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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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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide)

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide)

Is there such a thing as a quarter life crisis and could it be the cause of you experiencing a lack of happiness and fulfilment in your life or career right now?

According to popular psychology, a quarter life crisis is a crisis “involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life” which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person’s twenties up to their mid-thirties.[1] It tends to occur after we have finished our schooling and study, when we have settled into everyday life, often at major points or life changing events when we feel we are at a crossroads. We know something must change but we don’t know what or how to begin. It can feel confusing and lonely.

The good news is this is quite a normal experience. With some insight and small steps, you can gain clarity and direction on a way forward.

Firstly, it’s important to realize you are not alone. LinkedIn surveyed thousands of 25 to 33 years olds; the data showed that 75% had experienced a quarter life crisis with the average age being 27.[2]

Our twenties and thirties are nothing like they used to be. There are so many pressures now for people in this age group including having a well-qualified career, a secure relationship and possibly a family. The prospect of owning a home of your own becomes important, yet each year seems to be getting further out of reach, putting further pressure on your income earning capacity and career choice.

Personally, I have experienced both a quarter life crisis and a mid life one and there are similarities between both. Change was instigated for me both times by a difficult life-changing event, because I didn’t understand what I was experiencing or how to change it. Hindsight is a great thing and I sometimes wish I’d had the insights back then that I have now.

When you become aware of what you are experiencing and acknowledge your feelings as perfectly normal, change and transformation flows with more ease as you begin to take the steps to find new direction, happiness and fulfilment.

Here you will find what I consider to be the complete guide. It contains the essential steps I have identified to get clear on your way forward and move through this period of your life with more certainty.

1. Stop Comparing Your Own Quarter Life Crisis to Your Friend’s

Comparing yourself with your friends and peers, noticing their life choices and achievements can lead you to feel inferior and this increases those feelings of pressure and anxiety. You only have to jump online for five minutes and scroll through your newsfeed to see images of couples with children, career and life announcements and they all seem much more satisfied than you.

The truth is that often what you see is not real and they could be experiencing their own crisis too behind the facade. This means you could be comparing yourself with something that doesn’t even exist. What is the point in that?

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If you want to make this easier for yourself, stop accessing social media platforms. You can remove apps from your phone so you have to physically log in. If you need to access certain platforms for work or business, stay away from your newsfeed, even unfollow connections until you have worked through this period of your life.

When you stop comparing, you will notice that the pressure decreases and you will feel more comfort in your current situation. This allows change to unfold at its own pace.

2. Let Go of All the Should’s

If you hear yourself say, “I should be” or “I have to”, you are attempting to live your life by other people’s standards. And now you are aware of this, you will be amazed at how often you use this language.

The thing is, trying to live to others’ standards will never bring you true happiness or fulfilment. Even the use of this language brings a feeling of self-judgement and stress without even taking the actions associated with it. And over time, continually living this way, you will start to feel like your life isn’t your own; and you will lead yourself deeper into crisis as your self-esteem suffers.

If you hear yourself using this language, stop in your tracks. Explore where the thought actually came from and who said you should be doing things that way. Let go of the need to judge yourself according to someone else’s standards and start to think about what you really want instead.

When you let go of all the “I should’s” and start to replace them with your “I wants,” you will notice the feeling of lightness as your self-esteems rises again.

3. Get Clear on What Is Important to You

As you begin to let go of what you thought should be important, you create space to get clear on what is important to you.

Most of the time, like the majority of people, you are living your life unconsciously and unaware of what is really important to you. This means you will find it difficult to make choices that will light you up from the inside.

Dr John Demartini, a long time educator and international expert in human behavior states in his book The Values Factor, that true motivation is inspiration and is present when we are fulfilling our values. And, when we are living according to our truest and most important values is when we are our most fulfilled.

This means it’s important to get ultra clear on your most important values. You can do this simply by looking at what you put most of your time and energy into currently, and the moments in your life when you have felt your most fulfilled. Those moments may have been at any point in your life and may even mean going right back to memories of childhood.

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As you get clearer on what is important to you, you will gain even more clarity on what you truly want for you.

4. Change Your Environment

Feeling stuck can often be exacerbated when we stay in the same place, because our environment can have a huge impact on our state of mind. And, when you are in a stuck state of mind, it can be difficult to see past what you have in your life right now.

This doesn’t mean you need to sell all your belongings and go to live in an ashram for a year, although this may be the thing that feels right for you, and if it is that is okay.

You can gain the same benefits by going on a holiday, going away for a long weekend or even just going for a few day trips into nature, the forest or the beach where you can feel a real connection with self.

