Psst… want to know a secret? Relationships are oftentimes an inside job. Translation? The key to your best relationship yet starts with you (yeah, you!).
But that’s good news! Why? Because that means you have the power to have more meaningful, energizing, and fulfilling relationships—and you get to do it right now, without anyone else’s permission but your own.
The fact is, your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. Until you know who you are (at the core) and start taking personal responsibility for yourself (your feelings, beliefs, triggers, behaviors, etc.), you will never really be able to have deep, soulful connections with anyone else.
I know, because I’ve experienced it first-hand.
As a relationship coach, I talk about Big Scary Feelings (BSF), defense mechanisms and how to stop living in the problem, or as I prefer to say, how to put on those big girl pants and own your side of the story.
And I get it. For much of my life, I ran hard and fast from those Big Scary Feelings, attempting to protect myself from the things I feared most:
Here’s a freeze-frame of what my life was like…
A 3-day suspension from middle school. That was my consequence for the mean-girl spree I’d been on since the beginning of 7th grade (think: spreading rumors about other girls).
I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’d indulged in some seriously unacceptable behavior that was driven by those gnarly subconscious defense mechanisms to hide the fact that I felt like the dumbest kid in my hoity-toity private school.
I was so ashamed at what I’d done and those BSFs had me feeling paralyzed and defeated.
Years later, despite my best efforts to create an amazing family life for myself, the result was more like a path of domestic destruction.
The stress of living a champagne life on a domestic beer budget caused feelings of financial insecurity and major anxiety. The result? I found myself swimming in a steaming pot of toxic behavioral-soup as I did my best to “deal with” my issues.
My anxiety morphed into anger which I aimed directly at my husband. It inevitably led to our divorce. I took every opportunity to blame the whole messy thing on him—I had no interest in owning my part (it was too painful).
So, after years of that crazy dysfunctional drama, I started down a path of inner growth and self-awareness and have never looked back. Of course, I still get a bit out of whack at times, but I’ve learned how to stop, acknowledge my feelings, own my truth and change courses.
And here’s one thing I know for sure…
I may not be able to control everyone else or anything else (nor do I desire to anymore), but I can control one thing: who I am and how I react when I feel the Big Scary Feelings like insecurity, fear, and jealousy.
In any relationship, whether sibling, lover, friend, or coworker, there will be inevitable challenges. Our egos are masters at convincing us that the “other person” is wrong and needs to compromise and apologize. The thing is, taking a long, hard look in the mirror is the first step in bettering any relationships.
Bottom line? Relationships take work, and it all starts with you. In other words, you have to commit to being the best version of you that you can be. Here’s how…
The only way to create real, truthful connections is to just be yourself and speak your truth. But how can you speak your truth when you’re not exactly sure who you are in the first place?
Here are 4 easy things you can do today to become the best version of you, so you can better show up for your relationships.
Before you even think about anyone else in your life, you need to get to know yourself first. Who are you, deep inside, behind the mask you wear for the outside world to see? This is the first and most important step to take when it comes to working on relationships.
Get to know your authentic self. What do you like to do? Are you introverted or extroverted? What are your pet peeves? Passions? Pretend like you’re going on a date with yourself. Ask yourself the questions you’d ask someone you’re just getting to know better. Be interested. Look closely. Your relationship with yourself creates the foundation by which all other relationships are built.
It’s hard to change, fix or mend your relationships if you don’t know what you want from them in the first place. So, let’s figure that out. Do you want to feel heard? Do you want validation? More intimacy? Do you want to spend more time with that person? Decide what it is, then write it down (psst…it can be more than one thing!). Once you have clarity about your needs and desires, only then can you start the process of mending a relationship.
Here’s a tip: try to lose the judgement towards yourself while making this list. It’s easy to think you’re being selfish or needy when listing what you want, but it’s incredibly important. Go easy on yourself and know it’s for the greater good of your relationship. And if it helps, remind yourself that the other person has needs, too (you’re not alone!).
Here’s the thing: we get so wrapped up in saying yes to other people because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them mad. We say yes because we worry they may not like us. But, by doing this, we are creating inauthentic relationships, not only with ourselves, but with others. We aren’t being truthful. And when that happens, our fake self is the one connecting with other people. The result? Surface relationships (duh!).
The solution? Be more authentic—it’ll help you avoid saying “yes” when inside you’re dying to say “no.” I use the TAI method. In other words, see if your thoughts, actions and instincts are all in alignment. Here’s how to find out:
Being authentic is something we all need, all the time, to live the lives we deserve. It’s not a trend, but a way of life—one that can help you achieve every goal you’ve wanted. And you absolutely deserve that.
The last and most important step you can take today is to own your side of the story (at least to yourself right now). It’s time to ask yourself the tough questions. Remember to be honest with yourself—no one else has to know these things about you right now. The first step is acknowledging them for you. Are you controlling? Are you passive aggressive? Do you have a temper and lose your cool? What triggers you? It may be painful at first, but you will find release in owning your stuff. And once you do, you will be better prepared to have great, rewarding, authentic relationships going forward.