How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

Know Yourself

Know Yourself | Being in a long-term committed relationship doesn’t mean that you lose your personal identity. In fact, the best partnerships are those that encourage personal growth in their significant other and vice versa. Let’s be honest, you being you is the reason why your partner fell in love with you in the first place! 

Falling in love and creating a life together is fun, challenging, and sometimes even consuming. It’s not uncommon that you may find yourself feeling a little lost in your identity from time to time. 

When you have been romantically involved with someone for a long period of time, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, dislikes, and passions often start to mend together. These mending moments are often beautiful and encouraging to a relationship that has worked so hard to be successful. 

However, when you move forward together in your partnership, it’s also important to continue to grow in your self-identity and to truly know yourself – developing your own personality, likes, and dislikes in order to continue contributing to your relationship and its success. 

The happiest and most successful couples do these five things to strengthen their relationship. Here’s how to develop your self-identity and experience personal growth in a committed relationship.

Learn Something New

Life can feel like it’s moving at a hundred miles per hour when you’re busy balancing work, family, friends, home, pets, health, and your relationship. And when the whirlwind of everything and everyone occupies all of your time and energy – it’s hard to see much further past the present moment that you are in (or attempting to catch up to). 

This idea of furthering your education may feel unrealistic or at the very least, impractical with current life events. 

The awesome thing about education is that you don’t have to “go back to school” or even enroll in a class (unless you want to and have the time to do so). All you need is to find a topic or area of study that you are interested in furthering your education. 

Then, support yourself in this learning journey by subscribing to a podcast, purchasing a book, signing up for a newsletter, or even meeting with an expert in whatever field you’re interested in learning more about. 

Then, while you are driving to work, running your weekly errands, or running the kids between afterschool activities you can listen to a podcast, read a chapter while waiting for swim lessons to end, catch up with a weekly newsletter over coffee, or grab lunch with someone who can speak to what it is you are interested in. 

Alternatively, if you struggle to find something that you are interested in learning more about – maybe connecting with an online life coach could help shed some light on areas of interest and beneficial pathways to your personal success.

This simple (and sometimes passive) way of learning will encourage personal growth and personal understanding while you continue to balance all that life throws at you. Not only will you be developing the way you see yourself and the world, but you will also open up new conversation between you and your partner. 

Have a Hobby That’s All Yours

You and your partner may have EVERYTHING in common, and that’s okay…but I promise you, if you take the time to find something that is ALL yours – it feels super rewarding. 

I’m not saying that you have to keep this new hobby from your partner but the more you treat it as your you time the more beneficial it will be. 

For those who have been in a long-term relationship (and I mean a relationship that literally feels like for-ev-er) it can feel intimidating and even difficult to find a new hobby that’s all yours. Try a few things out, if you decide you hate it – try something else. 

The more effort you put into finding that perfect you hobby, the more you will enjoy it and look forward to it. Remember, the whole point of this experiment is to fall more in love with who you are and to continue growing as the awesome individual that you already are!

Make Your Friendships a Priority

Yes, I’m looking at you →  “Well, I have friends but I only see them once a month if our schedules line up, and the kids are away at someone else’s house for the night, and my partner is also friends with my friends’ partners.” ←  Stop overcomplicating your friendships!

Making your friendships a priority is extremely important in any relationship. You need your gal pals or dudes who have completely different and often similar walks of life to challenge you, encourage you, comfort you, and keep you on your toes. 

If Finding Friends You Can Count On feels like a challenge, then it might be a good time to reassess your friendships and begin working towards healthier, more sustainable relationships. It’s important as adults that we prioritize our friendships, here’s more on:  The Importance of Healthy Friendships.

While your partner might be your best friend, don’t forget about your besties. They need you as much as you need them in order to grow as an individual and even flourish in your partnership. A good friend can offer support, accountability, and help you know yourself (or at the very least, remind you who you are when you need it the most).

Develop Your Idea of Art and Culture

For some, the love of art, music, and culture comes naturally. However, a lot of us are a little more generic and may find it difficult to stay interested or appear so at the dinner parties of our most artistic and culturally savvy friends. The thing with art is that there is SO much of it. There are so many fantastic forms of it – painting, drawing, live-action, music, graphic design…the list goes on. Art stems from cultures, lifestyles, fantasies, and often tragedies. Knowing not necessarily the history of art but knowing how it makes you feel is important. 

