How to Cultivate Your Most Important Relationship: The One with Yourself
“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.”
— Diane Von Furstenberg
Having a relationship with yourself is, like any relationship, difficult and full of many ups and downs. Without carefully tending to it, however, living a fulfilling life is impossible. Why?
- Only you can figure out what you want, and once you know, no one can take it away from you.
Figure out how the best badass version of yourself feels in the future: work towards that
As difficult as it can be, understanding what we want to do with the one life we’ve been given is an incredibly important task that we be responsible for ourselves. A lot of us look to other people like our teachers and parents to tell us what we should do, or we allow societal pressures and our perceived talents to push us in one direction or another.
The truth is, no one has the answer to what you should do with your life — nor does it necessarily lie in what you are naturally good at doing.
It is your job to figure out what you want out of life. This might be broad and will evolve over time, but it will probably fundamentally be constant. If you know what you really want, you can always work in that direction, and check in on yourself along your journey.
Figure out what you want out of life: a million dollars? to make an impact on your immediate community? a family?
What does that mean for you? Which are your priorities?
Then, ask yourself how you can take steps to make it happen. Let’s say you want to cure cancer or be the next huge rapper. Maybe you won’t figure out the ideal medical ritual today, but you can start researching how to work on the problem. You might not perform at Madison Square Garden tomorrow, but you can start writing that first rap or reaching out to producers today.
After taking the first steps, if you ask yourself consistently whether you are going in the direction of WHAT you want, you can keep yourself on track.
Once you know what you want and you firmly believe you are working towards getting there (don’t lie to yourself, make sure you are on track), no one can take that away from you. You will feel incredibly connected to your desires and work. It’s much harder to become distracted by vices like drugs and alcohol addictions, to get stuck on in the wrong job or industry, etc. when you know what you want.
Others’ comments and opinions will not matter because they are not you, and you are going down your own path.
- There is no healthy relationship without loving yourself first.
You cannot experience the true beauty of love until you understand and develop a loving relationship with yourself.
Once you do this, you love for the right reasons, and you choose only to give your love to people who will be able to accept it and promote your well-being right back to you.
When we don’t have a good relationship with ourselves, we often find ourselves in abusive or otherwise unhealthy relationships. We can rationalize (consciously or subconsciously) that we deserve these relationships or that they are ok when we do not feel fulfilled on our own.
Further, when you are close to yourself, you have more truth in your interactions with people — family members, friends, significant others, etc. This allows the people you care about to love you for you instead of an idea of you that you might construct if you do not feel comfortable in your own identity.
- We come into the world alone and will go out alone. (Morbid but true.)
I truly hope that you die surrounded by people you love who genuinely cherish you. This does not take away the fact that we do, however happily or tragically, die at some point in our lives. At the moment when we are taken from this life, you do not want to regret not having been good to yourself and your wants and needs.
Further, we never know what we will lose in this lifetime. Our parents will be gone one day, our pets will pass on, and much of what we know can disappear in an instant. Through it all, you have to build a strong love for yourself to get through the difficult times everyone will be faced with.
Other people can help comfort you, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for picking yourself up.
- Your relationship with yourself dictates how altruistic you become
When you are not at peace with yourself, it is really difficult to focus on positively impacting others and spreading kindness into the world.
Loving yourself wholly is an act of service because it immediately translates into positive energy in the world.
You will want to be kinder to people, give back to your community, and serve as much as possible.
The more you serve, the more that comes back to you! It’s a win win situation.
How can you start to cultivate your relationship with yourself?
- Do things alone.
The simple act of doing things alone is incredibly powerful. When you accomplish a task or a big feat on your own, you bond with yourself, just as you would bond with a person you have a wonderful shared experience with. Further, you become stronger, more confident, and more understanding of who you are, which feels amazing.
Here are two things I implore you to try doing alone:
Eat alone in public:
So many people have a negative stigma about eating alone at a restaurant or in a cafeteria. If you avoid eating alone, I challenge you to do it more often. Become comfortable with it and make your eating time alone feel just as fun and normal as eating with a friend.
I love taking myself out to eat on self-dates. Going to a restaurant on a Saturday night, ordering food for myself, and enjoying quiet time is my piece of cake — though I love spending time with my boyfriend, friends, & family as well.
In college, I preferred to eat alone at lunch most of the time. It gives you time to clear your mind (catch up with yourself!) and reflect.
I love the feeling of getting on a plane alone and taking off to a new place. It’s incredibly liberating, and it is a strong reminder of how self-sufficient you are as a human when turbulence happens, and you have to comfort yourself.
Being in a new place alone is also invigorating. When you only have yourself to rely on, you are guaranteed to overcome new challenges and have novel experiences.
If you cannot travel far, try taking small trips near home with yourself. Go to a museum, garden, or nearby city alone. You’ll be glad you had the experience of discovering something new on your own.
- Become financially independent.
Being financially independent of your parents, spouse, or whoever else has dough is incredibly empowering. If you can become financially independent of a traditional job as well, that’s even more exhilarating.
When you depend on someone else for money, you rely on them not only for your well-being but to make investments in your future. Being financially independent makes you feel in control of your life: you can keep yourself sheltered, safe, fed, and warm.
Further, any extra money you have is yours to spend, save, or invest in the future. You can use your own money however you want, and, as obvious as it seems, that is an accomplishment that will help you feel more confident each day.
How can you become financially independent? Work hard. Get a skill. Sell your services. Build a product. Sell it. Get a great job. Figure out what is right for you (go back to the top of the article).
- Set intentions for yourself.
You should set intentions for yourself and remind yourself of them every day. Write them down. Memorize them and repeat them in your mind like a mantra.
Without intention for what we are doing, we lose sight of who we are, why we do what we do, and, as sad as it sounds, why we are alive.
Having a burning intention will help you to get out of bed, keep going in hard times, and give you the focus and motivation you need to work for what you want.
- Learn how to self-care and soothe.
Remember what I said about being born and dying alone? It’s important that you learn how to care for yourself for this reason.
Some self-care items should be habits: exercising a few times every week, eating well for your body, journaling often, etc. Develop a routine for self-care that helps you to reboot yourself consistently throughout the week.
The second part of this is self-soothing. Everyone should have a crisis-management plan in place for themselves.
What if something bad happens? You lose a friend, your boss fires you randomly, you lose a limb — God forbid, or you feel depressed — how will you handle these situations?
Have an action plan for dreaded times like these. It will help you to focus on self-soothing by taking action rather than allowing the crisis to consume you.
- Challenge yourself.
To learn more about yourself, constantly challenge yourself.
By putting yourself in uncomfortable and new situations, you learn your wants, needs, and pain points more thoroughly than if you always do the same old things.
Great entrepreneurs and other heroes throughout history have always challenged themselves. Gandhi did so by fasting and giving up material desires. Elon Musk makes his companies’ goals bigger and bigger. Serena Williams never settles at her current level of precision in tennis.
Challenge yourself to keep exercising for a few extra minutes, to work for an extra hour towards something you love, to cut out sugar for a week, etc.
These small acts of challenging yourself add up to a great deal of knowledge about who you are and make you an even stronger, more badass person.