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Why Is It Okay To Love Yourself First, And Your Partner Second

Why Is It Okay To Love Yourself First, And Your Partner Second

We all have our inner voices that are our daily companions. We all carry on an internal dialogue that constantly evaluates and analyzes our and other’s actions. And it is that inner voice that is an indicator of how we see ourselves and treat ourselves.

How My Inner Voice Affected My Life

For the longest time, my inner voice was an ugly bully that followed me everywhere. As a teen and young adult, I remember that I was living in the constant state of general anxiety. Even though I had people around me who loved me, I continued to feel unsafe and overwhelmed. And it was my inner bully that created these feelings in my life.

The bully would tell me things like “You are not good enough! You are not pretty enough! You shouldn’t be feeling this way or that way! Even though people tell you that they care about you, they don’t mean it. They are going to hurt you and leave you cause you are not good enough!”

Sounds horrible, right? I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware I had such an ugly companion for an inner voice. These thoughts would float into my mind automatically and leave me feeling miserable and exhausted.

Because of the inner bully, I couldn’t trust myself, and I felt anxious about making decisions. And I also couldn’t trust others, especially a person I was involved in a romantic relationship. I constantly doubted his interest in me, felt jealous and sought constant reassurance to ease my anxiety.

While his supportive words would help for a bit, they were never enough to quite my inner critic. Looking back, I can now see that there were three entities in my intimate relationship: my boyfriend, the bully and me.

It was a rotten triangle that caused much heartache. I became over-reliant on my boyfriend for his reassurance in many aspects of my life. And it felt my happiness utterly hanged on what he would say. This created an unhealthy relationship dynamic between us and placed an enormous burden on his shoulders.

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It is effortless to see the big picture from where I sit now, some 15 years older and with much life experience. But back then, I couldn’t tell you why I felt so insecure and miserable. As a result, I experienced this pattern and its full adverse effect in other relationships.

How Having a Healthy Relationship With Myself Has Changed My Life

Things began to change for me as I started to recognize the inner-bully voice, question it and foster a supportive voice instead. It was not an overnight success, but it worked!

As I began to talk to myself in an understanding and motivating way, I saw powerful changes. I was able to make decisions without panic. I could pay myself a compliment and see my strengths. I could be fully present with others and enjoy their company.

To summarize, I became a good friend to myself! It is from this place of friendship with myself that I was able to foster a secure relationship in my life with a significant other. In this new pattern, I didn’t feel overly dependent or too vulnerable; instead, I felt secure and safe.

As I underwent this makeover of my relationship with myself and helped others to do the same, I identified a few crucial steps necessary for success.

1. Become aware of your inner critic

It is time to find out what your inner voice sounds like and what it says to you on a daily basis. Without this awareness, we won’t be able to change your foe inner voice into a friend.

Does it inspire you or bring you down? Does it scare you or makes you feel confident? Does it tell you that you are worthy or does it tell you are looser?

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To help you build this awareness, I recommend checking out this Thinking Traps handout. These are common unrealistic ways of thinking that we all get caught up that leave us feeling inadequate. Find out which ones are a trap for you.

2. Challenge your inner critic and never let it beat you up

As you become more familiar about the nagging and bullying that your inner critic does, you can start to question it.

Just like a majority of people, I never questioned my inner critic and felt like it was right the entire time. But as I began to query, I realized that there was no evidence for any of the bully statements. The only evidence that supported it was my own belief. I chose to believe it blindly.

Luckily, I began to deconstruct this belief with some clever questions that my inner critic had no valid response.

Here are a few examples of questions that I used on my inner bully:

a. What is the evidence that supports this thought? And what is the evidence that doesn’t support it?

b. Is this a thought or a fact?

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c. Is my belief in this thought based on my feeling?

d. What would I say to a friend if he or she had this thought?

3. Recognize a feeling for what it is just a feeling

Mixing up a thought and a feeling is a great source of confusion for many of us. A feeling is usually something that we can describe with one word like anxious, uncomfortable, happy or sad. In contrast, a thought is usually our evaluation of an experience and is one or a few sentences long.

