Do you ever get the feeling that, in the transition from childhood to adulthood, you accidentally left something of immense value behind? Like no matter who you become, where you go, who you’re with and what you do, there’s a feeling you’re longing for that’s just out of reach?
I don’t think you’re crazy for feeling this way. In fact, I think you’re aware of something that impacts almost everyone, even if most people won’t acknowledge it. And I want to help you do something about it.
Let’s start with an easy question: What’s the most important thing in your life?
Your answers may seem reasonable, but putting any of them at the top of your priority list is what creates that “missing” feeling. Most of these pursuits take a bit more from us than they give, and that imbalance creates an unsustainable energy deficit. This deficit then turns your days into something to survive rather than something to enjoy. It eventually leads to burnout, collapse, and crisis.
I want you to consider focusing more of your time and energy on something else. Something always present but often neglected in times of stress. Something once prized that so easily becomes an afterthought in the chaos of the day. It modifies your interpretations of everything other people say and do. It changes how you feel about your memories. It dictates your responses to sensory inputs. It moderates your ability to stay productive and to be present. It can take away everything you’ve worked so hard for if you don’t consistently attend to it.
That’s the thing you left behind—the missing feeling that’s never quite there. It’s the love you once had for yourself and the connection you once felt with yourself. These things slowly fade out over time if we don’t intentionally cultivate them.
No matter how many people depend on you, what your spiritual beliefs are, or what you do for a living, nothing will have as much of an impact on the quality of your life as your relationship with yourself. It forms the foundation upon which all of your roles, responsibilities, and pursuits are built. If that foundation is unstable, your life can collapse at any point. The greater your responsibilities, the more important your self-care habits become because the weight resting upon them is that much heavier.
Do you ever wonder why you see people reach such amazing heights in their pursuits, accomplish every goal they ever set and then some, only for it all to come crashing down? It’s because they didn’t build a foundation that could sustain all of it. Their life was a 10,000 sq. ft. mansion built on quicksand. They may not have had self-preserving habits to counteract the chronic stress or self-love to combat the endless criticism. I don’t want it to happen to you.
The most important thing you’ve ever had and ever will have is you.
I know this isn’t a popular message these days. That’s why I think it’s the ultimate form of reinvention; to live the way you did at first, before society taught you rules that didn’t really help you. We are born loving ourselves and believing tremendously in our worth, but so many of us are taught to always put others first, to make ourselves small, to hide and deny our needs and our feelings. We’re manipulated into living in a way that’s convenient for those around us, but tremendously inconvenient for us. Shouldn’t your life feel good to you? I think it should.
The Power of Psychological Boundaries
You can fight back against the constant pressure to neglect yourself by using your psychological boundaries to filter out unhelpful messages. You may not be consciously aware of your psychological boundaries, but they’re no less real than the walls of your home. Your thoughts, feelings, experiences, values, and truths belong to you and exist within your boundary. Other people have their own versions of these things existing within their boundaries. The rules of your boundary are the same as the rules of your physical living space; everything within it is your property and your responsibility. Nothing outside of it is your property or your responsibility.
Nobody can change the contents of your boundary without your permission, just as they can’t enter your living space and rearrange your furniture or hang new art on your walls without your permission. You have the right to think, believe, and feel whatever serves you best. Other people don’t inherently deserve access to us. Consider everything you read and every word that’s said to you as an offering, like a neighbor asking if you want their old couch, and before taking anything in, ask yourself “Do I want this in my space?” If not, just leave it there. It’s not your responsibility to figure out what happens to it, because it isn’t yours.
Looking Beyond Forced Self-Love
I’m sure I’m not the first person you’ve heard say that you should love yourself more, but I may be the first to present an actual plan for doing so. There’s no “love myself” switch in your brain, and you can’t force those feelings to exist just because you want them to be there. You have to earn those feelings from yourself the same way you’d have to earn them from someone else.
First, pay attention. Listen to yourself. Take your thoughts, feelings, goals, and dreams seriously. Don’t be invalidating or discouraging; be supportive and empathic. Converse with yourself in your mind the way you wish others would speak to you.
Second, be consistent. Follow through on your promises and your intentions. Don’t disappoint yourself when you’re looking forward to something. Don’t promise yourself a reward and then deny it. Don’t offer support and then withdraw it. Lastly, spend time with yourself. I know you’re with yourself 24/7, but is it quality time or is it distracted, disengaged time? Do you spend your free time doing things you enjoy or things you resent? Do you mentally engage in your time with yourself, or do you spend it thinking about all the things you need to get done? Quality time creates connection.
Being alone with yourself won’t feel lonely if you’re good company to yourself. Practice these simple techniques regularly in combination with using your boundaries to keep out unhelpful things and see if those feelings you’ve been chasing don’t start to come back. That’s how we can remake ourselves—by focusing on what matters most.
For more articles like this, pick up the latest issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine, available on tracyanderson.com.
Categorized under Lifestyle