When you think of all the roles we play in life, we have different relationships with many different people.
All these different relationships make up different facets of our life, and have varying degrees of importance. Often the most important relationships in our lives are the ones we have with our children, our partner, our parents/siblings and our closest friends.
These relationships are all important, and shape us in different ways. Because they all affect is, is it fair to say that any of them is more important than others? If you had to pick one relationship in your life and say it was the most important one, what would it be? Your partner? Your children?
In some ways it’s an impossible question. But at the same time, I do think there is only one correct answer.
The most important relationship you will ever have in your life is the one you have with…
Who are You?
When thinking about relationships, the one we have with ourselves is often ignored. But it’s very important because it sets the tone for virtually everything in your life.
Think of the following:
- How well do you know yourself?
- How well do you understand yourself?
- How honest are you with yourself on your strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities?
- Do you love, and value yourself?
- Do you believe in yourself?
In many ways I believe your success in life (however you define that) and even your own happiness depends on the answer to these questions.
In the past I’ve asked do you love yourself?, but in this post I want to approach this in a different way.
Knowing who you are, being honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses and insecurities but still accepting and loving yourself in spite of them is perhaps the most important thing you can do.
A Distorted Lens
One of my core beliefs is that we are the sum of our experiences. Everything we go through in life affects us. Sometimes in small ways, and other times in larger ways. And as a result of this, we are incapable of seeing things objectively. Everything we see is filtered through the lens of our own beliefs and experiences.
That’s not to say that the same experiences will affect two different people in the same way.
Take an affair for example. When people have affairs, common reasons are that they weren’t happy, or they were looking for something that was “missing” in their relationship (At least that’s what they say. To their partners it usually seems like they are narcissists who don’t care if they hurt others in pursuit of their own hedonistic urges).
I’ll acknowledge that there are a narcissists out there, but I would like to think that for most affairs people really were unhappy and trying to fill a gap of some sort – just in a very selfish and unhealthy way.
However many people aren’t as happy as they could be, and feel they are missing things in their relationships – and they don’t all have affairs.
So what will cause one person to do this and another person not to?
Psychologists say that affairs (and other behaviors like this) aren’t really about what is wrong with the relationship or their partner. Sure, there are likely issues that contributed. But really they are all about the person who engages in the activity, and what they are lacking inside.
I truly believe this comes down to a person’s relationship with themselves. We often can’t control the things that happen to us in life. But we DO have control over how we respond to these things.
So when you accept yourself (flaws and all) and are at peace with who you are, you are better equipped to deal with adversity. When you can’t accept yourself, then you look for that acceptance through validation from others.
Self-Acceptance and Happiness
Why is this relevant? Because it has everything to do with your relationship with yourself.
When you can’t accept yourself for who you are and instead need to find validation of your worth from others, it leads to unhappiness. And when you can’t accept yourself, it is easy to look for reasons why you are unhappy.
But when someone is chronically unhappy it has more to do with them then it does with anything external.
We all have fears and insecurities, and it’s natural to build up walls and try to hide them.
To be truly happy and authentic to ourselves, we need to be willing to face the mirror and accept all of ourselves, both good and bad.
That’s not to say we have to accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like. Change may not be easy, but it IS possible. However it’s impossible to change when we hide our insecurities and blame others for our own problems. It’s only when we can accept who we actually are that we can truly change.
Impacts on Relationships
I usually write about relationships, and I think the success or failure of relationships is greatly impacted by a persons identity, or sense of self.
The idea that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else is very true, as how you treat others is often a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself.
I have heard countless stories where a relationship fails not just because because of an incompatibility between the couple. But because one person never really knew who they were or loved themselves.
So they sublimated who they were and presented the “self” they believed was expected of them.
Over time this causes strain, as they aren’t being true to themselves and may come to resent playing a role.
Their partner has never seen their authentic self; but that’s not the partners fault, it’s because of walls they have built and what they have allowed them to see. And those walls were built out of fear. In some ways it’s due to fear of being rejected by that other person. But that fear is truly driven because they were unable to accept themselves.
Facing the Mirror
I think the strongest relationships are ones that are built on truth and authenticity. Where you have allowed yourself to become vulnerable and let the other person in. Where you have allowed them to see all of you – good and bad; and you know that they accept you and love you all the same.
That involves allowing them to truly see the authentic you, and for that to happen until you must first accept and love yourself.