There is so much that we can learn about ourselves by the music we enjoy, the pictures we take, the food we cook, and the way in how we share these experiences with our world. 

Developing a keen sense into what you enjoy and why you enjoy it will not only promote a greater understanding of the self but you will also have a deeper understanding into areas of you that your partner fell in love with. 

I think we often get swept up in keeping up with the …… (insert your play on this here) and we forget all the little and big things that bring us joy and make you, well…you! If you have ever heard a song or watched a movie that you proclaimed “I use to LOVE this song/movie!” Then you know a little of what I am talking about. 

I encourage you to keep chasing after those passions that may even feel a little juvenile to you now with the chores, employment, family, and general life obligations. The thing is, this passion is still inside of you. Maybe playing guitar for that punk band in high school didn’t end up in a successful music career – but the art of playing guitar, appreciating music, and the drive to be better (or even the best) at whatever it was you were in love with at that time is still a part of who you are. Let that side of you show more and encourage yourself to grow in these areas as it ultimately created a big part of who you are today. 

Set Aside Time For Self-Care

I know you have heard this probably a million times (no exaggeration), but self-care is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT things you can do for you and your relationship. Setting time aside to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually will help set you and your relationship up for success.  

It’s easy to say “yeah, yeah, I get it…self-care, I got it – thanks!” It’s a lot harder to follow through with it and meet yourself where you need it the most. If you are finding yourself needing a little emotional vacay, check out: Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart.

Self-care may be a habitual event for you – like drinking coffee and having quiet time before the family wakes up. Or it might be a little less traditional and change week to week. Whatever your body, heart, and mind are telling you, be sure to listen. Your ability to take care of yourself ultimately affects your ability to take care of others. 

If you find yourself getting irritable, depressed, angry, stressed-out, overwhelmed, or even just complacent – that’s your cue that it’s time for a little me time

Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to spend time alone. Self-care is different for everyone and if that means a weekend (or couple hours) to yourself, awesome. And if it means something entirely different, that’s great too. 

Here’s to YOU and the awesome individual you are in and out of your relationship. 

Xo, 

Lisa Marie Bobby

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, RADICAL Acceptance – These are all ingredients to a happier, healthier, more successful you! Today on the blog, Online Life Coach and Therapist Roseann Pascale, M.A., LMFT shares how you can start your journey towards Radical Acceptance even in uncertain and difficult times.

Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

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Fight Racism, Part 1: Hope, Healing and Empowerment

Fight Racism, Part 1: Hope, Healing and Empowerment

Many people are connecting with strong emotions as they actively confront pervasive problems in our culture. Some are sitting with sadness, some are giving a voice to long-unspoken anger, and others are feeling hopeful — even exhilarated — that racism is being acknowledged and addressed openly. Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is speaking with online therapists Teresa Thomas, M.A., A.P, and Zachary Gaiter, M.S., LPCC about Hope, Healing and Empowerment.

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance

Unprecedented: Crisis.

This word captures the magnitude of the impact of the COVID19 health crisis has had on every area of our lives. The impact is both intensely personal and at the same time being experienced by our entire global human community. 

For many of us, worries about the immediate and long-term future have reached a tipping point, with fear of the unknown threatening to overwhelm our ability to manage it. For those who have previously struggled with anxiety and depression, the sense of overwhelm is compounded.

Unprecedented: Fear, Anxiety, and Uncertainty. 

Having unlimited amounts of time socially isolated, without our usual routines has been unsettling. Economic uncertainty is a threat to our livelihood. Our instinctive response to a threat is to become hyper-vigilant; a stress-based state of readiness. Many of us have taken heed of the safety precautions necessary to stay safe while out in the world, such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing our hands. 

However, this constant physiological state of stress is counterproductive to maintaining a strong immune system. Studies have shown that stress impacts our immune system negatively, due to the release of stress hormones which take a toll on our bodies.

In order to truly maintain our health, we are encouraged to look within; to learn more about how to create wellness in our inner world—our true selves.

Unprecedented: Opportunity. 

As uncomfortable and disrupting as it is, this crisis has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to slow down, and to connect with our selves in a way that may not have been possible while we were engaged in our busy daily lives. We have an opportunity to become mindful – to consider where we are, how we got here—and if desired— make adjustments or start over.

