You’ve probably heard the phrase “put your own oxygen mask on first,” but how are you really putting this advice into practice?
How you treat and feel about yourself directly affects the quality of your relationships. Your relationship with yourself sets the bar for how you allow others to treat you and what you are willing to tolerate in relationships. Putting yourself down, giving yourself a hard time, viewing yourself as a failure, and beating yourself up interferes with truly being vulnerable when it comes to love.
Research finds that treating yourself with kindness opens you up to numerous health benefits, including increased motivation, happiness, resiliency, and self-esteem. Although it may feel easier to treat others with kindness and over-give while neglecting your own needs, it is much healthier to start inward. With a kind and empowered mindset, you will also have a smoother journey toward meeting your dating and relationship goals.
If you are walking around feeling miserable, drained, or irritable, work on treating yourself with kindness, care, and compassion and confronting any negative beliefs about yourself that are not serving you well. Being kind doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor filled with fancy spa treatments, vacations and gifts (although pampering yourself can be wonderful in moderation). It is about treating yourself with love and respect on a daily basis, as well as accepting who you are while making room for self-improvement and personal growth. It is about investing in yourself and what brings you contentment, relaxation, and pleasure, as well as believing you are deserving of love, affection and intimacy.
Here are 7 ways to practice self-kindness in your daily life, and how to apply them to dating:
1. Make time for hobbies and interests. Don’t over-cram your schedule with obligations and make sure you are living a balanced life that is aligned with your values. Reflect on your passions, goals, interests, skills and hobbies, as well as areas you’d like to improve on or gain knowledge in. After you develop a list, carve in time for these activities that bring you joy, feed your soul, and make you feel alive and relaxed.
Dating tip: If you really want a relationship, you have to be willing to make time for dating. If you are constantly working or traveling, it can be difficult to cultivate something substantial. Make a commitment to balance dating with other life obligations and interests.
2. Be your own cheerleader and be gentle with yourself. Despite what you may think, operating with a harsh and self-critical voice does not promote healthy motivation and only hinders success and decreases self-worth. Practice kindness by utilizing positive self-talk (examples — I can do it, I got this, I can handle my life, things work out for me, etc.). Set yourself up for success by ensuring your expectations are realistic and appropriate (you are not supposed to be perfect) and using encouraging language to build yourself up. It is so important to believe in yourself and the life you hope to create.
Dating tip: Approach your dating life with a positive mindset and use affirmations (I am worthy of love, I am ready to connect) to rewire your brain toward healthier thinking patterns. When the going gets tough and you experience negative emotions during the dating process, acknowledge how you feel instead of resisting, denying, disowning or judging your emotions. Understand it is natural to find dating overwhelming and challenging at times, so ensure you are supporting yourself in kind ways and operating on realistic expectations. Work toward believing you are worthy regardless of your relationship status.
3. Remember to breathe. Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised how little attention we give to our breath and how easy it is to take our ability to breathe for granted. However, tuning into your breath has a calming effect on your mood and body, making it a valuable strategy combating stress. It’s also an important reminder that you are alive, which is something to be grateful for, no matter how painful life may feel at a given moment.
Dating tip: For a quick dose of self-kindness and zen during an anxiety-provoking dating moment, bring your awareness to your breath, plant your feet firmly into the ground and take five full, deep inhales, and exhales. Practice intentional breathing pre-date, post-date and during a date for optimal comfort and anxiety management.
4. Start and maintain a daily gratitude practice. There is no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. Try a gratitude journal you can add to daily or make a gratitude list in your mind each night before bed. Added bonus: include something about yourself or your personality on your gratitude list.
Dating tip: Reflect on past relationships and dating experiences using a grateful approach. While your past may easily stir up resentment, anger, loss, and sadness, it can also lead you toward learning opportunities and personal growth. Reframe past relationship and dating experiences as lessons and opportunities and find a grateful takeaway from each one. Journaling on this topic can be incredibly helpful in making sure your past is not defining you or interfering with intimacy in the present.
5. Take care of your mind, body, and soul. Eat nutritiously, don’t skip meals, get enough sleep and physical activity and take care of your basic needs. Stimulate your mind, connect with your body, trust your gut, develop your creative and artistic side, use your voice and remember happiness and peace start within. Remind yourself self-care is not selfish.
Dating tip: In your relationships, exercise your right to say no, especially if saying yes to someone else means saying no to yourself. This may mean scheduling dates in a way that works well for you, screening out potential partners exhibiting your major deal breakers and kindly letting someone know you are not interested.
6. Be mindful. When you experience negative emotions and thoughts, acknowledge them without judgment. Strive to be an observer without suppressing, ignoring, denying or getting attached to thoughts and feelings. Instead, be accepting of thoughts and feelings and be willing to sit with and embrace difficult emotions. This is where real healing and insight occurs. Also, remember emotions, by nature, change and are not permanent. You will get through the difficult ones.
Dating tip: Dating jitters can get in the way of being fully present and available to connect on dates. Utilize a mindfulness practice, such as engaging your five senses to take in details and sensations on dates, to redirect yourself back to the present moment. Also, remind yourself to slow down, have fun, and not get caught up in fantasy thinking or planning a life with someone you just met.
7. Say goodbye to perfectionism. Not only is perfectionism impossible to achieve, it is also a major energy drainer. It is actually the opposite of being kind to yourself because it results in shame and disappointment for not living up to the unrealistic standards you set for yourself. Instead strive for authenticity, integrity, learning, and growth. Most importantly, be humble and don’t give up. Struggle is inevitable and being imperfect is part of being human (and is not a sign of failure or weakness).
Dating tip: Remind yourself that no one is perfect, and therefore, searching for the absolute perfect partner is only going to leave you feeling defeated and frustrated. While you shouldn’t settle, it is important to be open-minded and realize everyone has flaws and imperfections. Real love and connection involves accepting your partner versus trying to change your partner or carve him or her into your dream partner.
By integrating these seven strategies into your life, you are likely to experience greater contentment, inner peace, and a kinder relationship with yourself. Use them proactively and consistently, as well as in stressful situations, such as during pre- or post-date jitters or when a potential partner is no longer interested.
If you are struggling with how to be more kind to yourself, you can access self-kindness by reflecting on how you would show kindness to a friend or loved one and then apply the same actions to yourself. Remember, self-compassion is not only good for you, but also healing for the world and positive for your relationships.
About the Author:
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Rachel is a co-author to Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life, an International Bestseller, written to support single women in decreasing frustration about single-hood, leaving the past behind, cultivating self-love and forming and maintaining loving relationships. Rachel also serves as a Relationship Expert for http://www.datingadvice.com/ and other dating and relationship advice websites. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!