How to Foster a Healthy Relationship with Yourself and Improve Your Intimate Relationships
We all have an inner voice that accompanies us every day. It is an ongoing dialogue that evaluates and analyzes our actions and those of others, and it reflects how we see ourselves and treat ourselves.
For years, my inner voice was a bully that haunted me wherever I went. As a teenager and young adult, I lived with general anxiety that made me feel unsafe and overwhelmed, despite being surrounded by people who loved me. It was my inner bully who created these feelings.
I would hear things like “You are not good enough! You are not pretty enough! Even though people tell you they care about you, they don’t mean it. They are going to hurt you and leave you because you are not good enough!” These thoughts floated automatically into my mind and left me miserable and exhausted.
Due to this inner bully, I couldn’t trust myself, and I felt anxious about making decisions. I also struggled to trust others, particularly when it came to romantic relationships. I was constantly jealous, sought reassurance, and my boyfriend bore an enormous burden. Looking back, I can now see that there were three entities in my intimate relationship: my boyfriend, the bully, and me, creating an unhealthy and challenging dynamic.
It wasn’t until I started to recognize and question my inner bully that I saw powerful changes in my life. I began talking to myself in an understanding and motivating way, eventually becoming a good friend to myself. This newfound friendship allowed me to foster a healthy relationship with others, where I no longer depended on them for reassurance, put myself in vulnerable positions, or hanged my happiness on their words.
The following are steps that helped me transform my relationship with myself and improve my intimate relationships:
1. Become aware of your inner critic
Before you can change your inner voice, you must become aware of it. Take time to listen to what it is telling you, and evaluate whether it is motivating or bringing you down. Is it scaring you or making you feel confident? Does it tell you that you are worthy or a loser? Once you have identified your inner critic, you’re ready to move to the next step.
2. Challenge your inner critic
Question your inner critic whenever it starts to harm your self-confidence. You can do this by separating fact from fiction, analyzing evidence supporting it, and questioning beliefs tied to feelings. Challenge it the way a defense attorney would challenge a prosecutor in a courtroom, and you will be surprised by how much easier it is to silence your inner bully.
3. Recognize a feeling for what it is: just a feeling
It’s easy to confuse our thoughts with our feelings. A feeling is an emotional state, like anxiety or sadness, while a thought is our evaluation of an experience, usually a sentence or two. The inner bully often capitalizes on this confusion and starts telling you that something is wrong with you as soon as you begin to feel uncomfortable or anxious. Recognize that it is okay to experience unpleasant feelings and that it doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong or that you are a bad person. Separate your feeling from your negative interpretation of it.
4. Building a healthy relationship with yourself takes time
Like any relationship, it takes time to foster a supportive and empathetic inner voice. You’ve probably been listening to your inner bully for more than ten years, so it will take some time to retrain that voice. Give yourself time and space to practice positive self-talk and build a supportive and kind inner voice.
As you work on improving your relationship with yourself, you will begin to see positive changes in your intimate relationships. You will foster relationships based on desire and confidence rather than need or anxiety. You will enjoy your moments with your partner instead of being distracted by analyzing how you or they feel about each other, and you will be able to experience trust, safety, and authenticity in your relationship.
In conclusion, take time every day to practice self-compassion and understanding. Build a supportive and kind inner voice, question your inner critic, and learn to recognize feelings for what they are. As you improve your relationship with yourself, you will notice significant improvements in your intimate relationships. Remember, true intimacy leaves no room for bullies and harsh critics.