Research over the past several decades validates both the short and long term benefits of mindfulness in shoring up our immune system. As you learn to regulate your emotions and develop mindfulness, you will also be providing a boost to your immune system. 

Radical Acceptance and Mindfulness are two practices that can be cultivated to reduce stress to our immune systems and ground our selves in a more beneficial psychological mindset—offering an unparalleled opportunity for development of personal stability. 

Simply understood, radical acceptance means we acknowledge that things are “as they are.” This is a first step, not the end game. It is simply an acknowledgment of the reality of what has happened or what is currently happening, both outside and inside of us. 

Radical Acceptance

Let me emphasize: Radical acceptance is not the same as “agreeing with” or passively allowing unacceptable situations or behaviors from others. It simply means you fully face reality “as it is” so you can see clearly without distortions and take appropriate action as necessary.

Once we accept reality as it is, we can then consider if and how we’d like to change it.  Rather than judging what is happening, and spending energy on objecting and telling stories about it; we acknowledge  “OK, this is happening.” Then we ask, “Now, how do I want to handle it?”

How does this help us? Objecting to reality actually intensifies our emotional reaction and clouds our ability to think clearly and make the best decisions. Caveat: Developing Radical Acceptance is not necessarily easy. Change rarely is. Adapting our patterns of behavior requires focused attention and effort, but it is within our control and the benefits are immediately realized.

Consider the following scenario, which demonstrates two approaches to a circumstance

Let’s imagine a typical situation befalls two women; I’ll call them Maggie and Sarah. They get into a traffic accident while driving on the highway. 

After the initial shock, Maggie becomes angry because she believes the accident was caused by Sarah’s error. This causes her to get out of her car and confront Sarah, putting herself in danger. She then calls her husband and spends time and energy retelling what happened and defending herself – forgetting that she needs to call the insurance company to report the accident. 

Maggie is stuck in a mental loop. Maggie is adding suffering to what is an unfortunate circumstance. She also misses the opportunity to feel gratitude for the fact that she was not harmed. She is making a bad situation worse by objecting to the reality of the situation. 

However, Sarah is more mindful. Rather than objecting to reality, Sarah moves more quickly from shock to accepting what is — which is that she has been in an accident. She doesn’t focus on whose fault it was; she knows insurance will handle that. Instead, she focuses on the here and now, and is grateful that both she and the other driver appear to be unharmed. Because she is less emotional, Sarah can see things from a wider perspective. She was shaken from the accident but remains in control of her emotions, she is not rejecting or judging reality. When Maggie approaches her, she remains in her car and keeps her cool. She avoids a potentially heated exchange. She has the where-with-all to call her insurance company and the police from the safety of her car. 

This example illustrates in a simple way how radical acceptance allows us to face reality as it is, and make the best decisions we can. Neither woman was able to change the reality of the situation. They were both in a car accident. However, the event was much more draining for Maggie, and impacted her well being more negatively.  This is an example of how radical acceptance can help us to reduce our suffering. 

Radical acceptance is well expressed in this well-known excerpt from The Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Applying Radical Acceptance to the Moment

If there is one thing this global pandemic has made abundantly clear, it is that no matter how well we plan (and yes we should plan) there are many things out of our immediate control. In light of this fact, we can use radical acceptance to discern what it is we do have control over within our circumstances, and how to make best use of our energy toward the well being of others and our selves.  

Here are some practical tips for how to apply radical acceptance to the moment:

Ground yourself in the present moment. – Often, much of our anxiety is based on fear of the future. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you, try focusing your attention on what is coming through your 5 senses: What do you see, what do you hear, what are you feeling in your body, do you have a taste in your mouth, can you smell anything. Breathe into these sensations. Doing this for one or two minutes will significantly reduce your anxiety and allow you to solve problems with more clarity.

Move your body – Check in with how your body feels; do you feel tightness in your chest? Is your breathing rapid, or shallow? Do you feel tension in your neck? Once you have determined that these bodily sensations are not related to sickness, try stretching, going for a walk nearby, or put on some music and dance around the living room, joy in movement is a great stress reliever!

Limit media exposure of the news – While it is important to stay aware of the most recent updates, try to limit your intake to that which is actionable, and will actually make a difference to your day-to-day functioning. Once you have the information you need, turn off the news, and seek other forms of relaxation and entertainment. Perhaps finally binge-watching that TV show you have never had time for, or maybe find a good comedy special. Laughter is the best medicine!

