Everyone wants to feel loved, and to give love freely without fear. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and sustain healthy relationships?
The problem is many of us struggle to be authentic with others, because we haven’t yet made peace with ourselves.
Until we truly see what is going on within us, we can’t be our full selves in front of others.
But what does this mean, “be ourselves?” This overused phrase “Just be yourself” suggests the expression of some fixed identity, like turning on a switch. Instead I see it as the process of accepting what is real in any given moment. It requires valuing our feelings, needs, life-dreams, joys and vulnerabilities on a daily basis. It means embracing our struggles and truly loving ourselves.
It is such a cliché, but a good relationship with our selves is a pre-requisite for good relationships with others.
So if you are having relationship challenges, the very first step is to learn to be who you are in front of yourself.
If you’ve done this already, you are one step ahead of most.
But for many, there are real barriers:
- Failure to notice the stories we tell ourselves and the roles we play.
- Fear of being discovered as unworthy (to our subconscious mind, this is akin to death.)
- Lack of awareness of our boundaries and needs. If we don’t know what they are, we can’t share them with others.
- Fear of losing control of others’ perceptions of us.
Here is how to move past these road blocks and develop a positive relationship with yourself:
4 Steps to Getting Real with Yourself
1. Own your emotions and let them guide you.
- Feelings are a sign of where you’ve been, or a map showing you where you need to go. Face your feelings and listen to what they are telling you. For example, are you having an automatic reaction from the past, or getting a message from your deeper self about your current situation?
- Accept all emotions without judgement. If you feel afraid to ask for something, just observe it: “Oh look, there is my fear cropping up again . . .” You may have feelings, but they don’t have you.
- Feel your feelings without thinking the thoughts. This is key! Especially if you are having distressing emotions, avoid making meaning with your automatic thoughts. Rather, enter fully into the feeling so it will morph or dissipate. You can think about it later.
2. Take off your masks
- Notice the personas you create. What role do you tend to play in your relationships? What unmet need are you trying to meet? Couples who get stuck in predictable arguments can try switching roles as an exercise. This allows a glimpse of freedom from the mask, and reminds us that we can step out of roles at will.
- To help illuminate the masks we wear, go a whole week asking this question: “Am I talking about myself?” If you react strongly to another, you may be judging disowned parts of yourself. For example, if your partner is “selfish,” is it because you actually wish you could just take some time off, or do whatever you want?
3. Get to know and respect your boundaries.
Our limits literally define where we end and others begin. To have a good self-concept, you must:
- Admit where your personal lines are. Maybe you second guess your boundaries by comparing them to others’. If you feel something is too much for you, it just is. Embrace what you need.
- Practice limit-setting on small things. Rehearse how you will say “no.” And if you get caught off guard, it’s ok to ask for time:: “You know, there are some variables I need to consider–can I get back to you?”
- Start spending time with people who support your efforts to make these changes, and take a break from those who don’t.
4. Trust your intuition
- Releasing old programming allows us to respond in the present. Intuition comes from the present, not the past.
- Pay attention to your gut feelings without explanations or second-guessing. Release the “reasons” behind an impulse, and just feel the pull of your deeper self.
- In order to tell the difference between the fear that is based on old programming, and fear that comes from following our intuition, pay attention to the quality of the feeling. For example, if you are starting to make positive changes in your life, you will be afraid. But if you are following your deeper self, it will feel more like an expansion rather than a constriction.
- Listen to your body. Meditation, yoga or other mind-body practices help immensely with getting in touch with intuition.