely physical or mental state, but a mixture of the two. Whilst it’s important to appreciate your body and accept the way you look, without an internal acceptance you will still have problems.
I’m by no means saying I’ve got a perfect relationship with myself, far from it, I am simply on the long road to getting there. But I have learnt a few things along the way, which I feel can apply to everyone. The first of which is that, as morbid and depressing as it sounds, the only person you can one hundred percent be certain will be with you for your entire life is yourself. Other people may come in and out of your life at various points; friends will be made, others will drift apart, relatives will die and romantic relationships will form and end, but you are the one who has to stick it out for the long haul. You’ve got no choice in that, so you may as well try to get comfortable, it could be a long ride.On a more positive side, the knock on effect of being happier with yourself is that you will attract happier people and situations. We can sense when others are awkward in themselves, and it effects how we perceive and interact with them. This works both ways, so it is beneficial to portray positivity and confidence. This can start from something as simple as smiling and using eye contact when you meet someone. Instantly they will feel at ease, and in turn this will make you feel more comfortable. However that is a purely surface level ‘trick’ you can employ to help the situation. The best way to present yourself to the world is to work from within. Once you’re happier with yourself it will show through without you having to do anything consciously.
We’re often too afraid to say nice things about ourselves, because we don’t want to seem big headed, and society has conditioned us to think it’s normal to be down on yourself. The irony is you would never talk to friends or loved ones like this (at least, I hope you wouldn’t!) so why talk to yourself in that way? One of the things which I’ve found incredibly helpful when trying to increase my self-esteem is to get a blank piece of paper, or post it note, and write down three things I like about myself. They can be anything, from how long my hair is getting to my empathy towards others. If you can’t immediately think of anything, give it some time, and don’t quit until you’ve got your three things. Once you’ve got your list, stick it somewhere you can see it often; on the mirror, your wardrobe door, next to your laptop. It doesn’t matter as long as you’ll notice it at least once or twice a day (the more the better). Do this once a month, if you can’t keep thinking of new things, then ask a friend to write some for you, and do the same for them. Perhaps you could write three things that you’ve done recently that you’re proud of or happy about. Just make sure you get three things down, and they’re positive things to do with you. You can take this further: if you feel you have the time/inclination, start a journal or diary. It doesn’t have to be a page of A4 every day, it could just be a few sentences of something you’re grateful for, or even a picture you snap on your phone to signify something good that’s happened in your day. Collect them together in some way; via instagram, in a photo-album, or a slideshow on your computer. This will serve as a growing timeline of positive happy things in your life, which you can look back on if you’re feeling down, or are feeling good and want to reminisce.
Another important thing to do for your own relationship is to take some alone time with it. Yup, that means turning down those super exciting plans to go out to the same pub on the same day this week and having a night in with yourself. Buy your favourite food, cook yourself a delicious meal, put on a film you love and relax. If this isn’t your idea of fun, do something else that you enjoy. Basically imagine you were taking yourself on a date, and you wanted to pick the perfect venue and activity. Plan it all out, dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself, and go! Some people find it weird to go to the cinema or get a meal on your own, but the more comfortable you become with yourself, the more you will view it as treating the most important person in your life – yourself.
Something which can be really difficult, but incredibly important for your self image, is to look at yourself in the mirror. I don’t mean in the usual way when you’re doing your makeup and you notice all the things you hate about yourself. Strip off, take off your makeup (if you wear it) and really LOOK at yourself. Acknowledge all of your features, the ones you like, the ones you’re not so happy with, everything. Tell yourself that no matter how you feel about your body, it is yours, it has carried you this far and is still going. If there are things you’re not happy about, ask yourself why. Is it because you don’t look how you think you ‘should’, or because you feel like you could be healthier? If it’s the first, then tell yourself that nobody looks perfect, we all have ‘flaws’ and often to other people the things you hate they could admire or wish they had. If you genuinely feel unhealthy, then make a sensible plan to work on that. Telling yourself that you’re not worth anything because you have a big bum is not only incredibly damaging, it’s also really untrue. If your friend had the same issues as you do, what would you say to them? Chances are you’d say that they’re beautiful how they are, and they would say the same to you.
If you have a lot of issues with yourself that you don’t feel you can work through on your own, then speak to someone. Doctors, councillors and your family are all there in different capacities to help you out if you need it, and reaching out can be the vital first step in repairing your relationship with yourself. Think of it like a romantic relationship: if there were issues you would try to work through them, and if it got bad you might consider couples therapy. I have added some links to my ‘Help’ section on where to look for help, but your GP is usually a good place to start.
What are you going to do to improve your (self) relationship?
Here are the links to some cool articles and sites which promote the sort of things I’ve talked about in this post. They have all served as inspirations for me recently:
http://hellogiggles.com/a-recipe-for-inspiration I LOVE Hello Giggles, the site from Zooey Deschanel and friends, and while this article is about getting inspiration for creative projects, I’ve found the exercise really beneficial for helping to clear your head and focus on the positives about yourself!
http://365grateful.com/ The inspiration behind my current Instagram project of taking a picture every day of something I’m grateful for.