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You start developing self-relation skills when you’re a child. It’s a life-long process that allows you to be accepting and compassionate toward yourself, feel competent to achieve your goals, take action as your authentic self, and genuinely feel all the joys and disappointments of life.
But as we get older and start to develop more complex relationships, things can start to get a little cloudy.
“Often, people tend to build a codependency in their relationship allowing their significant others’ perspective or love define them,” says Imani Wilform, a licensed therapist with Empower Your Mind Therapy .
Are you still ordering pepperoni pizza with mushrooms just because that’s what your ex liked? Do you find yourself avoiding a certain TV show because you internalized someone else’s negative opinion of it? It’s time to start making these decisions for yourself again.
Really think about what you like to do, what things bring joy to your life when you don’t have to consider anyone’s preferences. What books, movies, and activities are you drawn to when no one’s watching?
If you have the inspiration, the time, and the discipline to enroll in a class that interests you, have at it. If not, no worries — there are plenty of learning opportunities around every corner that might help you establish a new passion.
Read books, listen to new podcasts , pick up a new hobby. Wilform says, “Learning new things can improve brain capacity and happiness, while mastering new skills builds confidence and self-respect.”
After learning to live in a pandemic, there’s obviously legit reason to have multiple sources of anxiety. You may not be as adventurous as you once were. Or, maybe being quarantined with others for so long did a number on your sense of independence.
Avoiding new experiences out of fear can stunt your connection to your true self. Talk to a friend or therapist about your apprehension around trying new things. Talking it through can help either dispel the fearful charge or get perspective on what the actual risks are.
Maybe a lot of the codependent traits that you’ve established have something to do with spending so much time in a specific place, environment, or another person’s place.
Not everyone is an outdoorsy type, but taking a little time in nature has a reputation of lowering stress levels and contributing to emotional well-being. Experiment with spending 15 minutes outside and see if your mood improves, or if you’re able to gain some new perspective while getting some fresh air.
After focusing with the feelings of others for so long, it’s time to give your own a little QT.
Journaling about what you’re going through and your emotions can help in two ways. First, the act of getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper helps you to process feelings. And second, you can refer back to journal entries from weeks or months ago to see how you’ve processed those feelings in the past.
If you’re not a words person, try sketching or making a collage instead. There are no rules for expressing yourself.
If you’re new to meditation, it’s not a skill you have to build before you can use and benefit from it. It’s really about spending some time alone with your own thoughts. The best part is you can do it anytime, anywhere, and in any way you choose.
“This simple practice improves overall mental health, helps you sleep better, be more productive, and be kinder to those around you,” Wilform says.
Self-care may be one of those terms that has a broad meaning universally, while having a very specific meaning to an individual. Keeping it simple: self-care is whatever recharges your batteries, helps you celebrate your authentic, magnificent self, and helps you feel at your mental and physical best.
Taking care of yourself also helps you make healthier connections to others once you understand how you get fulfilled.
Didn’t we just cover this? No, self-compassion is different from self-care. Self-compassion is offering yourself the same gentle words and comforting actions you’d extend to a friend who’s going through something difficult. It’s also not punishing yourself for feeling like you need someone else.
As you’re learning to reprioritize yourself, it can feel selfish in a negative way and lead to feelings of self-coldness , which is the opposite of self-compassion. Give yourself the time and space to figure things out.
If you think you’ve failed in some way because a relationship has ended or you’ve been single for a while, a shift in perspective will help. Focusing on yourself is a good, valid way to bloom in your own life, no matter your relationship status.
If you know what your own personal values are and prioritize them, people can come and go from your life without disrupting your sense of self.
“We need to shift the mindset. You define your own happiness. No one is tasked with the job of making us happy except ourselves,” Wilform says.
To consistently take charge of your own happiness throughout life, incorporate the tips listed above while periodically asking yourself these questions:
There are lots of reasons you may become disconnected from your individuality, including losing a close friend or family member, or the end of a relationship that has defined your life for a while. You can take steps to reprioritize yourself, and focus on getting reacquainted with who you are as an individual.
Establishing consistent self-care habits can contribute to a healthy sense of self no matter what’s going on in your relationships/life. And during periods of personal growth or particularly hard transitions, professional therapy can also be a great tool.
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