Your inner critic uses this confusion against you. As soon as you feel uncomfortable or anxious, the bully comes out and starts telling you that something is wrong with you. Where is, in reality, there isn’t anything wrong. It is ok to experience unpleasant feelings at times, and that doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong or that you are a bad person.

So one of your greatest defenses against your inner critic is to catch and highlight this for yourself.

You can raise your awareness by saying something like this “X has happened and now I feel anxious or sad. It is ok to experience this feeling, and it will pass. Just because I feel this way, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me or my actions”.

I invite you to create your personalized mantra based on this sentence that you can use to uncouple your feeling from your negative interpretation of it.

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4. You need to build the relationship, it won’t happen instantly

It takes some time to put these critical elements to practice. You have probably been hearing your inner bully for over 10 or 20 years. The inner critic has had a lot of practice. So it will take some excersice for you to foster a supportive and empathetic inner voice.

As you follow these steps to complete a makeover for your relationship with yourself, you can also begin to enjoy numerous benefits in your intimate relationships.

You will foster these relationships now not our of need or anxiety, but out of desire and confidence.

Instead of being destructed by analyzing how you or others feel about you, you will begin to enjoy your moments with your significant other.

And instead of being plagued by doubt and jealousy, you will able to experience trust and safety in your relationship.

Please remember, that in the real authentic intimacy there is no room for bullies and harsh critics. It is time to become a true friend to yourself, so you can also be a friend to your partner.

More by this author

Viktoria Ivanova

Psychotherapist, Coach & Wisdom Seeker

An image displays a couple holding each other's fingers Why Is It Okay To Love Yourself First, And Your Partner Second

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Published on December 2, 2020

6 Surefire Tips to Build Self-Confidence That Is Unstoppable

6 Surefire Tips to Build Self-Confidence That Is Unstoppable

Aren’t we all just supposed to “fake it till we make it“? Isn’t that the key to success, how we should build self-confidence? Millions of books proclaim this diatribe each year. We’re told to plaster on a smile, don the latest fashion, and give ourselves positive pep talks in the mirror each morning.

If you’re anything like me, you have read hundreds of self-help books and tried to catch the confidence bug. You might have even tried to tap into your inner Tony Robbins and cover your apartment with thousands of positive post-it notes. But, after about a week of positivity, you don’t feel more confident. In many ways, you feel more confused.

Building self-confidence isn’t a formulaic process––it’s an individual process. It has to feel right and comfortable. It should fit like sweatpants, not skinny jeans. This means that, if we want to improve ourselves, we have to know and accept ourselves.

If you’re tired of decorating your home with inspirational quotes or adding one more self-help book to your collection, this article is for you. I’ll give you the six practical tips that you need to build self-confidence and self-acceptance. Let’s get you started on this journey.

1. Accept Who You Are

You will never receive enough applause or accolades that will make up for your insecurity. If you want to build self-confidence, then you need to own who you are and learn to stand up tall in your shoes before adding more accessories to your personality. After all, confidence is not about being the most decorated; it’s about being comfortable in your skin.

If you want to build self-confidence, then you need to take the time to celebrate your distinct personality. Take a moment to learn about your strengths and your weaknesses, and be at peace with where you are––even if it’s not where you want to be.

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Self-confidence starts with accepting yourself––your strengths, weaknesses, and even your quirks. In many ways, it requires you to embrace your entire being. In essence, it’s giving the world your whole self and asking for nothing in return.

2. Accept That You Will Be Terrified (and That’s OK)

We all remember spelling bees when we were kids. We would listen intently and pray that we wouldn’t forget all the letters. As we uttered our guesses, our knees knocked, our peers stared, and sweat beat down upon our brow. This moment was torture––for everyone. It was terrifying having to stand in front of our entire classroom and scramble letters in rows.

Self-confidence isn’t a cure to fear. It’s not a unique combination of pixie dust that makes us invisible to conflict or struggle. In many ways, fear is the only way to experience self-confidence. Isn’t that great news? Okay, it’s not the most fantastic news, but it is comforting.

