I was a total chameleon in my relationships. If someone else liked something, I liked it. Anything they believed, I believed. Any interest they had, I would take up myself.
To top that off, I was completely focused on other people's experiences. What they felt. What they wanted. What they thought.
It was all about nurturing them and taking care of them. I had completely forgotten about me, because I felt that I mattered less. My feelings, thoughts, need, and experiences were less valid and important than that of other peoples'.
The truth is, I had no idea who I was -- or, more specifically, I was terrified of being myself. I was afraid to really allow my true self to be seen, because I thought that by being myself, I would be criticized and rejected.
I thought that if I made myself like them, then they couldn't possibly reject me and end the relationship. I mean, why would anyone want to break up with someone who makes them the center of their universe? Why would a group of friends reject and criticize someone who is always putting everyone else's needs first?
Needless to say, this method didn't work too well. I found myself heartbroken and disappointed over and over again. I felt drained, unfulfilled and as if I was giving too much.
I kept wanting more in my relationships. I wanted something real. I wanted to be deeply loved and supported while able to be my true self, but I had no idea how to get that.
That is, until I came to realize one big life lesson: You can't really have a happy and fulfilling relationship with anyone until you've created a happy and fulfilling relationship with yourself. You have to learn to love you. You have to learn to care for you. You have to learn how to put your needs first before you can really genuinely give love to others.
So, how can we begin to master the power of our self-care so that we can start creating happy, loving and fulfilling relationships in our lives?
1. Become dedicated to your own self-awareness. The absolute most vital component to taking care of yourself is to be aware of your own thoughts and feelings. You have to learn how to be aware of and identify your own emotions. It is also vital to be aware of your body and how it feels. Do you feel exhausted or tired? Are you feeling sad and depressed?
Self-awareness is a life-long journey, so there is no activity that you can do for X amount of days to make you the "master" of self-awareness. It's just not realistic. However, there is one super easy activity that you can start doing today that will help you take leaps in developing self-awareness: Make it a regular habit to check in with your body. So, throughout the day, periodically have "check in with your body" moments, especially during moments of stress.
2. Establish a self-care routine. Having a routine for ourselves is more important for our personal well-being than we often realize. I can definitely tell you from personal experience that during the days where I have steered very far away from my own self-care routine, you definitely don't want to be around!
There is no one self-care routine that can fit for everyone, so it's important to establish what kinds of things benefit you the most that this point in your life. Do you feel a strong need to do yoga regularly each week? Does starting your day with affirmations feel invigorating? Does journaling before bed free emotionally soothing? Does the rule of "no electronics" after 10 p.m. feel like it could help improve your sleep?
Create some morning and evening self-care practices for yourself and then make the commitment to yourself to sticking to that routine for at least 21 days.
3. Find moments throughout your day where your objective is to just "be." One of the best things I've personally discovered for caring for myself and reducing stress is to do something every day where, while doing it, my only goal is to just "be." No pushing to do things. No thinking about all these other things that you should be doing. Just simply being.
So, what does this look like? Lets say that for example every afternoon you regularly drink green tea. As you drink this green tea during the afternoon, focus completely on the present moment. Focus on the taste, the smell, the steam. Allow yourself to really saturate the present moment and allow yourself to just be in the moment.
By doing these three things, over time, you will find yourself with a greater sense of ease. You'll feel less stressed and be able to enter in to your relationships feeling completely re-charged and ready to share your own inner happiness and joy with the people around you. Which, in turn, will make others feel better around you and enhance the joy and love that exists in your relationships.
4. Take action now!
What can you do for yourself in this very moment? What can you do right now that will make you feel better? Share it in the comments below, then go do it!