Do you have a healthy relationship with yourself? That’s one tough question to answer. It’s not even something most of us think about that often.
But it’s a question of prime importance now more than ever before. The systems, the people, the places that we relied on for so long are not really there for us anymore. The future feels more uncertain.
Everyone around us is struggling in their own ways. Work, finance, mental health, insomnia, weight gain, loneliness — everyone is fighting their own personal battles. During such times, the key to happiness and sanity lies in self-reliance.
It’s hard to build a great life for yourself and healthy relationships with other people till you fix the one that you have with yourself.
Fortunately for me, I made one decision, which even though seemed incredibly selfish, helped me move closer to the life I always wanted. I moved to my favorite city in India — Banglore.
And moving to this city, living by myself in a small one-bedroom apartment helped me work on my relationship with myself. Of course, I was constantly connected with the world through various community platforms. But I was spending most of my time alone.
If you’re used to living on other people’s terms, such decisions based on nothing else but your own feelings could feel scary. But sometimes, that’s exactly what takes you closer to yourself.
This article is for anyone lacking a healthy relationship with themselves. Do you find yourself living most of your life like it isn’t your own? How do you identify these cracks in your relationship with yourself?
Here are a few signs to look for —
1. You find it hard to make your own decisions or you hardly make any of your own decisions.
When it comes to making important decisions about your life, you either outsource the decision-making or just follow what everyone is doing.
It’s not wrong to take advice from others, but just removing yourself from the decision-making process altogether implies that you are afraid to be in the driving seat for your own life.
For me, moving to Bangalore was that decision that made me feel empowered and completely in charge of my life and my decisions.
2. You don’t trust yourself enough
I have a vivid memory from my childhood. It’s such an insignificant one but still a good example.
A quiz was going on in the assembly hall of my school. The question was what’s the other 7 letter word apart from ‘Fashion’ that ends with ‘shion’. Being the geek I was, I instantly knew the answer was ‘Cushion’. But instead of saying it out loud, I said it to my friend who raised her hand, answered the question, and won points for the house.
Have you been in a similar spot where you’ve known what you’re thinking/feeling is right but felt unsure about accepting it or saying it out loud? Do you know deep down what you need to do but shy away from hearing your own voice?
Well, maybe you need to work on trusting yourself a little more.
Trusting yourself starts with giving yourself permission to be wrong. You hear your own voice and do what feels right at the moment. Start with trusting yourself on decisions that are reversible, and as you develop a better relationship with yourself, you can trust yourself with the bigger decisions as well.
For me, moving to the new city was a completely reversible decision. I could always move back home if it absolutely sucked. But through this decision, I learned how to live alone which now makes me feel more empowered to take other bigger decisions. Like moving to a different country, maybe.
3. You don’t know how to spend time with yourself
Does the idea of spending time with yourself scare you? Would you rather stay in bad company just to be around people instead of being with yourself? Are you too quick to socialize and do you try to conform to the identity that lets you become a part of that group?
Or, do you rush into being in relationships as soon as you break up? Does the idea of being single make you uncomfortable?
I think you know where this is going — you might be afraid to be with yourself.
I somehow always knew that living alone for a while was what I absolutely needed to do in order to build a better relationship with myself. The second thing that I knew would help for sure was reading. By living alone, I learned so much about what I liked and disliked. I learned who I was when I wasn’t trying to be anything for anyone. Through reading, I learned to have conversations with myself.
“We need solitude, because when we’re alone, we’re free from obligations, we don’t need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts.” — Tamim Ansary
4. You don’t know how to comfort yourself
As kids, most of us would run to our parents with our problems and they would help us with them. Some of us grow up but never really learn to be our own support system.
While it’s important to ask for help when you need it, it’s necessary that you also learn a few coping skills of your own.
When things go wrong, as they will a lot of time, you will need a strong relationship with yourself to be there for yourself, manage your emotions, and get back up. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a victim mindset just waiting for someone to rescue you from all of your troubles.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”Christopher Germer
When you live alone, you have no one else but yourself to blame for your daily routines, your low energy levels, or your depressed mood.
Eventually, you learn to observe your own patterns. Do you make a mess of your place and then start feeling chaotic in your head too? Do you delay taking a shower and end up feeling like you lost control of the day? Do you work too much leaving no time at all for some healthy amount of self-care?
Once you know what you can do better (not because someone is telling you this, but because you can see it for yourself) you start changing. If that’s not being there for yourself, then I don’t know what is.
5. You are too affected by opinions and criticisms
Do you spend hours analyzing what your friends, co-workers, or relatives think of you? Are you constantly worried about how you are coming across to them?
It took me some time to realize that caring too much about what others think was causing me constant anxiety. No matter how hard I tried, I could never ensure that I came off well to everyone and lived up to their expectations.
Then I made a pact with myself — As long as I am kind, compassionate, and considerate (personal values I care about the most), I need not worry. What people do or say, isn’t about me. Just focussing on what I can control and being the best version of myself according to me is enough.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” — John Wooden
There are many other signs that could mean your relationship with self needs work. In fact, we can almost always benefit from connecting better with ourselves.
But you don’t always have to make a huge change in your life, like living alone to build self-reliance. As long as you’re aware of wanting this change, you can make it happen slowly by observing your decisions on a day-to-day basis.
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Complete Prose Works Of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Of course, one of the biggest perks of the whole work-from-home setup has been the choice to work from anywhere. So if you’ve been contemplating moving to a new place to find yourself, you should definitely give it a try.
Once you know how to be comfortable in silence and happy in your company, you are truly empowered and free.