How do you cultivate the best relationship with yourself?
Many years ago, the Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius posed a question. What does it take to live a good life? Centuries later, the psychiatrist Carl Jung proposed an answer. ‘The difference between a good life and a bad life is how you walk through the fire.’
Running your own business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. There are many roads to success. Key to all of them is the relationship you have with yourself. Because it is this that will determine your capacity to ‘walk through the fire’.
Let’s start with a challenge. How long can you truly listen to someone for. I mean really listen, giving them your whole hearted attention. Most people don’t do well with this. Our minds are always ‘on’, always looking ahead (or behind), thinking about what we are going to say next, or what we’ve forgotten to do. This is normal – and it is a problem for communication. Human brains are predictive processors; they take fragments of information and predict meaning. Which can result in you hearing what you expect to hear, rather than what is actually said.
To listen better, try this. Keep 50 per cent of your attention on your body, maybe on your feet or your hands. It helps stop your mind wandering.
Listening matter because most things in life are about relationships. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. And the better you listen, then better rapport you can form with others. And the better you can listen to yourself, too, which will inform your ability to connect with others.
Forming a good relationship with yourself also involves getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you are trying to do something important to you, it’s inevitable you will sometimes feel anxious, overwhelmed, that you will doubt yourself. It’s called being human.
To make your inner world a ‘safe space’ to feel emotions, even the ones you don’t like, try making a habit of acknowledging what you think and feel. And do so by tapping on the ‘karate chop’ side of one hand. Say to yourself, ‘even though I feel (insert your emotion of choice), I fully and completely accept myself.
If you can do this for 90 seconds, that’s the physiological lifespan of a feeling, you’ll allow the feeling to peak and drop away. It’s always important to acknowledge what you feel. But it’s equally important to not spend too much energy investing in it.
When working with yourself, it’s important to acknowledge that there is only a limited arena over which you have control. You can control your thoughts and actions, and how you will respond. And where you put your attention. You cannot control outcomes. Or other peoples’ behaviours. Build a relationship with yourself that takes account of what’s in your control. Put your energy here and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.
Do you generally do your best, with whatever skills and knowledge you have? Like as not, you do. Learn to trust this, especially when you are not sure where you are going or how things will pan out. At any given moment, just work out what the next step is. Don’t look too far ahead – and try to appreciate each step for what it is – just another step. If it works out well, great. If not, well you have learned a bit more for your journey. Try to stay out of the ‘judging’ headspace of regularly finding fault with what you didn’t know or couldn’t have foreseen.
A final thought on balancing your relationship with yourself – you have limited bandwidth. It’s easy to say yes to too many things, or end each day feeling like you haven’t done enough. Manage this by limiting what’s on your to do list to seven items – three for your business, three for your personal life (because you have one) and one piece of self-care. And never be afraid to cancel things, or leave white space in your diary.
- Listen well
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
- Concentrate your efforts on what you can control
- Trust yourself
- Cut back on what you expect of yourself in any one 24 hours.
Ultimately, there’s no manual to build the best relationship with yourself. What your good relationship will look like will be different to someone else’s. And your definition of success likewise.
Keep going – because when you find the balance between who you are as a person and how you want to show up in the world, you have something truly precious.
And it’s under your control to work out what that looks like for you.
Alison Bale BSc (Hons) of Mind Insight is a former communication consultant, chiropractor, and she has run healthcare businesses on two continents. She teaches skills and thinking habits to help you cultivate the best relationship with yourself. You can find her at www.mindinsight.online, on FB and IG @mindinsightonline and on LI alison-bale-mindfulness.