Before we can have a great relationship with anyone else we first have to have a great relationship with ourself.
Unfortunately most of us are not great partners to ourselves. Many are even toxic partners without even understanding why..
To understand we need to take the 30,000 viewpoint before we get into the details of how.
Who Am I To Be Special out of 7,500,000,000 people
We are born, one of billions, into a society that has been working for thousands of years in a world that’s been in full flow for millions of years. We are born helpless and completely at the mercy of our parents or whoever cared for us.
We grow up being taught by the custodians of our society. Our parents, school, work and so on.
The scope of the universe is unimaginable. The world seems so vast. A school assembly makes a huge crowd. A stadium full of people looks like a nation. We are dwarfed by the size of how many other people there are in the world.
Everyone seems to know more, have accomplished more. Our governments and organisations seem so huge and powerful in comparison to us.
Everything in our experience has been for us to fit into what already exists. Every piece of evidence is showing us how small and insignificant we are. Everything we want to do has been done and by people smarter and more accomplished than we are.
you may be one, but you are the only you
Yet we are unique. And we do not fit neatly into the boxes people want us to. We want to be different. We want to do things our way.
We don’t want to be a number.
We want to be something.
the world will never fit around you... yet you shouldn't fit around the world either
The challenge of individuality is that we want the world to fit around us.
The world wants us to fit into it. This dichotomy is what creates progress. As Apple said, it’s the ones who don’t conform that change the world.
the world needs you
The world needs us to stand up and show how it’s broken because it is. Every culture, custom and tradition is outdated. It was made by people who had less data than we have.
We cannot ever have perfect knowledge. So we have to operate as best we can on as good as we can get knowledge and understanding.
So the conventional wisdom and traditions we live by are inherently broken.
The greatest challenge we have is that we are living in the time of revolutionary developments in technology. And like the butterfly that causes a storm across the world by flapping its wings, these changes, change everything.
Yet the people and authority that have an investment in the status quo are going to resist change. If everyone else could see the change it wouldn’t need you. But just as every baby needs a mother, every change needs a Change Maker.
You might not have ambitions for changing the world, but you have to change your world. If you can’t shape and recreate your world you’ll live in someone else’s and so you’ll never be good enough. You’ll never be happy.
So the point of the overview is that if you feel that conventional advice and tradition is making you feel wrong, maybe what you’ve been told isn’t right for you.
Be strong not wrong
A great relationship comes from acceptance of who we are. Before we can have acceptance though we have to have awareness. We have to know who we are and how we work.
The world cannot tell us who we are.
It will try. It will tell us who we should be. But only we can know what is in our core until we bring it out and show the world who we are.
So awareness begins by understanding ourselves. But that’s a huge task from a blank page. So to develop awareness it helps to use ways people have found of categorising people. Of course, no tool or personality measurement can ever really capture the richness of who someone is, but they can give us some outlines to colour within.
So here are some tools to use to find some of your broad strokes.
Tools To Know Thyself
The Myers-Briggs test is a great starting point for a broad stroke understanding of your personality.
Attachment Theory is based on the idea that how you first experience the world affects how much you will trust other people.
It can be very significant in your romantic relationships if you have an insecure or avoidant style.
Gary Chapman’s insight that we have different styles or ‘languages’ in how we give and receive love is insightful.
It’s helpful as a starting point to understand your primary mode and that of your partner’s.
If you are sure you can take it, ask your friends, family and colleagues for your strengths, weaknesses and particularly what’s special about you
Looking for Themes
Another place you can find something about yourself is through your favourite films, songs and books. We like things that speak to us. So there are often themes around our favourites.
For example, my three favourite films are Braveheart, 300 and The Passion of The Christ.
There’s a common thread throughout these in that they are all about a strong character who lives with honour.
The lead characters of all three gave their lives for what they believed in when all had an option to live by just going along with what someone else wanted.
What are your favourite songs, films and books?
