” Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”
– Neil Gaiman
I had an interesting email the other day. The writer asked, “Why do you always talk about self and fixing self. It’s other people that are my problem.”
I love this question, because it cuts through all the BS and gets right to the point. I'll return the favour. I write about starting with ourselves because it's the only place we have any power or any control. It's worth repeating.
I focus on self as the point of change because its the only point of change.
When we're preoccupied with other people, what they're doing or not doing / should or should not be doing - we're actually siphoning off our power and giving it away. If we want to change or improve our relationships, the effort starts with our relationship to ourselves. This isn't necessarily a popular idea since many of us would prefer to dodge responsibility for problems. We are full of rationalizations, justifications and excuses about why our lives are the way that they are.
We blame other people; family members, partners, bosses, friends. We blame jobs. We blame the place that we live. We say we don’t have enough < time, money, energy, support etc etc> to create change. If we tell ourselves this often enough, we begin to believe it deep in our bones and we live out this belief in every way. We don't have to deal with the discomfort of personal responsibility - but we don't get any control over our circumstances either.
We hang our happiness on circumstances. We say that life has given us a bad go. What with the global economic crisis, the constraints of jobs we like or don’t like, the limitations of time, bad childhoods, bad marriages, bad friendships, health problems, jobs lost, money lost, relationships lost, no one should expect to be peaceful or happy. We hang our happiness on other people and whether they are willing to be the people we want and need them to be. We say that we will be happy, when they change.
We tell ourselves that we are without power, without control. We tell ourselves that we should not have to change, we don’t have the problem, it’s not about us, it’s about someone or something else. We spend all sorts of time and energy trying to coax, cajole or bully other people into changing so we can be happy. We run from place to place, relationship to relationship, job to job looking for the elusive key to our well-being.
Too often we look everywhere but within. This is a shame because wherever we go, there we will find ourselves.
In almost every instance, when I work with clients who are estranged from family members, what they are really missing to improve their circumstances is not a relationship with someone else, it's a relationship with themselves. This is not to diminish the great losses which are incurred as a result of estrangement – but it is to say that without relationship to self, we are disconnected, fragmented and powerless to effect change in our lives REGARDLESS of whether we reconcile with our families, or never do.
The best case scenario is that we will face ourselves, warts and all. We will befriend ourselves, slip back into the skin that belongs to us and learn to be good with who we are as people. When we do this, it forever alters our relationship to self and to others. Very often it is at the point we are able to successfully accomplish this – that relationships in our lives, even the most difficult and challenging relationships – begin to change.
The worst case scenario is that we will successfully face ourselves and regain our self-esteem, self-worth and personal power and our relationships, particularly the most challenging and difficult ones, will not change. However, even if this is the case, we win. We win back ourselves. We win back our lives. We win back our peace and our happiness. #win
It's a spiritual epiphany when we truly develop a deep and abiding understanding that where ever we go, there we will be, in relationship first and last with ourselves.
It makes sense to work on that relationship. Until we do, we have very little to give to others. So if love is the goal, we must love ourselves first. If acceptance is the goal, we must accept ourselves. If healing is the goal, we must heal ourselves. If change is the goal, we must change.
We cannot give that which we do not have and where ever we go, there we are. And that is why I challenge myself and my readers to put their attention on themselves. See how that goes?