Develop mindfulness – Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening inside of you and outside of you, in the present moment, without judgment.  Mindfulness is not necessarily quieting your mind, although that may happen as you cultivate this practice. Rather, mindfulness lets us widen our view of any given moment, so that we see ourselves within what is happening. This small shift in perception can help us avoid getting absorbed in thought and anxiety. It’s like putting a wedge between you and your thoughts and emotions, which allows you to realize that you are NOT your thoughts or emotions. With practice, you come to see that your awareness is constant, it is the thoughts and emotions that come and go. This space is where the magic happens and where freedom from the grip of anxiety may be possible.

The ground we gain by tending to our internal experience will serve us both now and all the days of our lives. In a life full of uncertainty and the inevitability of change, the ability to ground and regulate ourselves in our Self is an opportunity to become familiar with a truly constant and stable place. 

Developing these mindfulness practices requires practice. Working with a life coach or individual therapist can help facilitate the development of these skills. The best part is, when we are better able to cope our selves, we help others we are in contact with to become more grounded as well.

Warm Wishes, 
Roseann Pascale, M.S., LMFT

Online marriage counseling new york florida online couples therapist

Roseann Pascale, M.A., LMFT is an empathetic and intuitive couples counselor, therapist and coach. Through authentic connection and a down to earth demeanor, Roseann can guide you in developing clarity and cultivating well-being. Using the practices of mindfulness and values-driven action, she helps individuals and couples overcome their challenges and create fulfillment in all aspects of life.

Let’s  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

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Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

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Fight Racism, Part 1: Hope, Healing and Empowerment

Fight Racism, Part 1: Hope, Healing and Empowerment

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How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Has Your Breakup or Divorce Shattered Your Self Esteem?

Hands down, one of the most horrible parts about going through a bad breakup or divorce is the way it mangles your self-esteem. I know from so many years as a therapist and life coach, that many people experience post-divorce depression (or post-breakup depression). There are many parts to this experience: Grief and loss, or feeling overwhelmed by all the practical aspects of putting your life back together.

However, for most people, the most terrible depression after a breakup comes when it damages your self-esteem and makes you start to feel bad about yourself.

If you’ve been feeling down on yourself since your relationship ended I want you to know something right off the bat, feeling this way does not mean that you’re actually “less than.”

I talk to a LOT of people about the most vulnerable parts of their life. I know for a fact that even the most gorgeous, amazing, successful people second-guess themselves after a divorce or breakup. Even the most naturally confident, strong, and reasonable among us — in the throes of a devastating break up — still have these types of horrible, torturous conversations with themselves in their darkest moments:

  • Anxious Thought: “Why did this relationship fail?” Self-Esteem Crushing Answer: Because of all your personal shortcomings and the mistakes you made in this marriage or relationship.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why doesn’t the person I love more than anything want to be with me anymore?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you aren’t interesting / fun / sexy / smart / successful enough.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why didn’t my Ex care enough about me to treat me better while we were together?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you’re just not that worthy or lovable.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why did my Ex cheat on me or get together with someone new?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because that someone new is much more interesting, attractive, worthy of love and respect. Basically, they’re just a better person than you.

If you’re going through a bad breakup, chances are you’re probably nodding to yourself as you see this self-destructive internal dialogue put to paper. You’ve probably been being tortured by these ideas too.

And it’s making you feel terrible about yourself.

But, believe it or not, as bad as that is…. that’s not even the most toxic, ruinous thing that can happen to your already fragile self-esteem in the aftermath of a traumatic break-up.

The most terrible thing is not when your Ex betrays you or mistreats you. It’s not even when you blame yourself for why it didn’t work out, or torture yourself with ongoing commentary about all of your shortcomings and failures.

The Most Destructive Part of a Breakup: Breaking Your Trust in Yourself

Yes, your self-esteem gets throttled when you feel rejected, or blame yourself for what went wrong. But it gets ground up into sausage and squished into the dirt when you betray or mistreat yourself in the aftermath of a terrible breakup:

  • When you fail to protect yourself from a toxic or abusive Ex.
  • When you do things that you’re ashamed of… all in desperate efforts to even briefly escape the pain of heartbreak, and reconnect with your Ex.
  • When you keep contacting or spying on your Ex through social media, even when you know you shouldn’t.
  • When you are still sleeping or hooking up with your Ex, even when you feel more devastated afterward.
  • When your mental and emotional energy is still completely focused on your Ex, and your mood for the entire day (not to mention your worth as a person) depends on what they are doing or not doing.
  • When you are compromising your ethics, morals, and self-respect in efforts to regain the love and approval of your Ex.

