Do you find it difficult to be yourself in your relationships with others? When you feel stifled or stretched in a relationship, it can be tempting to blame the other person involved. However, Dr. Linda Mintle says it’s more helpful to look at yourself, in particular, your past.

“Understand the family dynamics that you had growing up, patterns that you learned from your original family. Maybe the way you deal with conflict or anger, the way that you talk to people when you’re upset, part of the work for every person is to figure out who am I in that process?”

“A lot of people leave home and they never think about what they’ve brought with them to another relationship, so they really haven’t developed a good sense of self to begin with. Then they get into a relationship and think this person is driving me crazy or I can’t be who I amthey’re stopping me from being a certain way. No they’re not.”

“You have to figure out who you are. Part of that process is bringing that self to the other person and constantly defining, what do I think? What do I feel? What are my needs in this relationship, and how do I accommodate another person in that process? How do I learn to be flexible in a relationship? What patterns am I bringing to that relationship?”

The first step toward an accurate sense of self is discovering and believing God’s view of you.

“Who am I in Christ? That’s a great place to start because that’s where you truly have to define your own identity.”

“You have to figure out who you are in Christ first, because it’s out of that secure attachment we have with our God that you can be very secure in your other relationships. That is the corrective relationship for all relationships that we’re going to encounter.”

Even stronger than our negative past or bad habits, the power of Christ can transform our relationships from the inside out.

“Despite the fact that you may have grown up in a highly dysfunctional family, if you start with who you are in Christ, then start working through the family patterns, the things that you’ve learned, and you can figure out what part of your family stuff you want to keep and bring into adult relationships, and what part of that do you really need to work on changing in order to be healthy. If you engage in that process, you’re going to have a much better idea of who you are.”

The process isn’t easy and requires some humility, but God Himself makes it possible to examine ourselves and handle conflict with grace:

” You can make a change. That’s the beauty of any any kind of change we need to make when we’re Christian, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us that helps transform us in a way that makes us more like Christ.”

The closer we draw to Christ in our daily walk, the more closely we’ll learn to follow His example in how we relate to others.

Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker and national expert on relationships and the psychology of food, weight and body image. She’s a best-selling author with 19 book titles to her credit and hosts The Dr. Linda Mintle Show.

Sense of self with Dr. Linda Mintle