Many of us are incredibly hard on ourselves, and we are used to thinking that whatever we do isn’t good enough. Even some of us unquestionably believe that self-flagellation is necessary for us to achieve our goals. Further, this mindset assumes that our anxiety, depression, and stress are a result of us not trying hard enough. However, there’s now a good deal of research clearly showing that self-compassion is a far more effective force for personal motivation than self-punishment.
Being your own best friend entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves in the same way we would be to a good friend of ours. It is important to recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable so that we can learn to be gentle and kind with ourselves rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
Fortunately, this isn’t just wishful thinking about another self-help approach. In fact, there’s now an impressive and growing body of research demonstrating that relating to ourselves in a kind, friendly manner is essential for emotional wellbeing. Not only does it help us avoid the inevitable consequences of harsh self-judgment—depression, anxiety, and stress—it also engenders a happier and more hopeful approach to life.
Below I share 6 powerful strategies to treat yourself as your own best friend:
1) Practice Self-Compassion
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others.
What does self-compassion mean?
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we fail, suffer, or feel inadequate, rather than flagellating ourselves with self-criticism, or ignoring our pain.
Why is self-compassion important?
Self-compassion yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression.
In fact, researchers are discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience available to us. When we go through major life crises, self-compassion appears to make all the difference in our ability to survive and even thrive.
2) Talk to Yourself with Kindness
Self-criticism is a common problem, and not one to be overlooked: the way you talk to yourself plays a vital role in well-being. Luckily, the problem of the harsh self-critic is fixable. When confronted with personal failings, stop and talk to yourself with kindness and sympathy.
Effective self-talk examples could include: “this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself at this moment? “; “This is so hard for you, darling, I’m sorry this is happening. I’m here for you”; “I forgive myself”; “I let go of my past”; “I love being myself”. This way of self-talk provides the encouragement and support needed to do your best and try again.
3) Honor and Accept your Humanness.
Accepting the fact that, along with everyone else on the planet, we’re flawed and imperfect individuals, just as likely as anyone else to be hit by the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. This sounds obvious, but it’s funny how easily we forget. The human condition, a reality shared by all of us is that we will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, we will make mistakes, bump up against our limitations, fall short of our ideals. Things will not always go the way we want them to. Coming to terms with this reality, instead of constantly fighting against it, will allow us, not only to feel better about ourselves but also to be more understanding and forgiving to all our fellow humans in the experience of life.
So don’t worry. If you start treating yourself like your own best friend, you won’t sit around all day watching TV and eating buckets of Kentucky Fried chicken. Rather than encouraging self-indulgence, self-compassion, and being kind to yourself help motivate us to reach our full potential.
4) Be Mindful
Mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion, self-love, and self-support, as it has a tendency to lessen self-judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 2014). Strive to always be in the moment and to be aware of what is happening right now, without judgment and labeling.
Allow what you think or feel to have its moment; don’t give it the microphone or hide it in the corner. Allow it to come, and then, without attachment, let it go.
5) Learn how to support and comfort yourself.
A genuine best friend is supportive and comforting in times of need and distress, often knowing exactly what to say or what to do to make us feel better. When it comes to supporting ourselves, on the other hand, we often drown out our pain by indulging in food, sex, gambling, and other addictions including self-pity and other self-destructive behaviors. Learning how to face our hurt, instead of escaping from it, is one of the most essential (and most difficult) ways of developing self-love. When we listen to our emotional needs and open ourselves up to the vulnerability of experiencing shame, anger, and grief, we can then take the appropriate steps to help assuage the hurt we feel in a healthy and productive way.
6) Focus on positive things about yourself, rather than negative.
This sounds simple – well it’s not. Shifting your focus requires you to essentially reprogram your entire mind – especially if you have the tendency to criticize and put-down yourself every day. You may be thinking “Nah, I don’t treat myself that badly”, yet most of the time you are actually unaware of the unconscious dialogue that constantly chatters away in your brain (referred to as “self-talk”). Cultivate the awareness to treat yourself more kindly by opening yourself to the good things about you, For instance, you could try taking time out of the day (e.g. whenever you wake up or go to sleep), to say nice things to yourself. Sounds cheesy, but it’s a proven way of boosting your self-worth and happiness.
I would love to hear what you think about this article, and how you are progressing in becoming your own best friend. Take a moment to share your story in the comment section below. Maybe it will inspire others to start their journey of being their best own friends.
Wishing you a deep sense of well-being,