FAMILY FUSION: Befriending your social self
“It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.” – Norman Vincent Peale
WE ARE ALL WIRED UP with the innate ability to relate to others in a positive way. But as you know, seeking to achieve that ideal can sometimes be a bumpy uphill task.
At times our “wiring” needs to be closely examined because the reason things may not go very smoothly often lies with us not befriending our social self. Sidney J. Harris, in confirming that fact, once said: “It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognising that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.”
Your social self has to do with how you see yourself, treat yourself, and as a result the manner in which you may relate to others. Befriending or making your social self happy will afford you a focused and fulfilling life that refuses to surrender itself to the welcoming arms of self-pity, self-hate, self-devaluation or any such paralysing personal social prisons.
Sometimes not befriending your social self may have nothing initially to do with anything undesirable you might have done, but rather what might have been repeatedly done or said to you by others. For example, if as a child your parents habitually called you negative names like idiot or stupid, over time you may begin to think that way about yourself. Such undesirable thoughts may restrict you from relating positively to others because you may think others may be viewing you that way as well. If on the other hand significant others were in the habit of reinforcing expressions that make you feel special and important, the chances of relating to yourself and to others may be very positive.
Whatever positive or negative encounters you may have faced in your life that contributed to your outlook on yourself and others, understand that you are the only one that can take command of the controls of your social vessel in determining where it should go. Taking ownership for your social self is crucial.
Bob Moawad, educator and motivational speaker once said: “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
Make a deliberate decision not to lay down on the bed of self-pity because of your past experiences but take the good counsel from Harry Emerson Fosdick who remarked: “Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world – making the most of one’s best.”
Secondly, when you are treating your social self nicely it is always reflected in the value or worth you place on yourself. How you speak, dress, treat your body, what you put into your mind, the choice of friends or acquaintances with whom you associate and the places you frequent, often mirror the kind of merit you may have placed on yourself.
Never cheapen yourself. I believe that Shannon L. Alder, though addressing women, hit the nail on the head when she said: “Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” It was Abraham Lincoln who brought a fitting focus to what the end result can be when our social self is intact: “It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.”
Thirdly, fostering a great appreciation for yourself. Make it a practice of speaking positively to yourself about what you know you can do with the talents and acquired skills with which God has blessed you. You will find that you will become more and more confident with yourself and may avoid having a quest for endorsement from the crowd to make you feel accepted.
Former drug addict and New York Times bestselling author Nic Sheff was on target in saying: “As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.” Great counsel.
In addition, make your social life happy by taking what may have been negative features in your past and what may have warped your social skills, and select those that can be transformed to help beautify your future social self.
The words of psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are gems to cherish. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
No matter what you do in life people will have something to say, constructively or destructively. Check out your critics and realise that many of them have no track record of success, nor anything meaningful to show for the length of time they were here on earth. Sympathise with them and in some cases ignore them and get on with building healthy social relationships, the kind that will enhance your own life and that of others.
By making your social self your best friend, the significant implication for your future healthy relationship with your family, friends and those within and outside of your circle of influence can be invaluable. Never compromise befriending your social self.
• Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: [email protected]