IT MAY SEEM STRANGE in a journaling series on relationships to focus on oneself, but when you think about it, what other relationship in your life is more immediate, more impactful, more intimate, or more important? Our relationships with others truly begin with ourselves. Yet, for the most part, we tend to neglect this vital relationship in favor of others. We work hard to improve our relationships with significant others, children, parents, and so on, forgetting to even consider how we treat ourselves.
We learned early from our relationships with our parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, extended family, and school friends how the world sees us. We learned what they liked and what they didn’t, what was “bad” and “good” in us. We learned to see ourselves through their eyes, internalized their views, and copied the way they treated us.
That’s how it started.
As we grew older, we likely absorbed and internalized additional feedback from others about our looks, our personalities, our intelligence and talents. We may have unquestioningly accepted those viewpoints as truth. Or we may have rebelled against those external judgments and gone in the opposite direction. Either way, we may have ended up with a distorted view of ourselves.
Typically, we’re harder on ourselves than others are, taking in negative comments and ignoring or downplaying the positive ones.
But carrying around negative feelings about yourself, such as unhappiness, guilt, or dislike, has a direct correlation to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Conversely, having a healthy, positive relationship with yourself helps to keep you strong and healthy in all these aspects of your life. And without a positive relationship with yourself, your relationships with others also suffer.
That’s why it’s important to take time to consider this most personal of relationships: you and you.
Using the following journaling prompts, explore the current state of your relationship to self and what it means (and takes) to have a good relationship with the one person who is always present in your life.
- Describe yourself in third person, as though someone else’s eyes. What kind of person are you? What are your best and worst qualities? Do you like you?
- Do you take good care of your basic needs for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and recreation? In what situations do you tend to neglect — or even, abuse — yourself?
- How do you speak to yourself (out loud or in your head)? Are you kind to yourself? Or do you engage in self-criticism and blame?
- How does your attitude to yourself in this way affect your relationships with others?
- Do you think it’s “selfish” to focus on yourself and your own happiness? Why or why not?
- Are you comfortable being alone with yourself, or do you feel the need to surround yourself with others? Perform a creative cluster using the phrase “being alone” as the nucleus. What images or emotions surface?
- Do you surround yourself with people who express positive attitudes about life and are generally compassionate towards others? Or do the people around you tend to be negative and/or critical? How do those around you affect how you see yourself?
- Describe what it means (or would mean) to have a “good” or healthy relationship with yourself?
- What actions can you take today to nurture your relationship with yourself?