This darkness is not something that usually gets discussed openly. But it’s very real and very destructive to your long term health, your happiness, and your self-worth. And as you know only too well if you’re going through it, you need support and compassion on your path of healing and recovery.

I have spent years helping broken-hearted people with divorce and break-up recovery counseling and coaching, and poured through oceans of research to write my book, “Exaholics: Breaking your addiction to an Ex Love.” I’ve spent years helping my private clients heal their self-esteem in the aftermath of a bad breakup, and now we’re addressing it today on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

On today’s show, I’m going to help you understand how your self-esteem was damaged, and how to develop new compassion and empathy for yourself. We’re also going to discuss the five steps to healing your self-esteem after a breakup so that you can start putting yourself back together again.

I hope that this helps support you on your journey of growth and healing.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: In this podcast, we discuss a number of resources. Here are links to all the breakup recovery resources I shared:

My private Online Breakup Support Group on Facebook. (It’s a hidden group, so you have to request access).
Exaholics.com
Online Breakup Recovery Program: www.breakup-recovery.com
Book: Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love

PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love, and book (poetry collection) The Hollow Of The Hand

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How To Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How To Love Yourself

How To Love Yourself

How To Love Yourself

Yes, you really do have to love yourself first.

Here’s why… and how.

How to Love Yourself

++ Note: Learning how to love yourself is such an important, core topic that I decided to post this both as a written article and a podcast so that you can access the info in whichever format is most helpful to you. (Scroll down for the podcast link). I sincerely hope this information helps you cultivate the love and compassion for yourself that you deserve. With love — LMB ++

“You have to love yourself first.”

For many years, I would hear that and wonder — what does that even mean? I would hear the words, and think “Yup, that sounds like a good idea,” but how to actually create this state of self love was a total mystery.

I didn’t feel a lot of love for myself. And on some level I thought that it sounded sort of selfish and weird to think about being deeply in love with one’s self.

I imagined Narcissus cooing at his reflection in the glassy water of the river bank, and think, “People keep telling me I need to love myself. But how exactly is that supposed to improve my life or my relationships?”

I didn’t get it. I do now.

Here’s what I’ve learned on my journey of growth, and what I teach my online therapy and life coaching clients now about what self love is, why it’s important, and how to love yourself.

But first, let’s talk for a moment about what self love is NOT, and the traps people often fall into when they want to love themselves but don’t know how.

Malignant Self Love

This skepticism around “self-love” I originally had was not helped by my journey into becoming a therapist. I’d hear that phrase, “You have to love yourself first” get tossed around by therapy clients using it to  — quite frankly — justify all kinds of unhealthy things in the name of “self-love.”

People can use, “But I have to love myself!” to rationalize the worst kinds of self indulgence, refusal to accept responsibility, breaking of commitments, abandoning of values, displacement of blame, or breathtakingly insensitive actions towards other people. (“Yes, I stole the money and lied about it, but I deserve to be happy! I love myself!”)

This is not healthy self love. Healthy self love does not make your needs, rights or feelings more important than those of other people. Just the opposite: Healthy self love makes you more empathetic and compassionate. More on that in a moment…

Using “Self Love” as Another Way To Judge Yourself

Here’s another thing that self-love is absolutely not: Judgment. Ironically, people will find ways to use the idea of self love against themselves. I can’t tell you how many times in therapy or life coaching sessions I’ve see lovely, beautiful people welling up with tears as they spoke their truth and said things like:

“I don’t love myself. I don’t like myself. The only love that matters is the love I get from other people. But I know I should love myself. And the fact that I don’t love myself is one more reason for me to hate myself.”

Looking at the level of self love you have and using that as just another way to beat yourself up, judge yourself, and feel like you’re failing.

I have therapy and coaching clients with the expectation that they should love themselves,  and that they didn’t feel that way was only more evidence that there was something terribly wrong with them. Is that true for you?