So the themes of my favourite films showed me as I interpreted them that honour was a value for me.
Values are what guide our choices. We do what we do because it is what we value.
Knowing what is driving our decisions is important. Often though single people want to find someone with similar values. They may be important and it may not.
The great thing about relationships is that they change us. We shouldn’t have to change for a relationship, but a great one will change us. And like we don’t really know what will make us happy, we don’t really know what will fully satisfy us.
There’s a danger in planning and checklisting ourselves out of a great relationship.
Needing someone to have the same values can imply that we don’t want to change.
Of course, there are always going to be some things we’re never going to change. However, the more you have of these non-negotiables, the easier it will be to build a great relationship.
Do you really need someone to have the same religious views or political opinions as you?
Needing someone to have the same views restricts the power diversity and conflicting opinions can have on us. There is great value in always challenging everything. When we have too many ‘certainties’ in our views we are in danger of becoming blinkered.
We don’t necessarily need the same beliefs, but have the understanding and compassion to understand and accept our differences.
the accountability mirror
David Goggins in Can’t Hurt Me talks about the Accountability Mirror.
We feel bad about the things we don’t do. Or the things, we don’t think we should be doing, but do.
We rationalise and we make excuses, but deep down we know and it’s what makes us feel bad about ourselves.
So here, be honest. Don’t hold back and be nice to yourself, because this is what you’re going to say to yourself whether you want to hear it or not. Confronting it is the start of changing it.
So where are you falling short?
All of us have at least three identities.
Who we really are
Who we pretend to be
And the person we are evolving into
Best Me and Worst Me
I came across this exercise from Matt Church and thought it much more useful than strengths and weaknesses.
Write the three most negative aspects of your personality. How would people describe you at your worst? And then write the opposite qualities.
The jump from our negative to positive is too far for us to go. If we’re judgemental, we’re not going to become a naturally accepting person. It’s a part of our personality, but the worst of us shows up in our times of greatest stress. At our best we will be something else.
So for example,
Overthinking can become analytical
Critical can be careful
Lazy can be relaxed.
The negative is who we become under stress and pressure.
The refined version is who we are at our best.
What are the triggers and environments that bring out the best and worst in you?
Who are the people that bring out your best and worst?
The Problem with self-love
There are fashionable terms that have cropped up in the last few years like mindfulness and self-love. I’ve never fully understood what they are talking about because they are based on a nebulous concept.
As far as my research tells me, mindfulness is being conscious in how you think and act.
Self love is loving yourself as you would another.
They have become popular because we don’t do them. The problem is that they are part of a wider system. When they are taken from that system they can become self-indulgent and meaningless.
Everyone should love themself just as we should love others. However, when self-love becomes indulgent and about bubble baths, it becomes popular because it’s easy, but it’s tainted.
It’s tainted because at the root of a lack of self-love is a belief that you’re not good enough.
And the thing with doubt is, it might be true.
You can’t just blanket decide that everyone needs more self-love.
A lot of people need more honesty and integrity.
You can demand what you ‘deserve’, you can pamper yourself because ‘you’re worth it’, but if you aren’t accepting your dark side, you’re papering over the cracks.
You might relax through your massage, but you haven’t dealt with the nagging voice that knows that you aren’t facing up to what you know you have to do.
Up to now it’s been about awareness. But awareness brings to your forefront your strengths and weaknesses and what you aren’t doing that you really should.
If you know that nagging voice has a point, then you have to deal with it.
Being strong not wrong, means you accept what’s gone and do your best from now on.
Acceptance comes when you take the tough choices and actions that you know you should be doing.
Once you have done that, then you have to accept who you are.
All of us wish we were smarter, prettier, richer and in better shape.
We have to accept what level we’re going to take to improve and then where we are and who we are.
It’s about being conscious of the choices and trade-offs we make. Accepting that we are what we are for a greater reason and letting go of the desire to be more special than anyone else.
When we can do that, we’re ready for our Masters in Loving others.