At IHML, we’ve been talking a lot about self-love and self-care lately. The truth is, things in your life (from your relationships to your business) depend on your personal health and happiness. Yet, it’s so hard for so many of us to believe this enough to put ourselves first.
That’s why I’m here to tell you that it is okay to be selfish.
I know, crazy right? So many of us are raised to believe that putting others first is the way to show them we care. We’re taught that putting the needs of the relationship ahead of our own needs is the right thing to do.
I’m here to challenge that and tell you that focussing on yourself will actually improve your relationships with others.
Now, I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. I know from personal experience that continuously putting your own needs and happiness low on the priority list is actually a disservice to yourself and others.
So, when was the last time you focused on what makes you happy? When was the last time you put your needs first? Do you worry that doing more for yourself is going to negatively impact the important relationships in your life?
You aren’t the only one.
So many of us get trapped in this idea that putting others first is the magical ingredient to successful relationships. That’s simply not true.
That’s why, in a recent episode of the IHML podcast, I sat down with my husband James to reflect on our relationship (we’re celebrating 8 years of marriage!) and how we’ve been able to grow as individuals and as a couple. It really boiled down to a few essential things that I want to share with you today.
But before I do, I want to remind you of something that is at the root of it all. In romance, we get so caught up in this idea of finding the person who “completes” us that we lose sight of what makes us happiest and healthiest. We spend so much time worrying about how others are going to judge our decisions and trying to do what we think will create the least amount of conflict.
However, the individual is just as important as the relationship (we learned this from our relationship coach).
And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you don’t have to stop reading. In fact, I encourage you to keep reading. What I’m about to share with you can be applied to relationships with friends, spouses, teammates (even spouses who are teammates), you name it.
So, here are three things you can do to help you focus on yourself and strengthen your relationships…
1. Listen to what actually makes you happy.
By working with our clients at IHML, we’ve learned that “what makes you happy?” is a difficult question for many people to answer. Most people are so caught up in what they need to do to make others happy or to be successful with their business. We are so quick to focus on the future and the what-ifs that we lose a bit of footing in the here and now.
When you put all of your time and energy into relationships, you quickly lose sight of what makes you happy and start sourcing all of your happiness from relationships that we’ve worked so hard to maintain. But it’s so important to be able to depend on yourself for happiness instead of always putting your fulfillment and happiness in the hands of others. Here’s the thing, when you can recognize and do more of what makes you happy, the positive vibrations will spill over into other areas of your life (including your relationships) naturally. It’s a win-win!
2. Speak your truth (and don’t feel wrong for it).
Maybe you need to work later than usual or simply want to spend some time alone. Whatever it is, you need to recognize what your desires are and communicate them to your partner. I mean, how many times have you stayed silent on the matter of your desire out of fear of rocking the boat? We live in such fear of judgement that we are scared by the situations we play out in our heads instead of actually having that conversation in real life.
It’s funny how quickly we forget that communication is a cornerstone of any strong relationship. But it’s so important to just own who you are and the desires you have. When you get too caught up in what you believe someone else will believe about you, it’s going to exhaust you and that energy will reflect in the relationship. So, always speak your truth and do so without shame. And if you can’t? Ask yourself if you are being your most authentic self in your relationship. You should never have to hide who you are for the sake of another.
3. Be more forgiving to yourself (and others).
How kind are you to yourself? How forgiving are you to yourself? We are so quick to judge ourselves for what we want. Instead of living by what you think you (and others think you) should be doing, pay more attention to the intentions in your heart. The thing is, the relationship we have with ourselves is reflected in everything we put energy into (relationships, work, etc,). Essentially, your relationship needs you to be more kind and forgiving to yourself.
With that said, we need to recognize that people are different. We are motivated by different things. We have different preferences. We operate differently. There’s no need to resent that. Instead, recognize and own it. Growth doesn’t have to be an either or. You can grow as individuals and as a couple.
Now, not all relationships are meant to last forever. However, note that relationships can change too. If reading this brought up feelings of misalignment in your relationship (sometimes we grow in different directions, and that’s okay too), it’s time to have a conversation. You have to be honest with yourself and the other person, for both of your sakes.
James and I are proof that you can grow together and that creating a positive and healthy relationship with yourself will open the door for you to have strong relationships with others. We hope the journey we’ve been on in our relationship can help you reflect upon your own and that you can begin applying some takeaways to your own life and relationships today.
P.S. Want to know more about how focusing on yourself can actually improve your relationships (despite what you may have been taught to believe)? Listen to me and James dive deeper into the hows and whys behind this theory in the recent I Heart My Life podcast episode.