When you change your environment, you can change your state and your mindset. You shift yourself out of focusing on feeling dissatisfied with your life right now and shift yourself into thinking about how your life could be.

5. Enter the Dream Room and Ask Yourself “What If?”

There have been many great stories created in The Dream Room.

Walt Disney has been named one of the most remarkably creative, and as you may know one of the most successful individuals of the 20th century. The methods he used for all his creations are still being used today. Each of his creations began in the place called The Dream Room, the place where anything is possible; where there is nothing too absurd, there are no limits and no judgement. This was a place for brainstorming or dream storming as it was called.[3]

I always like to call it the “What if” room, which is a place where you ask yourself the “What if?” questions. This is the place where you can create your own outrageous wish list of what you really want. It doesn’t have to be a physical room; it’s a room you go to in your mind’s eye. This dream space is expansive and the expansion can be increased when you also change your physical environment by going to a place outdoors where you can see the horizon.

Find your space, arm yourself with a journal and pen, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything were possible, what would I do and what would I create for my life?
  • What if life was exactly as I wanted it to be, what would that look like and how would I feel experiencing that?
  • What if I were without fear, what would I aim for?
  • What if I couldn’t possibly fail, how can I see myself doing this?

Dream as you did when you were a child, when you knew without a doubt that anything is possible.

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When you embrace this and allow yourself to dream, you will begin to create the most exciting picture of your next chapter in life.

6. Be Patient and Let Go of Control

Human beings waste so much time trying to control how their lives evolve and if you attempt to rush this dream process, you will find it difficult to gain the clarity you are looking for.

Learn patience, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and you are creating your own private empire of what you want for you.

This means that your dream room vision may be created in one day, two weeks or even a year. However long it takes, make it okay for you.

Many of the answers you are searching for are locked in your unconscious mind, things you have forgotten over time while you have possibly been focusing on living the way you thought you should live.

As you start asking the right questions, your answers will begin to come little by little and, will often come when you least expect them.

Carry a small notebook with you or voice record on an app on your phone. Even keep a notebook by your bed for when you first wake up in the morning.

7. Ditch Your Perception of Life Always Being Perfect

Even if we create an exciting vision, we can often get in our own way by our fear of things not working out perfectly.

We see failure before we have even started and hesitate on something that powerfully lights us up on the inside because it’s not the perfect time. Before we know it, years have passed and we are still in the same place. This can cause an even bigger crisis in later years.

Life is always happening perfectly for us; the problem is our perception of perfection is imperfect.

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Over the years, we have made perfection mean everything it really doesn’t. As a society, we have chosen to see perfection as things always lining up perfectly, no mistakes, a flawlessness, always getting the right result and the outcomes we want.

Here’s the thing: the opposite of this is absolutely true.

Life happens perfectly for you all the time. This means all the mistakes you make, all the outcomes you don’t want and not getting things right first time, is absolutely perfect for you at the time. As you make these mistakes, the lessons and growth you receive are vital to you living the life you truly want in the long term.

If at any point, you feel your need for perfection is possibly holding you back, comfort yourself with knowing that whatever the outcome, it’s happening perfectly. You will be exactly where you are meant to be to enable you to eventually live the life of your dreams

8. Make a Stand for You

Often when we make a decision on our future, we can find those closest to us object to our plans, because they want what is best for us; they want us to be happy.

The thing is what they think will make us happy isn’t necessarily what will really make us happy, because their dreams and values are different to ours. This can often make us apprehensive and delay actioning our plans since we don’t want to disappoint them.

This brings to mind something an amazing mentor once said to me, he said, “dogs only bark at what they don’t understand”. To me, this means that if a dog barks, they are not quite sure what is happening and in that uncertainty, they sense danger.

Your loved ones are exactly the same. They don’t understand where you are heading because it’s possibly something they are not familiar with themselves. Or maybe it reminds them of past experiences of their own where things didn’t quite work out the way they wanted them to. They won’t be disappointed in you when you make a stand for what you want. They just love you and want to protect you.

Proudly make a stand for you and your dream. Reassure them that you love them and you will be okay with whatever happens, because life is always happening for you and you are grateful for their support in the life you are choosing.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, no one else’s life, desires or dreams can bring you happiness and fulfilment; only what is important to you and what you really want can do that.

By being patient and kind with yourself as you move through what can be your most exciting life-changing period, you will feel this crisis point end and find clarity on exactly what will light up your life.

More About Life Crisis

Featured photo credit: ZACHARY STAINES via unsplash.com

Reference

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