It is okay if you don’t feel like you love yourself. Being able to accept yourself — with compassion, as you are — is self-love. Bashing yourself for not being good enough or because you don’t feel like you love yourself is the opposite of self love.

Understanding Love: Love For Yourself, and Love For Others

But over many years as a therapist, a marriage counselor, a wife, a mother, and a person on her own even-winding journey of growth, I feel that the true nature of love is starting to become clearer to me.

Love does not hurt. Real love is never an excuse to do bad things to other people, and it’s definitely not anything that should result in more self-criticism or self loathing.

What I’m realizing about self love or love for others is that you don’t have to feel love to have love, and you don’t have to feel like you love yourself or that you love others.

Love is much, much bigger than any of the feelings that blow through us on a given day. Striving to have a feeling of love is not how love works.

People who love themselves may not feel the emotion of having love for themselves.

Here’s a secret: Love is not actually a feeling. Love certainly can be a feeling. Love can be a felt emotion. But love is really something that we do. Love is an action. Love is a choice.

Choosing to have tolerance, compassion, and acceptance for yourself as you are — even if you don’t feel like you love yourself — is, paradoxically, what self love actually is. 

Every once in awhile we might have the wonderful treat of feeling self love, but that’s just a warm patch of sunlight on a path that’s dappled with the subtle lights and darks of the emotion we walk though every day.

True Love, real love, is more like a state of grace that we can choose to live in: The energy that prioritizes the well-being of people over everything else. Love is compassion, empathy, support, hope, and help that is extended for the benefit of others… And that includes us, too.

True Love For Others

True love allows us to set our self-focus and ego aside and do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. Have you ever stayed up late to do laundry or gone to the grocery store in the middle of the night because your kid needed clean clothes or lunch for school the next day, even though you were tired? That’s the kind of true love I’m talking about. Simple prioritization for the wellbeing of another.

In that state of everyday grace, it doesn’t really matter what you’re thinking or feeling or wanting: You’re simply understanding what someone else is feeling and needing, and being of service to them.

Throwing someone else over the wall is the height of heroism. Good parents do that for their children without even thinking of it. And through our relationships we all get the chance to practice softening ourselves, choosing compassion over criticism, and showing others that their feelings are as important to use as our own.

That is how we love others. We may or may not have the feeling of love as we do what love requires. The fact that we do it anyway is evidence of the power of the love we have. It’s easy to do what you feel like doing. True love does the hard stuff, even when you don’t feel like it. That is the definition of love.

True Love For Yourself

But how do you love yourself? It’s easier to see how you can be compassionate, and tolerant, and generous with other people – but towards yourself? “Isn’t that the opposite of True Love?” You might be thinking. Or, “If love is about doing things for the benefit of others, and to help, support and lift up others, isn’t it taking away from them if I turn that compassionate energy towards ME? Isn’t that SELFISH???”

Loving yourself is not selfish. Loving yourself is the foundation of wellbeing that supports you in your ability to love others. Loving yourself means treating yourself with the same kind of compassion, support, encouragement and devotion to your health and genuine best interests that you give to other people.

What I’m learning is that being a healthy person who is able to give love to others means that you are having a “true love” kind of relationship with yourself first. Because if you refuse to love yourself you will be too unwell physically, mentally, and emotionally to be of benefit for others.

Note that I just said, “If you refuse to love yourself,” rather than, “If you can’t love yourself.” Remember, love is not something you have to feel. You cannot actually make yourself feel like you love yourself (or anyone else for that matter.) And you don’t have to feel that. You just have to do it. And that is 100% within your ability, all the time.

Here’s how it works:

Think of loving yourself is treating yourself as you would parent a cherished child:

1) You can choose to be an emotionally safe person, and speak to yourself kindly, compassionately, and wisely. You can offer yourself guidance, reassurance and emotional support instead of criticizing yourself, scaring yourself, or being negative towards yourself.

If you wouldn’t say it to a small child who needs help and support, it’s not good enough for you either.

2) Setting firm limits that support your health and wellness. Good parents who love their children help them stay healthy by going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating nutritious foods, getting some exercise, and and taking care of their health. Even when they don’t  feel like it.

You paying attention to what you need in order to be physically safe and healthy, and then making sure you get that, is self love in action.

