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Seeking the perfect relationship with others is often about learning to have the right relationship with ourselves. In this blog I share some insights into how the way we have learned to view the world affects the way we view ourselves, and consequently the way we perceive others!
Towards the end is a quick quiz – a self-audit to help you understand your perceptions. This is the first step to maximising your potential for happier, healthier personal and professional relationships!
Your relationship with you…
The relationship we have with ourselves is based on a number of things, our genetic make up and hormonal and chemical balance – (nature), how we are bought up – (nurture) and on our interpretation of all our experiences both positive and negative, throughout our lives. Every experience we have is filtered through our senses and through the set of principles by which we measure any experience. Let me give you some examples.
1. You are in a park. It is a beautiful day. A large hairy dog comes galloping up to you, tongue lolling out. Do you think “What a great dog, isn’t it friendly?” or “Oh no, that great brute is coming for me, look at its huge mouth…!”
2. You are in the same park sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine. A stranger comes and sits next to you on the bench. They say “Hello” and try to start up a general conversation. Do you think “Friendly person” and make general conversation with them or think “What do they want? Must move away as I feel threatened”.
Neither response is better or worse than the other but how you respond to outside experiences will make a huge difference to what you expect out of life, the way you live and enjoy your life and the sort of relationships you create with others.
Know you can instigate change…
It is important to understand that you can radically change the relationship you have with yourself if you choose to do so. It is actually a matter of conscious choice. However, to exercise choice you need to be very clear about what you believe and the impact that has on the way you behave.
To do that you need to:
• Identify the things that work well, protect them, and use them as a model for other positive beliefs and behaviors.
• Identify beliefs and patterns of behaviour that do not serve your best interests, deal with them and create more positive and productive beliefs and behaviours in their place.
I guarantee that this can be done by anyone who has a real desire to improve their life and their relationships.
Any partnership is really a combination of three relationships…
The first two being a relationship which each individual has with themselves. The third is the relationship the two people have with one another. Whilst I am going to focus on personal relationships the principles hold true for us in a professional context too.
At its best, a truly loving, interdependent relationship makes us more than we would be as separate independent people. It is based on the principles of win-win. Both parties have a commitment to look for solutions that facilitate growth and trust. The relationships are built on mutual trust and respect and communication is open and ongoing.
At its worst, a relationship can be destructive, where power and control play a major part and where there are always winners and losers. Partners constantly strive to get their own way and see giving in as a sign of weakness and defeat. Communication is often sparse or built on misunderstanding. People use the same words but mean entirely different things.
For many people their relationship exists somewhere in the middle ground. There are times when it is great, but that at other times tensions surface and difficulties are experienced usually around particular themes.
Common ones are:
• The way one partner treats and values the other
• Lifestyle and health
• Work/life balance
• Trust and fidelity (perceived or otherwise)
An example would be concern about work/life balance and health. Partner A feels that they spend too much time alone because partner B spends too much time at the office. They feel neglected and unloved. At the same time they are worried about how stressed their partner is and the fact that they drink too much and are carrying too much weight.
If you want to truly understand the relationship with your partner and understand how to make it work even better, you need first to understand the relationship you have with yourself and then need to be open to understanding the relationship your partner has with themselves.
So what sort of relationship do you have with yourself? Think carefully about the following questions. Be as honest as you can. There is no right or wrong answer. The questions are designed to help you understand yourself and your approach to life even better than you do at present.
How do you introduce yourself when you meet someone new at work?
How would you introduce yourself if you were at a party?
Do you still introduce yourself as what you do?
“I’m a financial advisor” or “I work in insurance”
How would you introduce yourself if you were not able to use what you did professionally as part of your description?
Do you find that more difficult?
When you look in the mirror when no one else is about.
Who do you see?
What sort of person are you?
Think about how you would describe yourself to others?
You could start with describing the values you live by:
I have a strong sense of integrity etc.
What are your unique abilities?
What are you good at?
What do you enjoy doing?
How would you describe yourself physically?
How do you feel about yourself?
Do you like yourself as you are?
How highly do you value yourself?
Do you esteem yourself?
What gives you your sense of worth?
Is just being you enough?
Do you rely on the opinion of others or on what you can do for others to give you a sense of who you are?
When do you feel the best about yourself? Do you EVER feel great about yourself?
Take some time out to think about the times you have felt really good about yourself during your life to date. Are there any common patterns?
Consider the following statements and decide if they are: Always true? Sometimes true? Never true?
• I feel best about myself when I’m at work
• I feel best about myself when I’m in social situations
• I feel best about myself when I’m in private situations at home
• I feel best about myself when I have drunk alcohol
• I feel best about myself when I feel I’m in control of the situation
• I feel best about myself when I feel I am needed
• I feel best about myself when I am doing something for other people
• I feel best about myself when I am winning
• I feel best about myself when other people notice what I am doing and say well done
• I feel best about myself when other people notice what I am doing and say thank you
• I only believe I am doing a good job if other people notice and tell me
• I always feel physically attractive and good about my body
• I believe in myself at all times – I don’t need others to tell me I’m doing well
• I believe in myself in the work place – I don’t need others to tell me I’m doing well
• I believe in myself socially – I don’t need others to tell me I’m doing well
• I believe in myself within my special relationship – I don’t need my partner to reassure me all the time
• I’d really like to have a special relationship but I’m not attractive / good enough
The way in which we see ourselves may be very different to the way others see us. We may feel very confident and know our worth in one situation yet feel incredibly inadequate and of little worth in another.
If our sense of self-worth is generated more by external verification than by an internal sense of self-worth then there is a constant need to be recognised, praised and thanked. When this is achieved it feeds the need for more recognition because it gives us pleasure. When it is not forthcoming it creates a sense of failure and lack of self-esteem, which is potentially destructive.
Like all things, we need a balance between the extremes. If you are entirely self-absorbed and consider yourself perfect in every way it is highly unlikely that you will be the perfect partner, employee or boss. It offers no scope for self-improvement or personal growth.
Creating a strong sense of self-worth and confidence with a desire to be even better is the ideal. Determining our strengths, learning to love ourselves for who we are – wobbly bits included - is a fantastic starting point to creating a wonderful life.