The Most Important Relationship In Life Is the One You Have with Yourself
Why YOU should always be the top priority
My favorite book I’ve ever read is “The Art of Happiness”, by the Dhalai Lama and Howard Cutler. This was the first book that taught me about the importance of our inner dialogue.
The conversations we have with ourselves. The little voice in your head that talks to you on a day to day basis. Some call it self talk. Others call it your inner dialogue. Mental chatter.
A lot of the book discusses cultivating the ability to notice when you are in a negative state of mind, pause, and then flip it back into a positive state of mind.
This book taught me how to pay attention to the thoughts that go through my head. It taught me how to notice when I’m in a bad state of mind, and then flip it to something that puts me back in a good mood.
It’s made me a very positive, joyous, and uplifting person. I dance and I sing. I freestyle. I hug. I’m an energetic, passionate, curious, and…intense person to be around.
The problem with this is that I let it run wild. I became addicted to thinking through problems and finding the silver lining in EVERYTHING.
In short, while this made me a positive and happy person, it also accidentally cultivated anxiety. I became hyper aware of my inner dialogue, constantly refining and re-tuning it.
I became intertwined with my thinking. Enveloped within it. Attached to the stories and dramas floating through my mind with no ability to turn it off or stop it.
The optimistic and overly positive monkey mind was running wild.
Then came meditation. Meditation is what I like to refer to as my Bar-Mitzvah in awareness of my inner dialogue. If I was previously an optimistic boy, this new training made me into an equanimous man. It taught me how to control and harness that inner dialogue.
Meditation gave me a sense of detachment from the thoughts that go through my head.
You see, when we talk to ourselves it’s more than just chatter. We construct a narrative. This narrative then eventually builds your sense of identity. This sense of identity is then what reinforces and builds our Ego.
Eckart Tolle refers to this in “The Power of Now”. Our narrative that we reinforce on a daily basis becomes tied to our sense of who we are as an individual. Anything that challenges this narrative, will ultimately be an attack upon our identity.
The trouble with all of this is that we construct false realities, through our false sense of self.
The reality is that the narrative you’ve constructed in your head is somewhat delusional. You have created this dialogue to protect and conserve your sense of self.
Building on the above example of positivity and optimism, Today I might consider myself an “optimistic person.” In doing this, I tie my sense of identity to this quality. I IDENTIFY with this word of “Optimist.”
But the reality is that all of this can change in an instant…and if we end up BELIEVING this story we’ve constructed, anything that disagrees with this then makes us question our sense of identity.
So if tomorrow something happens that gets me discouraged and shakes my sense of optimism, suddenly I’m in an identity crisis. Now my world is collapsing on itself because who I thought I was didn’t turn out to be who I really am.
We become attached to the labels that we use to describe ourselves.
If I tie my sense of self to these labels then if I were to no longer fit into these buckets, I would ultimately feel like a failure and no longer be content with myself.
Luckily, through my short time on this planet I’ve wised up to that. I don’t fall into the trap of being tied to the narrative I’ve constructed for myself. I’ve learned how to become detached from the personalities my mind creates, and realize that they are not me.
Meditation made me realize that I am not the thoughts I have in my head.
In the first level of my inner dialogue there was awareness. In the second level came detachment.
Instead of flipping to a positive, I just shrug the thought off altogether.
Earlier in my life, while I would be flipping a negative into a positive (which in general is still a great skill to develop), I would also get wrapped up in the stories that I was telling myself. I became attached to “being a positive person” and if I ever fell out of that, I became uncomfortable.
Now, I simply watch thoughts and stories as they arise and pass. “Ah, thats the story about work and what I have to do today….”, “Ahhh, that’s the story about the girl I want to go on a date with tonight…”, “ah, that’s the story of what I want to eat for breakfast after I meditate.”, and so on.
Instead of getting wrapped up in these stories, I give them no importance. I’ll notice myself lost in thought, come back to my breath, and then eventually, my mind will wander again.
The best part though is that by creating a distance from thoughts, I’ve become a much happier person. I spend less time lost in thought, and more time dwelling in the present moment. I tie less importance to each individual thought, which makes their intensity diminish and become weaker over time.
My brother Ross has always said “The most important relationship that you have in life is the one that you have with yourself. Voices of other people will come and go, but the voice in your head is never going away. If you have an unpleasant relationship with the voice in your head, you’re probably going to have an unpleasant life.”
This is the essence of what I’m trying to express. The more that you can cultivate an awareness of your inner dialogue, and the less you intertwine and engage with it, the more pleasant your relationship with yourself will be.
At the first level you engage with the voice in your mind. You battle it. You catch him whenever he’s being an asshole and you make him repent for his ways.
But at the higher level comes ignoring it altogether. Learning to detach yourself instead of identifying with the stories in your mind. Learning how to avoid getting wrapped up in the spiral of thought.
The ability to treat your mind as background chatter, rather than getting involved in the conversation.
This is how we can develop a good relationship with ourselves. This is how we can begin to pay attention to how we talk to ourselves. To improve the dialogue and make it a two way street of give and take.
Prioritize your relationship with yourself above everything else. Work on your relationship with yourself before trying to work on your other relationships.
Everything starts from within. Work on yourself to improve your life.
The most important relationship you have in life is the one you have with yourself — you should always be the top priority.
Originally published at Troy Erstling.