3) Directing yourself to make choices that demonstrate your commitment to your own well being. Self love is self protection. Pay attention to what feels hurtful or toxic to you, and take steps to protect yourself. This might involve setting boundaries with others, listening to your inner wisdom, and avoiding harmful situations. Self love is also shown by taking positive action to create positive things for yourself, and going after things that you know will bring out the best in you (and staying away from the things that will harm you in the long run).

Loving yourself isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment.

The key here is that, just like you don’t have to be overwhelmed with feelings of love in order to be a good parent, you don’t have to feel “love” in order to love yourself.

Your commitment to loving others is much bigger than anything you feel.

  • You can feel totally frustrated with your kid and still be kind and responsible.
  • You can be annoyed with your partner and still control yourself and be generous.
  • And you can not feel like exercising, or like beating yourself up mercilessly, and still decide to act lovingly towards yourself: Taking yourself for a walk, or shifting into more compassionate, self supporting language.

Why Loving Yourself Matters

Think about a child who is being mistreated by their parents: Verbally and emotionally abused (or worse), given junk food, encouraged to watch TV, chaotic or overly strict routines, no support with academics or friendships….

What would you expect from that kid in terms of his ability to maintain emotional stability and be a good partner or friend to someone else? Not a lot? Yeah. When you’re not loving yourself, not giving yourself what you need, not meeting your basic needs for health, self-care, nurturing, acceptance and compassion, you are basically abusing yourself from the inside out. When any of us are being abused, we are simply not going to be well. If you are abusing and neglecting yourself, you won’t have much to offer others either. How could you?

If you’re reading the above line and it resonates, let’s use this moment as one of self-compassion and self-acceptance instead of self-recrimination and another way to make yourself feel bad. Try this instead:

“Of course I haven’t been well and have not been at my best. How could I possibly be? I have not been treating myself with the love and respect I deserve. I’d like to do a better job of that, and I’m committed to learning how.” 

That language is accepting. It’s compassionate. It’s understanding. It’s also hopeful, and leading you towards something better.

Choosing to have a good, nurturing, responsible and compassionate relationship with yourself is what it means to love yourself. To behave in the way that supports your highest and best… even when you don’t feel like it.

Figure out what kind of support you really need, and then decide to give it to yourself. No matter what.

Also, know that learning how to love yourself is a process, and one that takes a long time. It’s also very hard to do alone. An enormous act of self love can be reaching out for help and guidance to learn how to treat yourself better. Everyone needs support, and sometimes before you can support yourself from the inside, you need to be supported and build up from the outside through a healing relationship with a compassionate therapist or coach who is devoted to your personal growth.

I hope these ideas help you find your way forward. For even more on the important subject of how to love yourself, I hope you listen to this podcast episode too.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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How to Love Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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What Happy Couples Know

Great Relationships Don’t Just Happen

WHAT HAPPY COUPLES KNOW: Wonderful, healthy and fun relationships can seem magical. They can certainly feel that way! But the truth is that awesome relationships don’t happen “magically.” Not at all. Long-term couples who love their relationships are simply reaping the rewards of the intentional effort they’ve put in to their partnerships.

Sounds easy, right?

In theory, it is. But here’s the issue: No one teaches you how to have a fantastic relationship. So even though many people would love to have a stronger, more satisfying connection with their partner and would be very happy to do the working of making their good relationship great… they literally do not know what, exactly, to do differently.

The intention is there, but the knowledge is not. 

The Disempowering Myth: “Magical Love”

Part of this lack of awareness is due to the myths surrounding love and relationships in our culture. In the movies or on our shows, people just fall in love and then they’re happy… or they’re not. We don’t get to see how the sausage is actually made, for the good or for the bad. My personal theory is that it’s because it would make for an extremely boring viewing experience: relationships are built (or destroyed) by the habitual micro-moments and interactions couples engage in day in and day out.

We also have few role models for positive relationships. Even our best friends and close family can have things going on behind closed doors that you’ll never know. And too often happy couples or struggling couples appear to be the passive byproduct of “compatibility” rather than intention.

For all these reasons, relationships seem like magical things that “just happen.” They’re either good, or they’re not, and no one has that much control over the outcome either way.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Relationships are always in flux, and shifting in response to what we’re doing or not doing. If we’re nourishing them or neglecting them, we’re in the process of making them be what they are.

