February often lends itself to thinking about relationships – ones we have, ones we’ve lost, ones that have perhaps broken us, ones that have grown us, and ones we long for.
During this month of relationships, my deepest curiosity is around the relationship you have with yourself. I’ve wondered: How does my relationship with myself influence the relationships I have with others? In 2018, I got divorced. The relationship I had with myself when I was married was underdeveloped, or, perhaps more accurately, nonexistent. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know how to listen to myself. I didn’t know how to voice my thoughts or opinions. And most of all, I didn’t know how to share these struggles with anybody else, because I was hiding them from myself. My lack of relationship with myself deeply impacted the relationship I had with my husband. It was painful. For both of us. After my divorce, I began to explore the idea of what it meant to be in relationship with myself. I will say that this relationship with myself hasn’t been the easiest to cultivate. I have a long history of losing myself in others, so finding a place to even begin the most basic of introductions with myself took a while. Much of my work over the last five years has been around knowing myself. Not who someone else needed or wanted me to be. Not who I thought I should be or was supposed to be. But who I really am. I worked hard to foster this relationship with myself, to feel as though I was breathing on my own and living a life that was mine. It took time and effort to discover what I thought, what I felt, what I wanted, what I needed, what I believed. And then it took more time and effort to allow those things to take up consistent space in my life.
As my relationship with myself became more stable, I struggled to figure out how to love the people in my life without losing myself in their needs the way I had in the past. It’s so easy for me to take care of people. I’m good at it. Many times in my life I have found a sense of value and purpose in it. And I have often taken care of others at the expense of myself.
It was through cultivating a relationship with myself that I began to observe that the best way to take care of others is often to not step in and do the work myself. And for someone who has spent their life finding love and value in taking care of other people, controlling that impulse is a hard thing to do.
Author Jen Hatmaker describes this as not being someone’s cleanup crew. I describe it as allowing others to own their own journey, if that is what they choose. And if it’s not, then choosing how I want to be in relationship with them in ways that feel honoring and supportive to myself.
Learning to love others while not being responsible for their choices continues to be a place of learning for me. One key thing I’ve come to observe is that I have far more capacity to offer love and kindness to others when my own soul is being supported. And I cannot support and nourish my own soul if I’m carrying what isn’t mine to carry; I cannot be myself if I am always losing myself in others. There is nothing wrong with loving and caring for others. I still find great joy in doing it. But how I do that looks different now.
During this month of relationships, I encourage you to pause and take note of the relationship you have with yourself. What does that look like for you? How does that relationship feel to you? And how do you cultivate and deepen that relationship with yourself?
If these questions resonate with you, let’s talk. Together we can find ways to cultivate and support this deeper connection with yourself. Our first call together is always free. Click here to book a connect call.
We’re in this together,