After experiencing the highs of a healthy relationship and the lows of an unhealthy relationship, I felt that I had seen the happiness that relationships can bring, as well as the sadness that often results from heartbreak. When I found myself single after a few years spent in different relationships, I thought things would return to normal. But I soon realized that was not the case. I had spent the past few years focusing on other peoples’ needs, and hadn’t realized how much I had grown and changed. It was this realization that allowed me to turn fully inward and nourish my own relationship with myself for the first time in a long time.
Twisted as it may seem, it doesn’t come naturally to focus on yourself without feeling slightly guilty for it. At first, I felt awkward and didn’t really know where to start. So I just did what felt natural, and started doing things I wanted to do that made me happy. I didn’t need to justify my reasons for anything because I was doing things – like running, hiking, writing, reading, taking photos, and yoga – for the sole reason that they gave me pleasure. Choosing to do these things for myself became easier because I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to worry about satisfying somebody else’s needs.
I still felt a little guilty for putting so much time and energy into my well-being, but my feelings of guilt started to diminish once I saw the quality of my other relationships improve as a result of focusing on myself. When I felt happy, I noticed that I also wanted other people to be happy. I found myself more conscious and grateful of my dearest friendships because good friends can bring so much joy into our lives that often goes unrecognized.
Nurturing a relationship with yourself is different than fostering a relationship with another person because you are always with yourself. You are completely in touch with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and you have to be able to accept them for what they are. To view all of these things without judgement is a skill that takes time to harvest. Cultivating feelings of self-love is uncomfortable at first, but by challenging yourself and forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, a whole different side of yourself will be revealed.
Making the decision to consciously focus on yourself and to pursue it wholeheartedly is difficult because our culture preaches that self-love is what everybody should strive for, but at the same time we are quick to label people as “selfish” and “self-centered”. It is this paradox that causes confusion and insecurity. But I found that once you commit to strengthening your relationship with yourself and turn fully inward, all your worries and doubts soon go away. There is no feeling greater than that of self-love and all that comes with it – gratitude, appreciation, confidence. All of these things will be made apparent in your other relationships as well, and create more rewarding and long-lasting bonds.