The myth of “magical love” is therefore incredibly disempowering, because it does nothing to honor the reality: You have an enormous amount of power to determine the future of your relationship. You get to decide if it’s healthy and enduring, or frustrating and short.

But in order to take full command of you power… you have to know what to do. (Or sometimes, what NOT to do).

What Happy Couples Know: Good Relationships Are Grown

Authentically happy people have learned, over the years, what they need to do to have a happy, healthy relationship. Sometimes they acquired relationship skills through their families. Sometimes they went to couples therapy to learn, or read books, or went to marriage retreats, or they listened to relationship podcasts. But they all did something to learn what to do, and then they started doing the stuff that works on purpose. Routinely.

If you followed people in happy relationships around for a day or three, you’d notice that in the small micro-moments of daily life — saying hello or goodbye, serving food, making low-stakes conversation, watching TV, floating ideas for plans, or even getting into bed — they’re doing things, very intentionally, for the benefit of their relationship.

It’s all small stuff, but it adds up. And, while it looks easy, it all requires a fairly high degree of:

All these skills are running silently under the surface in order for people to behave in such a way that elicits warmth, connection and teamwork rather than hostility and disengagement. It looks easy and effortless, but it’s not, really. Also, they’re not doing it because they love their partners more than you love yours, or because their partners are somehow gratifying to be nice to.

I can assure you, people who are doing all these great, pro-relationship things are partnered to people who are just as flawed and annoying as your partner is. (And they themselves are just as flawed and annoying as the rest of us.) They’re just choosing to handle themselves in a way that benefits their relationships. You can do this too.

What Happy Couples Know: Go First

As an experienced online marriage counselor I am aware that one of the biggest obstacles to having a great relationship (and something that routinely occurs in unhappy relationships) is the core belief that sounds something like, “But why should I try harder than my partner is trying?” Listening to that creates a standoff, and a race to the bottom. 

One thing that happy couples know is that you have to go first, and decide to be your very best self in this relationship. Because happy couples also know something extremely neat about relationships. Relationships have a predictable, powerful and “magical” mechanism built in, similar to other natural forces that have jaw-droppingly enormous impact when applied consistently over time (the trickle of water through the grand canyon, compound interest over decades, etc). Here it is: what you put into relationships changes the response you get.

It is disempowering to believe that your partner is the one who’s impossible, incapable of changing, is a terrible communicator — basically, “the problem.” Because then you’re totally stuck. You either have to accept what feels unacceptable, or pull the rip-cord and bail. What a bind!

However, by choosing the empowering middle path and using the magical mechanics of relationships intentionally, YOU have the option to decide to be your very best self in this relationship, use all the relationship strategies that happy couples know… and then notice the impact this has on the results you get. The outcome may surprise you!

What Happy Couples Know: Relationship Skills Can Be Learned

Even more exciting is this: The “what to do to have a great relationship” part has been figured out. It is known. There is research, books, relationship classes, evidence-based marriage counseling approaches, and even documentary films that have laid it all out for you.

One such award-winning documentary film is called “The Truth About Marriage,” from director Roger Nygard. (Watch The Truth About Marriage on Amazon Prime, or pretty much anywhere else you stream). Roger spent over seven years sitting down with the thought leaders in the fields of marriage counseling and couples therapy, like relationship researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Dr. Bill Dougherty, and many more to get the straight talk about:

  1. What makes relationships good
  2. What makes relationships bad
  3. What happy couples do on purpose
  4. How you can apply these same skills and strategies to your relationship

Through his research, Roger has gained enormous insight into the nature of love, as well as some extremely simple but powerful takeaways that anyone can use to immediately nourish and nurture their relationship. Now, he’s sharing them with us (me and you!) on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. We had the chance to talk about all kinds of things, and he gave me the behind-the-scenes inside scoop on the latest research, the most surprising things he learned, what happy couples know, and what YOU need to know so you, too, can have a magical (seeming!) relationship.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: If you watch Roger’s film, don’t forget to leave a review! To learn more about Roger and his other documentaries, visit his website: http://rogernygard.com/

PSS: Another relationship-building resource mentioned in this episode is our “How Healthy is Your Relationship” relationship quiz. Here’s the link if you’d like to take it, and / or share it with your partner. I hope it sparks positive, productive conversations that helps your relationship grow.

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

What Happy Couples Know

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Danii Roundtree, “Magic”

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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