Forming a great relationship – with yourself

Some people just seem to have a knack for certain things — they find a way to make good money even after they get laid off; they always look slim although they never talk about being on a diet, they regularly hold hands with their spouse even though you’ve seen them fight; they have a house without clutter even when you pop over unexpectedly.

These are the people who have a great relationship with that particular area of their life — like money, food, love, surroundings — and it often depends on an attitude that has developed innately. It can be hard to nurture for those who grew up with anxiety about a particular area, but we can still make improvements to that area if we learn the hacks that others have naturally adopted.

In her book “What I Know For Sure,” Oprah Winfrey talks about how much time she has spent in her life thinking about food — what she’s going to have for her next meal, if she should eat certain foods or not, how many calories the food has, how long it will take her to work out to burn off the calories, etc. Yikes! Talk about stress. Her struggles with her weight have been public for most of her life, so it’s no surprise she obsesses about food. But what surprised me was how much thought she puts into it, because I don’t. I know that vegetables and fruits are healthy, so when I’m hungry that’s what I tend to choose. I know carbs like pastas and breads can lead to weight gain, so I minimize my portions. I know that anything with sugar is empty calories with no nutrients, so I try to avoid sweets and desserts. But I don’t really think about it. These are just my natural habits. I eat when I’m hungry. I choose food I think is healthy that will taste good. I’m not a connoisseur of great cuisine. I prefer to focus on the conversation when sharing a meal with others. I have a good relationship with food. Oprah obviously hasn’t had a good relationship with food much of her life, just like so many women. But she does talk in her book about how she is actively trying to improve that relationship with food and her acceptance of her body.

Awareness is the first step. Action is the second. Persistence is critical!

In the same book, Oprah talked about how she always had a great relationship with money since she was a child. Even when she started working and made very little, she didn’t equate her low pay to a low self-worth. She learned when she was young that she didn’t want to work at something she hated just for the money. She focused on doing what she enjoyed and always figured the money would come. I envied her ability to avoid money worries even when she didn’t have money, and how those thoughts obviously helped to lead her to unimagined riches — because I don’t have those same thoughts. I’ve worried about money most of my life. I remember as a child thinking I would have to marry someone rich if I wanted to have the things that money buys, but I didn’t want to marry for money. I wanted to marry for love. I didn’t marry someone rich. And I don’t have a good relationship with money. I went into a career so I could do what I loved, but I was always operating with the belief that my chosen career wouldn’t pay much. So that’s what I expected, and that’s what I got. I love being a journalist, but I’ve always felt those of us who have a passion for this discipline are grossly underpaid — other than a few rare anomalies who garner most of the riches. I’m still plagued by these notions and still struggling financially. I’ve read many, many books to learn the money attitudes of wealthy people, and I’ve taken steps to create passive income. But I think about money every day and worry all the time about my debt, if it will grow deeper, if I will ever earn enough to buy the house of my dreams, if I’m being irresponsible by taking vacations, etc.

I stress about money the way Oprah stresses about food. I know I’m not alone. And despite all the steps I’ve taken to address this, including the awareness that my mindset contributes to it, it’s still a challenge in my life that haunts me every day. So I continue to work to improve my relationship with money, which actually means I need to think about it less. That’s a hard one, because I obsess about my income and expenses and debt, even knowing I have pulled out of debt before. But I feel as a business owner it’s my job to focus on the money, that handing over those reins could spell disaster. It’s something I need to work on more — take action to get others involved in handling the finances. That’s why I made an appointment to meet with an accountant to handle my finances every month, even though I always worried accountants were too expensive. I finally figured out that’s like avoiding produce because you’re worried about GMOs and pesticides. Sure, those things are bad, but eating potato chips and cookies is worse.

