The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Your relationship with yourself sets the framework for your relationship with everybody else in your life. For example, if you treat yourself poorly and talk down to yourself you will be more likely to accept poor treatment from others. On the contrary, if you take the time to work toward self-love and have self-respect, you will be less likely to accept less than what you deserve. Having self-love empowers you to make the right choices for yourself and let go of things that do not work for you.
Comparison is often the thief of joy. People typically compare themselves to others in terms of appearance or success. When you compare yourself to other people, you are doing yourself a disservice. During your time in incarceration, those around you were in similar circumstances so it can be a shock to encounter different types of people with varying backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and levels of success upon release. Remember to focus on yourself as everybody is on their own journey, dealing with their own struggles, and learning their own lessons. Focus on your own progress, rather than using others as a mile-marker for where you think you should be or what you think you should have.
Love and trust go hand in hand, one way to build self-love is to build trust within yourself. You can start by setting reasonable goals for yourself. If you set goals that are unrealistic and end up not being able to achieve them, you may feel that you cannot trust yourself to accomplish things. Another way to build trust is to follow through on the promises you make to yourself. For example, if you say you are going to apply for jobs today and end up doing other non-productive things instead, that erodes at your self-trust. You can also build self-trust by following your intuition. Oftentimes you will have a gut feeling about what the best decision for you will be, and the more you follow that intuition the more you will be able to garner that sense of being able trust yourself.
Put Yourself First
Making decisions with your own best interest in mind can, at times, feel selfish. However, if you are always putting others ahead of yourself then not only do you begin to feel as though others needs matter more than yours, but you will also become burnt out and eventually unable to be a good friend, family, member, employee, or student. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the more time and effort you dedicate to yourself, the more energy you will have to offer to those you love in the long run. Putting yourself first includes accepting good opportunities, saying “no” to obligations you do not have the capacity for, and choosing wisely where you want to dedicate your time and energy.
Remove Toxic People
If you are surrounded by people who judge you or put you down, you will subconsciously begin to believe what they say. Sometimes it may even be those closest to you who are doing the most harm to your mental health and confidence by making you feel lesser than for your past mistakes or current situation. Just because someone has been in your life for a long time, does not mean that they have pure intentions. If there are people in your life that are judgmental, unsupportive, or unkind to you, do yourself a favor and remove them from your life. You can decide on the boundaries you want to put between yourself and these toxic people.
Growing the love you have for yourself is a life-long journey that takes time, patience, and dedication. Wherever you are in your journey, it is important to remember that you are more than your past, and your mistakes do not define you. Learning to love yourself can take time, but it will eventually pay off with healthy relationships, a brighter future, and increased confidence.
GEO Reentry Connect is a comprehensive resource for individuals who have been incarcerated. Find resources you need upon release from prison or jail–employment, housing, education, family services, treatment, and more.