I have often wondered what it would be like if it were just me, here on Earth on my own. What would I do? How would I be? Even as an introvert who needs to be on her own to recharge, I have learned that we cannot develop, grow, or even survive without other human beings around us.

Can you imagine having no one to talk to, to love, to be with, or to grow old with? What would be the point of living? We are all soundboards for each other and play a vital part in each other’s growth and learning processes. Things that frustrate, irritate, or annoy us about other people are usually the things we are guilty of ourselves; others merely reflect what is within us, which is why we notice them in the first place. One of my favorite quotes is “If you spot it, you’ve got it!” My life coach, Hanna Kok, taught me when I’m pointing a finger at someone to always look at the three fingers pointing back at me.

It’s a very annoying exercise, but I must admit, it’s very effective. We cannot change others, no matter how hard we try; we can only change ourselves. When we are confronted with difficult people, we have to ask ourselves what we can learn from them and how we can grow from our experience. The way we respond to the people around us is also a reflection of how we love ourselves. I am sometimes confronted with inconsiderate people. Applying the “three fingers pointing back” rule, I have to ask myself, “Where am I being inconsiderate?” It turns out that I am incredibly inconsiderate toward myself. I don’t allow myself enough rest, I try to take responsibility for other people’s lives, and I haven’t learned to say “no” or set boundaries.

Now, when I experience people as inconsiderate, I immediately look within and sort myself out first. It’s amazing how seldom inconsiderate people bother me when I am considerate toward myself. There are many different kinds of relationships, all of which help us to know and understand ourselves a little better. We need to know and understand ourselves if we want to grow spiritually, or even just live blissfully. Relationships become complicated when we are unaware of who we are and why we react the way we do. It’s a bit of a catch-22, actually. We need relationships to know and understand ourselves, but without knowing and understanding ourselves, relationships are really difficult. That is why our relationships with our parents are often the hardest; they are, after all, our very first relationships here on Earth.