How to Be True to You in the Relationship with Yourself
The most important relationship you'll ever have is the relationship you have with yourself, so it's important to be true to yourself. Other people are important, of course, but you are the person you spend the most amount of time with. You are the person who deeply feels your ups and downs. You are the person who has the strongest insights and connections to your hopes, dreams, and passions. It is you who takes actions, even when those actions involve others, toward your mental health and wellbeing.
The most precious gift you can give yourself is your own friendship, compassion, patience, and understanding. For almost everyone, though, this relationship with ourselves can be the most difficult and rocky relationship of all. It doesn't have to be this way. You can be true to yourself.
You Can't Be True to You If You Are Your Own Worst Bully
- Negative self-talk--This is the human brain's innate negativity bias gone awry. The brain is actually designed to look for problems. It's a survival mechanism. It constantly scans for danger, interpreting even subtle things like a look from someone else as a threat to our safety. It watches for sources of harm by imposing negative interpretations onto pretty much everything. It's supposed to do this outwardly, but often it gets carried away and turns inward. The result is harsh self-criticism and negative self-talk.
- Being untrue to yourself--People-pleasing is a great example of being untrue to ourselves. Being agreeable and flexible can be positive character traits that help you succeed in relationships and life goals, but like anything, you can have too much of a good thing. Do you find yourself constantly deferring to other people's desires? Is it difficult to be assertive? This type of people-pleasing might mean you're being untrue to yourself. It's a form of self-bullying.
- Perfectionism--Holding yourself to impossibly high standards, believe it or not, is another form of self-bullying. Perfectionism inspires harsh self-criticism and interferes in our own forward progress. It can make you minimize your successes and interpret anything less than unrealistically high standards as a failure.
- Withholding self-forgiveness--Holding onto mistakes, ruminating over what you should or shouldn't have said or done, or replaying old blunders in your mind are some of the ways we continue to punish ourselves for imperfections.
These are just some of the ways people treat themselves as an enemy rather than a friend. A lack of self-compassion can make life difficult and unpleasant, and it robs you of the joy that comes from allowing yourself to be who you are and however you want to be in any given moment. While it's not always an easy journey, it is possible to befriend yourself and be true to (and love) who you really are.
How to Start Being True to You
You may have encountered this advice: Treat yourself as you would a close friend. While this isn't misguided or wrong, it can fall short of being useful. If you don't think of yourself as a friend, it's hard to treat yourself like one. You might even meet that advice with a sentiment like, "Well, but my friend deserves compassion. I don't."
The starting point, then, involves patiently and persistently going deeper within (yes, it's unpleasant to do at first, but the results are worth the temporary discomfort).
- Boost your awareness--Start to catch that internal bully in the act. Negative self-talk can become such familiar, constant chatter running in the background that we don't give it a second thought. Our actions, such as people-pleasing or constantly deferring to what others want to do, become habitual. Tune in and notice. Notice how you talk to yourself. Notice your actions. Every time you catch that bully, pause, breathe, and question whether those thoughts are completely accurate or that action is really something you want to do. You don't have to instantly make sweeping life changes, but by noticing and becoming curious, you are already becoming more self-compassionate and true to yourself.
- Get to know yourself--Develop greater self-understanding by allowing yourself to explore who you are. What are your interests, strengths, and passions? Try different activities to discover both what you like and what you don't like. Allow yourself to embrace your discoveries. When you truly know yourself, it's easier to be true to yourself because you can be more intentional about what you do and with whom you do it.
- Practice perspective-taking and permission-giving--Step away from your self-judgments and see yourself differently. Become a neutral observer of a neutral person. (Hint: Both the observer and the person you're observing are you. You're just doing it in a detached way.) Get curious about this person: Why is this person doing what they're doing? Why are they doing something they don't want to do? Why isn't this person standing up for themselves? Give this person the permission they need to be true to themselves.
As you start to do these things consistently, you might just find that you become your own true friend. The result can be even better and more empowering than simply an end to self-bullying: Your negative talk will quiet down, you'll engage in less people-pleasing, your sense of perfectionism will be less toxic, and you'll begin to forgive yourself for your all-too-human mistakes. You just might find that you can stop looking to external sources for internal approval.
Sometimes, of course, there are circumstances that make self-acceptance especially hard. I invite you to tune into this video for more.
Peterson, T. (2021, June 9). How to Be True to You in the Relationship with Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2021/6/how-to-be-true-to-you-in-the-relationship-with-yourself