We are relating to ourselves, all day, every day.
We are the most important relationship in our own lives.
How we relate to ourselves largely determines how we feel and function.
We are with ourselves 24/7. We can’t NOT relate to ourselves; we are in our own head.
The relationship we have with ourselves can be supportive and nurturing, it can be disparaging and destructive, or it can be somewhere between those extremes…but our relationship with ourself ISN’T neutral.
Very often, when we grew up abused, neglected, or bullied, the way we were treated works its way into our relationship with ourselves.
We didn’t learn to value ourselves when we were young, because we had no idea what it might look like TO value ourselves.
We didn’t learn to talk to ourselves in supportive language, because we weren’t talked to in supportive language.
We didn’t learn to be there for ourselves, because the people who should have been there for us, weren’t.
To the contrary, if we grew up with a lot of pain and aggression in our lives, we might have learned to attack ourselves for our perceived inadequacies, and hold ourselves responsible for things we couldn’t possibly control.
This comes out in our self talk— how we communicate to ourselves about the world, how we explain things to ourselves, how we verbally relate to ourselves.
It comes out in our attitudes toward ourselves.
It comes out in the behavioral choices we make— whether we choose to do things that will protect, support, and nurture ourselves, or choose to do things that will dig us into deeper and deeper emotional and behavioral holes.
If we’re going to effectively grow and recover from depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction, we need to establish and maintain a supportive, positive relationship with ourselves.
We need to be there for ourselves. We need to have our own back.
What does this look like, in practical terms?
It looks like talking to ourselves in ways that we would talk to someone we support and love, as opposed to someone we hate or are indifferent to.
It looks like making decisions, day to day, that will enhance our health and happiness, particularly about self-care and relationships.
It looks like setting appropriate boundaries to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, and energetically.
Having our own back means refusing to abandon ourselves. It means refusing to talk down to ourselves. It means refusing to abuse or neglect or bully ourselves in our head.
Being on our own side doesn’t mean we love or approve of everything we do. I’m sure there are people or animals in your life who you love, but you’re not thrilled about everything they do.
It does mean viewing what we do in context, and giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt— much like you’d do with someone you love and who you want to see succeed.
In order to get and stay on our own side, we often have to take a hard look at how our past has impacted the way we relate to ourselves— and that can be painful.
Many of us don’t WANT to take a close, clear look at how what we’ve been through has affected us.
Many of us would prefer to keep relating to ourselves in an antagonistic way rather than take on the burden of being on our own side.
A lot of people have even been taught that to value themselves is “selfish” or “narcissistic.”
There is nothing selfish or narcissistic about healthy, realistic self-esteem.
When we value ourselves, we see ourselves as we are— not some imagined perfect version of ourselves that can do no wrong.
Getting on our own side, having our own back, is a non-negotiable when it comes to recovery.
We’re not going to recover while simultaneously attacking, shaming, and bullying ourselves.
When we make that shift to actually valuing ourselves, though— miracles happen.
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