Written by Allison Bratsch, LPC, ACS
Life is a journey of constant development and change. It’s about learning and growing. You never stop evolving, and it’s all about the process. Life is about the experiences and what you take from the life you live. Happiness and contentment are not about life always being easy and wonderful. True contentment is about allowing yourself to ride the waves, tolerate difficult emotions, and face challenges with a willingness to learn and improve. Resiliency is not about “bouncing back” to the person you were or the place you were previously, but a “trekking forward” – it’s about overcoming hardships by learning and growing and becoming a better version of yourself.
And what is the foundation of your ability to do this? It’s simple: your relationship with yourself. This involves your sense of self-worth, how well you know yourself, self-acceptance (strengths, flaws and all), the nature of the voices in your head (self-talk), your level of trust in yourself, your sense of compassion for yourself, how well you take care of yourself, and your belief in yourself.
As in all relationships, your relationship with yourself will have its ups and downs. The good news is, it’s a lifelong journey. You’re stuck with yourself, so you’d better get used to this idea. Speaking of, guess what? When no one else is around, you’ll still have yourself. Which is another reason to continually improve the most important relationship you’ll ever be in. The reality is you won’t always love yourself and sometimes it will be extremely difficult to be there for yourself. Know that this is part of the journey, and think of these moments as opportunities to learn and improve. Developing a healthy relationship with yourself isn’t a linear process, a point A to point B situation, or an ultimate goal. As I already mentioned, it’s a lifelong journey, and it will look different for everyone. The key is to truly know yourself, and be willing to learn new things about yourself all the time. Oh, and a word on commitment: the moment you commit to your relationship with yourself is the moment your life will take a turn for the best.
The reason your relationship with yourself is the foundation for your ability to navigate life as resilient and healthy human? Well, in addition to the obvious reasons already listed above, being in a healthy relationship with yourself will provide you with the internal resources necessary to overcome life’s challenges and difficulties, because you’ll feel generally capable, brave, strong, and willing to fight for yourself and your happiness. Secondly, your relationship with yourself is the window through which you see all other relationships. If you can be in a healthy and loving relationship with yourself, you have the ability to be in healthy and loving relationships with others, because you open yourself up to being loved by others, and because you naturally perceive others the way you perceive yourself. If you feel love, compassion, and kindness toward yourself, you’ll project these warm and fuzzy feelings to others, seeing others as capable of the same feelings. AND you’ll see yourself as capable of providing this love to others. And this applies to all types of relationships, not merely romantic.
Final thoughts… since life is a journey of constant development and growth, remember you are human, and be willing to make mistakes. And when you make a mistake, show yourself compassion, and open yourself up to learning and growing (refer back to the first sentence of this article, in case you didn’t get it loud and clear), and then let it go and move forward. This takes practice, but it is a choice. It’s all about that relationship with yourself and what you tell yourself in these situations. Remember how powerful your thoughts are (essentially your inner dialogue or the conversations you have with yourself). Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this situation, and how can I move forward?” It’s simple, really, it just takes a choice and continual effort. It’s not going to happen overnight, and that’s why it’s called “self improvement” and “personal growth” and “personal development.” Be patient and gentle with yourself, and remind yourself: you’re doing the best you can with what you have where you’re at. Simply allow yourself to enjoy this rollercoaster of a journey. Be grateful for all experiences. Live and learn, and then love the hell out of this short life.