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Mental & Emotional Health

The Most Important Relationship in Your Life

By Terry Barnett-Martin, LMFT

The most important relationship of your life is the one you have with yourself.   When you were born, you were already perfectly you, ready to unfold. To the extent that you were encouraged to be you and not just the reflection of those around you, you came to know and love yourself. However, even with the best of parents, family and community, you can get lost from yourself in an attempt to please or protect yourself from others, and that takes you on a road far from the best of your true self. It’s time to reclaim and cherish yourself.

February is relationship month, which some may think is just about romance and being in love, but it’s really the time of the year that reminds you to touch in with yourself, to slow down and listen to the voice of your own heart, and to say and do loving things for yourself…in essence, to romance yourself. Too often we look outside of ourselves waiting for someone else to make us feel loved and cherished. But love, and the confidence that comes with it, really starts from within you. The good news is, you can pour on tender loving self-care with reckless abandon and without excuses during this month of love and relationship. The more you love yourself the more you draw in truly loving relationships to your life. The secret to calling love into your life starts with loving yourself. Here are four tips to becoming an expert at loving yourself:

Have your own best interests at heart

Think of what the flight attendant says to passengers on an airplane before takeoff: “In case of an emergency when the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling above you, put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others with theirs.” Often we focus on what’s best for others while ignoring what is right for ourselves. It is our primary responsibility to take care of ourselves so that when the time comes and the opportunity to help others presents itself, we will have reserves of love and energy to help. The tender, giving hearts of the world often burn out all too soon, because they neglect to take care of themselves. Let February be the month that you remember to take time for yourself, to take stock of what matters most to you and to realign your life to match your intentions and purpose.

Tend your relationship fences

As much as possible, surround yourself with people who care about you and leave room for you to be your best self.  In all relationships, even those that are close and loving, it is imperative to have proper fences to both connect you to others and protect you from others imposing on you. Taking the time to tend your relationship fences is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and for the people in your life. With the people in your life with whom you feel safe and respected, a simple fence is all that is required to show where you end and they begin. But with people who tend to impose their way, intrude in your life, hurt you or boss you around, you need to visualize a strong and tall fence that clearly prevents them from getting to you. Well-considered relationship fences can give you peace of mind and a feeling of safety and freedom to be your best.

Have your own back when things get tough.

We all make mistakes, take wrong turns and feel embarrassed at some time in our lives. And even when you do everything right, bad things can still happen. But the way you talk to yourself during those times is key to your self-esteem. Instead of berating yourself with attack thoughts and self-ridicule, speak to yourself with compassion and patience as a best friend would. Take in the experience as information to learn from and move forward feeling wiser and better equipped.

Take the time to look yourself in the mirror and give yourself a reassuring wink

How often do you look in the mirror and focus on the flaws instead of your innate beauty? How often do you sigh and say, “It’ll have to do.” The truth is you shouldn’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t want someone else to say to you. In fact, go the extra mile and wink at yourself and say, “You’re amazing!” when you pass a mirror. It will lift your spirits and make you smile.

Let February, the month of love and relationship, be your time to recalibrate and refuel, and focus on playing to your strengths. Take extra special care of your body, mind and soul. Treat your own heart to flowers and candy, or gather your loved ones together and share a delicious meal. You are the only you there is in the world. You matter, and you are here for a purpose, to do something that no one else can do in the same way. When you get that, deep in your heart, and you treat yourself with encouragement and loving kindness, you will change the world, no question.

Terry Barnett-Martin, M.S., LMFT is a relationship counselor in private practice in Southern California. She is an openhearted, intuitive practitioner and writer who is dedicated to helping people find the purpose and path in their life and relationships. Read more about Terry’s work at www.tendingfences.com and www.truepurposecounseling.com. Her book, Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul can be purchased from www.amazon.com and through major booksellers.