By Psychologist Paula Lorimer
This question was asked in a conference I attended many years ago: “What is the most important relationship you’ll ever have?” There were many answers: a spouse, a soul mate, children, parents, etc. These relationships are significant and important, however they are not the most important relationship you’ll ever have. The true answer is “yourself”.
In the Art of Loving (1956) Psychologist Erich Fromm suggested true love involves the basic elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. He proposed that loving yourself is different from being arrogant, conceited, or egocentric. Self-Love is not selfishness. Loving oneself means caring about yourself, taking responsibility for yourself, respecting yourself, and knowing yourself (e.g. being realistic and honest about your strengths and weaknesses). Further, he proposed that in order to be able to truly love another person you first need to love oneself in this way.
Nurturing a strong healthy relationship with yourself leads to fulfillment and satisfaction, accelerates recovery of emotional and physical injuries, gives personal meaning, and is a road map for relationships and how others will treat you. Self-love is an investment. What you invest in grows, what you neglect withers.
We give, work at, and at times sacrifice to keep other relationships healthy, but without doing the same for ourselves, all of our relationships will suffer. Parents who believe children always come first, couples who forgo their needs for their partner, and people who work hard to please others before themselves will eventually experience resentment from never getting their own needs met, dissatisfaction because they are not fulfilled, and risk burn out and other emotional injuries.
We are required to connect with others, as part of our survival. For many our desire to connect supersedes taking care of ourselves, however we must acknowledge that in order to have a healthy fulfilling life, each of us must develop a loving relationship with ourselves.
Here are some tips you can adopt to nurture the most important relationship you’ll ever have:
Ask yourself: What do I want?
Without an understanding of who you are and your desires, it becomes easy to neglect yourself, your wants, and your needs. This can lead to indecisiveness allowing others and life to make decisions for you. Take a moment and ask yourself, ‘what do I want?’ Ask yourself this for topics ranging from what you want for lunch to what fulfills you in life. The more often you meet your needs and invest in yourself the more generally content and satisfied you will become.
Invest in You
Like an RRSP, the more you invest in yourself the more your wealth or self-love will grow. Choose yourself sometimes instead of others’, say ‘no’ to some requests, take breaks and breathe, when feeling low on energy or mood, do something you find comforting or soothing instead of pushing on through with your day or ‘the to-do list.’ Be generous and kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to make yourself a priority. This is truly the only way to effectively care for others while achieving your own fulfillment.
Listen to Youself
We talk to ourselves all day long, most often we don’t even notice. Your words and thoughts impact you and have a lasting affect. Ask yourself; is this comment helpful or hurtful to me? Stop self-criticism and judgment. It only causes harm. Rather, notice your strengths, create positive affirmations, and accept compliments from others and yourself.
Oscar Wilde said “To love oneself is the beginning of a life long romance”. As we approach Valentine’s Day and thoughts turn to love, and romantic relationships, or lack thereof, take some time to invest in the most important relationship you’re ever going to have. Develop a lasting, loving relationship with yourself.
Have a happy February and stay tuned for our next post on building and maintaining healthy couple relationships.