Our tendency is to build a good relationship with the outer world—society, nature, family, friends.
It’s a natural instinct to cultivate bonds with what’s outside of us, since the outer world is a tangible thing we can see. We often disregard (or fail) to build a relationship with what the eye can’t perceive, such as God or the self.
We’ve all experienced complications within our relationships with the outer world. Fixing what’s outside is oftentimes futile, because we haven’t worked on what’s inside.
Building a relationship with ourselves is the foundation of any other relationship we’ll maintain in life. Without it, no relationship with anyone or anything will flourish.
It took me a long time to realize that the bulk of my problems in the past have stemmed from the absence of a relationship with myself. I often sought completion from other people, and I stayed in destructive relationships, because I feared being alone.
Destructive relationships with lovers and friends were a blessing in disguise—they made me realize that I didn’t love myself enough, and that my relationship with myself was almost non-existent.
My breakthrough was two years ago, when I set off on my first solo backpacking trip to India, and I discovered the importance of learning to be by myself. I learned that my ability to be alone sets the tone for how I am with others.
Here’s a significant thing I wrote in my travel diaries from 2015. It reads:
“I’m realizing the importance of aloneness. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to love anyone; you’ll only bother people, because they will be your essential source of happiness. When you learn how to make yourself happy, you will learn to love people better. You won’t need them. You’ll only love them and try to make them happy. This is the essential purpose of our life: don’t bother people, love them.”
Oftentimes, we place pressure on our family, friends, and lovers to “be better” or to make us happier—but the truth is, we’re indirectly asking them to fill a void that’s within us. However, I don’t need anyone to complete me now; I only seek people who can appreciate my completeness and share their own with mine.
The relationship we have with ourselves improves the relationships we have with others. We must be comfortable being in our own space, so that we can give people theirs.
In order to start building a relationship with ourselves, we should reflect on all the good relationships we’ve maintained in our lives. How do we treat our best friend, or our partner, or our pet? Treat yourself the same. Imagine yourself as a person you admire, someone who wants to give all the love in the world to others.
Here’s how you can start building the foundation:
1. Do things alone. Doing things alone might be terrifying at first, but being alone teaches us so much about ourselves. We learn to make our own decisions, to manage our time, and to entertain ourselves. Don’t be scared to grab a book and go to a coffee shop, or sit at a bar and enjoy a beer on your own. If people stare at you, know that they’re looking at your amazing ability to be alone, and not judging you for at your “aloneness.”
2. Take care of your general health. We wouldn’t hurt what we love. To strengthen the bond with ourselves, we have to take care of our physical, emotional, and intellectual health. Eliminate what doesn’t serve you—be it food, situations, or people—and nurture what makes you happy and healthy.
3. Believe in yourself. The foundation of any healthy relationship is trust. We have to trust ourselves that we can do well. To achieve, we must believe. I always say that we must do everything as if we already know how to do it.
4. Be aware of your inner world. Our inner world consists of our relationship with the outer world. How do we treat others? Are we kind toward each other? Do we judge, blame, or criticize? Shed light on your outer actions, and work on them from the inside out.
5. Create habits. Create habits for yourself the same way you’d create habits with your partner or friend. It can’t be accomplished overnight, but you’ll surely end up with a startling daily routine after some time. Creating habits allows us to spend time with ourselves and to understand our psychological make-up.
6. Forgive yourself. We’re not perfect human beings, and we can’t be perfect all the time. Forgive yourself for any wrong behavior or actions toward yourself or others. Learn from them instead of beating yourself up for them. For every mistake, there’s a lesson in store.
7. Be grateful. To build a good relationship with ourselves, we must honor the relationship we have with the universe. As you wake up (and before going to bed), pay gratitude to your existence. Being grateful opens up closed doors and allows us to accept the present moment for whatever it brings us.
8. Embrace who you are. It’s imperative to work on character flaws, but it’s also essential to accept them. Don’t judge or blame yourself. Fall in love with the person that you see in the mirror, and look at your own soul the same way you’d look at a lover.
9. Be good to others. Last but not least, build a good relationship with others. Others tend to see us the same way we see ourselves. People are the mirror that we put out there.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Travis May
Social editor: Nicole Cameron