I’ve been trying to be a better friend to myself for about 5 years now. For most of my life I had pretty harsh voices in my head, like my inner critic, my judge, and my task-master.
Over time, this has a pretty negative impact on my well-being. At some point, I began to question my attitude towards myself, and I stumbled across wonderful teachers like Brene Brown, Lisa Olivera, Fred Rogers, and Adrienne Mischler.
And I slowly began to shift and change. I’m not gonna lie, my inner critic, judge and task-master are still there! But they aren’t as loud, and they have company — my inner friend, and my inner nurturer.
If you have a tendency to “tough love” yourself, here are some reasons why you might want to be a better friend to yourself.
Why be a better friend to yourself?
1-You deserve it. As a member of the human race with all of your human potential, and all of your unique characteristics, you are worthy and your life matters. You are made of stardust and filled with the light of the universe!
If you don’t believe this about yourself, at least acknowledge that there are millions of people who believe this, including me. Every life matters and has worth, including yours.
2-You’ll be able to love others better. The first time I heard Brene Brown say that you can’t love others more than you love yourself, I rolled my eyes and thought she was nuts. I loved my kids with every fiber of my being, and I had a rough relationship with myself, so there, I disproved her!
But what Brene Brown means is that your own stuff always comes out when you are in relationships. Your lack of self-worth might give you trust issues with significant others. Your lack of confidence in yourself will change how you parent. Your fear of rejection will change how you parent.
3-Befriending yourself facilitates change and growth. It is soooo much harder to grow and change when you believe you suck! Carl Rogers wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change.” I have found this to be so true!
When you learn to be a better friend to yourself, you move through life with more ease, you are able to encourage yourself and persist, and you don’t have the heavy weight of melancholy or shame slowing you down.
When I was at war with myself, I was often paralyzed, it was so difficult to make decisions. And harder to take risks or put things out into the world.
4-Befriending yourself makes life better. Life is full of ups and downs that we have to navigate. It is soooo much better to be a friend to yourself on your journey through life, because self-friendship magnifies the ups and lets you truly enjoy them, and encourages you and consoles you through the downs.
When you are at war inside yourself, you can’t fully appreciate the ups because you have a sense of what Brene Brown calls “forboding joy”, and when you are facing the downs you blame and bully yourself, prolonging the downs and making them worse.
5-Befriending yourself just makes sense! This is your life! You are with yourself every single moment. You can’t divorce yourself — you are stuck with yourself! Why on earth do you want to go through life being at war with yourself? So why not come into a better relationship with yourself? Be a better friend to yourself, a kind and gentle companion. Take care of yourself, surprise yourself, delight yourself.
How can you be a better friend to yourself?
1-Cultivate an attitude of friendliness towards yourself. This was really hard for me, but you can begin by limiting your time around people who are overly-critical and judgmental, and increasing your time around people who are kind and encouraging to you.
Next, notice when you are starting to feel anxious or upset, and pay attention to the story you are telling yourself. Is it a critical, harsh message? Take a deep breath to disconnect from the message, and ask yourself, “What’s another, friendlier way to look at this?
2-Get to know yourself. A great way to start is by acknowledging your strengths and nurturing them! There’s a wonderful book called “Now, Discover Your Strengths” which talks about how we spend way to much time focusing on our supposed deficits and we let our strengths atrophy. What if instead we lean into our strengths? This book is out of print right now, but it’s still an interesting read. To actually take the strengths finder test, visit this website.
Another way to get to know yourself better is to pay attention to how you feel, emotionally and physically, as you go through your day. And pay attention to how you think and react. Be curious about it! Journaling is a GREAT tool for this, and I have a couple of videos in the description below about how to journal.
3-Understand your emotional and physical needs and meet them. For a variety of reasons, I learned to suppress my needs when I was younger and it took me a while to recognize them and acknowledge them as legitimate. I am proof however, that it is possible.
If you are sick, give yourself time to heal, don’t drug yourself up and go to work.
If you are lonely, find ways to get connection.
If you are overwhelmed, learn to set boundaries and protect your bandwidth.
4-Accept your humanity. A crucial part of learning to be a better friend to yourself is acknowledging that you are not a perfect person and that is okay. You don’t have to be perfect, no one is! The goal is not to get through life without making any mistakes.
I love Marie Forleo’s quote, “Live and learn, I never lose”.
When you make mistakes or imperfect choices, think about what you can learn from the experience and be more aware in the future. Then forgive yourself and let the experience go. You cannot change the past, and you cannot change your human fallibility, but you can enrich yourself with knowledge and awareness and move forward.
5-Follow your curiosity. When we are children, being curious and exploring our world is a source of great joy and delight. Give that to yourself now! Allow yourself to explore and learn about and try new things that seem interesting to you.
Our brain are incredible, and by giving our minds free rein to follow their curiousity, they may come up with some amazing insights and connections.
For example, Steve Jobs gave a commencement address and he spoke about how he was curious about calligraphy and he audited a class on it. He knew it would seem pointless to his parents, so he didn’t tell them about it. And later, the knowledge he gained about fonts influenced the way he developed the Mac.
But the most important reason is to follow your curiosity is that it is fun!
6-Treat yourself. When you buy a gift or do something for a friend, you think about them and what they actually LIKE. Do the same for yourself. Think about what actually gives you a little spark of joy or happiness, or makes you feel calm and cared for, and give yourself that.
If we aren’t mindful, we can be persuaded by well-meaning friends, or what we see in movies and/or advertising, to treat ourselves to things that don’t actually mean anything to us.