Think about it. If you want to get that promotion, you have to face your fear. If you audition for the lead on Broadway, you have to belt out Aida, even if you voice cracks. All of these moments are glorious because of fear. If there was nothing to face––no barrier to climb––then you would never experience the joy of success.

Self-confidence occurs when we embrace the fear and allow it to compel us forward.

3. Make Peace With Your Past

Take a moment to stand still and look back. Where you are now is not where you were––and that is a powerful thing.

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There’s something powerful about perusing through old photographs. We might cringe over our fashion choices and laugh at our crazy hairdos. However, we also experience the nostalgia of going back in time. For better or for worse, we can’t escape our journey when trying to reach our goal.

If you want to build self-confidence, you need to be willing to accept your past, even the parts that you want to forget. You might want to burn the negatives and forge ahead, but to move forward, you have to find peace with your past and your present.

Self-confidence is not pretending or performing––it’s making peace with who you were, who you are, and who you will become. In many ways, it’s accepting your experiences, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and figuring out how to move forward with healthy habits.

4. Be Happy for Others

One of the most significant ways to build your self-confidence is to celebrate someone else and take the pressure off yourself. Bask in the excitement of a friend or a colleague.

We all want to be happy for those around us, but it’s easy to be jealous. Sometimes popping another bottle of champagne for a friend seems like a monotonous chore.

If you struggle to celebrate others, you’re not alone. You’re not selfish; you’re self-conscious, and there’s a big difference. It’s impossible to applaud your friends or your colleagues when you can’t even accept the person staring back at you each morning.

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Many of us were raised in households to believe that accepting our strengths means being prideful. We learned to shy away from the spotlight and refuse credit for a job well done. There’s nothing wrong with being reserved, but if your preference for privacy projects upon those around you. You’re not humble; you’re raining on someone else’s parade.

Allow people around you to shine, and be their biggest fan. When you lift others, you celebrate their strengths without judging their weaknesses. When we take the time to be happy for those around us, it helps us celebrate our own victories build self-confidence.

5. Be Willing to Put in the Work

If you’re hoping to absorb and build self-confidence through the pages of another bestseller, I have one word of advice for you: put the book down and grab those weights, run on the treadmill, or lean into that stretch.

Here’s the deal: Self-confidence isn’t easy; it takes work. It doesn’t come in a Flintstone vitamin; it comes through sweat.

Building self-confidence requires everyone to workout, but not everyone will be working out the same way or at the same pace. Remember, building self-confidence is not about beating the competition. It’s about accepting who you are, improving yourself, and learning to trust in your knowledge and capabilities.

6. Don’t Let Your Childhood Scars Write Your Story

All of us have childhood scars, but we don’t have to carry them with us as adults. Even if you had a perfect childhood, your self-confidence was influenced by your personal experience.

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No one can claim your story, but all of us can empathize with some form of childhood struggle.

Our childhood experiences have influenced our psyche, our self-perception, and our ability to build self-confidence[1]. However, if we’re willing to see ourselves holistically, we’ll be able to live our lives authentically. It’s important to understand your journey as much as your goal.

Take a moment and write down everything that comes to mind when you receive compliments. Do you dismiss them? Do you base your entire self-worth on them? Write down your reactions and then process the reasoning behind your response.

You can do this exercise with a therapist, a trusted friend, or even on your own. If you’re willing to go back in your past and address your scars, you’ll be able to have a greater understanding of yourself and not be rocked by compliments or criticisms.

When you’re grounded in who you are, you’ll be able to experience life without fear and, ultimately, write your own story with self-confidence.

Final Thoughts

If you want to build self-confidence, remember that it’s a process. Don’t hurry to the finish line to get to the end of the race. If you take the time to accept yourself, fail forward, embrace the journey, and give yourself grace along the way, you’ll have everything you need to be more self-confident.

Take today and figure out who you are and who you want to be, and don’t lose your identity in the process. If you utilize these tools, you won’t have to fake it till you make it––you can make it without losing yourself along the way.

More Tips on Being Self-Confident

Featured photo credit: Etty Fidele via unsplash.com

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