Despite that money stress which happens to be the biggest challenge in my marriage, I feel very confident and happy that my husband is the right one for me. I have a good relationship with love and romance. That’s something Oprah didn’t seem to have in her life a long time, as she discussed in her book, where she admitted that she had too many relationships where she gave men her power, where she begged for love, where she thought she needed a man to feel complete, where she didn’t feel self-worth without love from a man. I have not had those experiences and thoughts. I’ve loved and lost and loved again, and I’ve been dumped. But I never worried that I couldn’t find another. I never felt I had to defer to a man, let him decide how my life should be. I’ve always been confident I can live happily on my own, yet I rarely have. Because I didn’t stress about finding a man or keeping a man, I never lacked for attention from men. I never worried if the man I was dating wasn’t the one. I never cared if a man stopped seeing me because I wasn’t ready to bring the relationship to the next level. And I never worried about when I would get married. I always knew I wanted to have kids, and I learned from Murphy Brown that I could have them on my own if I never found the right man.

And once I realized I had found my soulmate, I was ready to start having children with him. I didn’t care that we weren’t married. We raised a great family and did eventually get married. We still have our ups and downs, but we don’t have drama in our relationship. There is no jealousy, possessiveness or spite. We have issues and work through them, but we’re still madly in love — even if we drive each other crazy sometimes. I don’t stress about the times we get angry with each other, because I’m confident we’ll work it out. I don’t spend time worrying about maintaining a happy marriage.

But I face other areas that do cause me stress, and a big one is the clutter that seems to follow me around in life. I have had many times that I have completely cleaned a room to make it totally free of clutter, and it stays that way for a while. But the clutter always comes back. And I have an aversion to anyone else organizing my home, because I have to feel I know where everything is. And I only know that if I am the one who puts everything away. But I am also a packrat who can’t part with anything I think I might need someday. That combination is brutal for maintaining a clutter-free home. I do not have a good relationship with my surroundings. This is something that I can tell Oprah has probably never stressed about. She talks in her book about the beauty around her, and how she is uplifted by the simplest of things she sees in her home. When I look around, I am constantly reminded of the organizing and cleaning I need to do. Though I’ve cleared away all the clutter many times, somehow I never believe it can stay that way. So of course I live that self-fulfilling prophesy. I worry about how I will ever be able to devote enough time to getting rid of the clutter again, because I chastise myself that I should spend all my time trying to make money — the other big stress in my life!

It is such an obvious pattern that the more we stress about a goal, the harder it is to achieve it. I believe in the law of attraction, and it’s true that we can manifest positive things in our life when we focus on them and visualize them. But that focus has to be in a positive, reaffirming way that we believe. If we worry about achieving our goal or just tell ourselves we will get what we want but really don’t believe it, our goal will remain elusive. We have to know in our core that it’s something that will come to us. Sometimes the more we fight to force it, the longer it will take to get it.

So how can we make ourselves believe that we will get our desires, especially when we feel we’ve tried and failed so many times with the same goal?

We have to identify what we want and believe we deserve it and know it will make our life better. We have to prioritize it by taking action to make it happen. And when that action doesn’t produce the desired result, we have to keep trying — because we know we will eventually get there. We have to get rid of the bad attitude we have toward that particular area of life by having the same confidence we have in the areas of life we don’t question — the ones where we are confident will always be okay. For me, it’s food and love. For Oprah, it’s money and surroundings.

You already have the ability to create the mindset that will bring you what you desire. It’s time to apply it to the area where it’s needed — whether that’s something personal like food and health, or revolving around your connection to others like marriage or family, or focused on career pursuits like money or jobs, or affecting your surroundings like clutter or comfort. Find the area where you know you’re confident, and sit with those feelings to get to know them and understand why you have such a good relationship with that area. Take those feelings and concentrate every day on expanding them to the area where you are lacking confidence.

It can be done. Like so many girls, I didn’t feel good about my body as a teenager, but I developed confidence in my appearance as I became a young adult. I watched others who had that confidence; having it actually made them more attractive. I emulated that, even when it felt unnatural, and eventually it became more than just imitation. It became a part of me. You can do it, too, no matter what area is bringing you down. Know what you want, go for what you want, and be sure you can get there. I know you will, because you’re already on your way.

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