How to have a better relationship with yourself

When it comes to love, your relationship with yourself is as important, if not more so, than all the other connections in your life. We asked an expert how to have a relationship with yourself and why it matters so much.

Today you’ve cuddled your kids, kissed your partner, phoned your mum and texted your sister, but what have you done for the other significant relationship in your life? Having a strong relationship with yourself is crucial for your wellbeing and it helps you create healthy relationships with others, yet many of us forget to nurture and invest time into it.

Psychologist Marny Lishman says there are many reasons looking after ourselves in a meaningful way can slip off the radar.

“Often we have what we perceive to be more pressing needs that are more important, such as earning money to pay bills, looking for a relationship with someone else and nurturing children,” she says. “Other times we are just reacting to the needs around us, rather than being proactive – for example, ‘if I look after myself first, then the flow-on effect is that other areas of my life will flourish’.”

Woman walking through field
Book and tea

There’s also a bit of stigma around self-care.

“Prioritising yourself often feels like we are being selfish and that we are judged negatively by putting ourselves first,” Lishman explains.

Regardless of whether you’re single or in a romantic relationship, having a strong relationship with yourself is important – but you may not know what that looks like. Lishman says there are three main characteristics to a strong relationship with the self:

  • You feel comfortable in yourself and relish time alone
  • You don’t feel like you need anything outside of yourself to make you happy
  • You take care of your mind, body and soul, and prioritise this.

So how do you have a better relationship with yourself? Lishman says having a healthy relationship with yourself is about consciously taking time out to care for yourself. Exactly what self-care means will be different for each person, but the common theme is being kind to yourself. It could involve exercise, spending time in nature and speaking as nicely to yourself as you do to other key people in your life. Accepting that you aren't perfect and not beating yourself up when you make mistakes is also important. 

“It can be anything that makes you feel good mentally, physically or emotionally,” she explains. “It might be something that makes you laugh like watching a comedy film, something that relaxes you like a long bath, or something that you find stimulating like reading.”

Lishman says incorporating self-care into your routine means it won’t drop off the priority list.

“Incorporating small amounts of self-care times into your weekly routine – it can be as little as 10 minutes a day – means it is easier to maintain and will be ongoing,” she says.

Woman walking through field