For me, one of the things about being autistic is having difficulty with relationships. After another conversation where trust and reassurance came up, I thought I would do an internet search. I typed “basis of relationships” into Google and came across an article on the Huffington Post site entitled, “7 Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship”. I really didn’t get past the first ingredient: emotional responsibility. I quote the first paragraph here:
“This is the most important ingredient for creating a healthy relationship. When people do not take responsibility for their own feelings, they tend to try making their partner responsible for their own happiness, emotional safety and self-worth. As adults, happiness, emotional safety and self-worth come from how we treat ourselves and others, rather than from how others treat us. Therefore, if we are abandoning ourselves rather than loving and valuing ourselves, we will feel unhappy and emotionally unsafe, and have low self-worth. If we then blame our partner for our feelings, we participate in creating an unhealthy relationship.”
I think it is very easy for me to slip into the blame culture. It is easy for me to say for instance, “Interrupting me when I am concentrating on something and expecting an immediate answer makes me angry” rather than saying, “I feel angry when you interrupt me and seem to require an immediate answer”. In the first I am blaming the action for causing the anger whilst the second is owning that I react angrily to the action. Taking responsibility for my feelings means that there is a possibility that if I could catch myself, I might be able to react with a different emotion to the action. If I could catch myself.
So according to the paragraph I need to work on “loving and valuing” myself to improve my emotional responsibility. So the next search was, “how do I love and value myself” which took me to the wikiHow site and an article entitled “How to build self-worth”. This page is split into three parts:
- Getting your head right
- Mastering a positive self image
- Seeing your worth
Now I don’t propose to go through each of these parts today, but I thought I would let you know how I got on with the first one and seeing how right my head is or isn’t. Perhaps I will look at the other parts in a follow-up pieces. So to check my head out, there are 5 tips.
Understand the power of your attitude toward yourself – this about finding a way where I am neither self-denying and lessening my presence nor am I exaggerating. It is about recognising and celebrating my qualities, values and skills so that I see myself as a valuable person, equal in terms to others with unique and worthy talents.
This is an interesting one. I definitely don’t have a problem about feeling unique since I have always felt different but I probably have seen that as a negative thing in the past and more recently I have been moving trying to see who I am more positively. I think I need to look at my qualities and skills because I think I have written enough about values (connecting, appreciation and peace). I can feel some lists coming on. Work has helped here since recently I started keeping a log of all the things I do; now I think I need to do it at home too. Next tip.
Learn to overcome a fear of self-love – this is about treating myself as I would do to my own best friend. It isn’t about changing myself to cater for what I believe other people think about me. Self-love has faltered when I get addicted to things and avoid facing up to the possibilities that working through my pain gives me.
Again, I think this could be rather tricky. I am not sure I have a best friend. I have some friends I am more able to be honest about myself with but I think my deepest revelations usually come through my writing like this piece. I think I need to think through the concept of a best friend. Next tip.
Trust your own feelings – apparently self-worth requires me to listen to and rely on my own feelings and not automatically respond to the feelings of other people. Also self-worth plummets when I let other people make decisions for me. Whoopy-do, I don’t have a great handle on feelings and so I struggle to make decisions. Perhaps if I just made random choices when I can’t decide, I will learn more about my feelings. Tricky this one. Next tip.
Analyse yourself – well finally something I can do! There is a list of questions which I could probably do with working through but some of that is covered in the previous points. The others can be dealt with in posts e.g what makes me feel fulfilled? What are my strengths? What do I want to be doing with my life? Finally we have:
Stop making your self-worth conditional on other people – this is talking about the influence other people have on me and how I might mould myself to their needs rather than mine. I think getting the ASD diagnosis and working through what that means for me have helped immensely in understanding myself and coming to terms with my needs not others. I think as with all new things, I have a tendency to over focus on my own needs but I hope with time I can find a balance between my own needs and others or perhaps work out when I can be flexible and also when I can’t.
Of course this is just one article and one third of the advice on improving my self-worth. How good is it? Well I guess the proof will be in working through it and seeing if I feel it makes a difference to my emotional responsibility and thus my relationships. I could spend time looking for more advice but that I think that might fall under the “overcoming the fear of self-love” category and avoiding the issues. Wish me luck.