We are not harmed by the love we didn't receive in the past, but by the love, we're not extending in the present to ourselves and others.
Our most important relationship is the one we are having with our self. We can give to ourselves the acceptance and the affection that we are so much yearning to receive from others. And when we offer ourselves kindness and love our life is transformed for the better! Befriending ourselves is the practice of self-compassion.
Becoming our own best friend is the very best thing that we can do for our self. We can learn to be our own friend and practice self-compassion. And when we do, we have a best friend for life! We can keep ourselves afloat, offer ourselves support and comfort when there is no one else. When the wise friend within is listening, we can offer ourselves understanding, we gain perspective, we make better decisions and behave more skillfully.
When a good friend feels inadequate because they have failed at something, we support them as best as we can. We listen and acknowledge their struggles, we validate and normalise their feelings, we seek to encourage them. We love and accept them as they are. And when we do that, as a result, our friend feels more confident and empowered. Our friend is grateful for how we made them feel.
We know that it is good for our friends to be treated with kindness. When we listen and support them in this way, we help them to feel stronger, we help them to ease their difficult emotions, we help them to explore solutions with a clearer mind. So, if the kindness we give is good for our friends, then turning this same kindness within, to ourselves, in our own mind, when we talk to ourselves will also be good for us! What would happen if you treated yourself with the same kindness and sympathy that you give your friends?
We have this beautiful ability for empathy and compassion for others but unfortunately, we don’t often attend to ourselves in this way. When we encounter difficulties, we need support and encouragement to be able to bounce back. In situations, when we struggle, make mistakes, or feel rejected, we often turn on ourselves, criticising ourselves mercilessly, bullying ourselves, and hence discouraging ourselves. Even though we feel miserable, like a bully, we continue to beat ourselves up and devalue ourselves. We keep blaming ourselves for our shortcomings, for our ignorance or inabilities. We talk to ourselves in ways that we would not dare talk to anyone else or would not tolerate anyone else talking to us. But for some reason when the criticism, blame and insults come from within, we accept it, we put up with it! Often, we seek the help of a good friend to protect us from our own harsh inner critic. A good friend provides the counter-argument to stop us from insulting ourselves from within and from ruminating on how we are not good enough or what a loser we are.
We need the friend within
We have grown up with the idea that friendships are very important and need to be cultivated. But the person you spend the most time with is yourself! We spend days and nights with our own inner dialogue. It is hard to live with someone who is constantly criticising us, especially, when that voice is in our head 24/7! We are stuck, we can’t escape ourselves! But maybe we can begin to change that, one thought at the time.
When we seek a friend within, that is when we begin to cultivate a compassionate inner voice. As we do that, gradually, the inner dialogue changes for the better. We begin to become more patient and understanding of ourselves, to feel more confident and empowered just like when we are with a truly good friend. As we become a better friend to ourselves, everyone benefits because we also become a better friend for others in two ways. We are stronger and less needy of our friends, but also we become a better source of support for others; accepting, understanding ourselves help us to support others as well.
I would like to invite you on a transformative journey of friendship with a beautiful and fascinating person which is you. To become my own best friend has transformed my life and I am hoping that it will also inspire you to begin this adventure in true positive friendship with yourself.
Let us think about someone you know who is a good friend or the qualities you would like in a good friend. What are the qualities you appreciate in a good friend? Is it their ability to listen, their loyalty, their acceptance, their warmth, their humour, their generosity? In this blog, we will explore how we can attend to ourselves with the same care concern that we would give a friend in a similar situation to build a strong friendship with ourselves.
The qualities of a good friend
A good friend:
• cares about me and want to support me through all the challenges in my life.
• makes me feel safe and comfortable.
• in their company, I am free to be as I am; to express my joy and sorrow, to try new things, to make mistakes without being afraid of rejection.
• helps me to gain unconditional acceptance of myself.
• is there when I need them through good and bad times.
• helps me to feel worthwhile and okay.
• knows that I am not perfect but also reminds me of my good points, of my strengths, and of what I have achieved so far.
• reminds me of what matters for me when I lose my focus.
• finds ways to help me to feel encouraged and motivated.
• listen and empathises for how difficult it is, in tough times.
• shares their own struggles with me so we feel a sense of togetherness through our hardships.
• understands and feels the pain and cares, wishing for the pain to ease, for the happiness of each other.
My good friend and me:
• we support one another because life can be so tough at times.
• we are good for each other and we bring out the best in each other.
And when we have such a good friend, we can feel very blessed and grateful! And if we don’t have such a good friend in our life, it’s even more important that we develop those qualities and attitudes towards ourselves.
So we can begin to turn towards ourselves from within to cultivating a safe relationship with ourselves, where:
• we avoid judgments, undue criticisms and blame,
• we care for our welfare and happiness,
• we hear a supportive compassionate inner voice that supports us through the unavoidable up and down of life with warmth and wisdom,
• we accept ourselves unconditionally,
• we appreciate our strengths as well as our shortcoming, being perfectly imperfect,
• we motivate and encourage our self out of love not out of fear or anger
• we remember our own goodness and worth as a human being
• we turn towards what is important for us, meeting our healthy needs as best as we can
• we take good care of ourselves by learning ways to promote our mental and physical health like a good carer would
We remember that we are all interconnected and that we are not alone in our experiences. We are part of the common human experience: sometimes we stress, we fail, we lose, we feel upset while at other times we succeed, we gain and we rejoice.
I am a human being like everyone else. I feel connected with others. Just like me you suffer and struggle at times. It's not easy being a human being. Life is bittersweet, there are moments of pain, moments of joy, so I can be present and accepting all of it, as it is, celebrate the entirety of life! So I begin to care for myself because I matter and like everyone else I wish to suffer less and to be happy. Like a good friend, I am good for myself and I explore how I can bring out the best in myself with kindness to have a good life….become I am worth it!
Here are 5 tips on how I can begin to befriend myself with more self-compassion:
1. Getting to know me
Maybe I can look for ways to listen to myself more, to attend, to explore who I really am. By letting go of the harsh inner critic, I can be curious about who I am, letting myself be just as I am and noticing who I am becoming. I can maybe begin to journal, to meditate so I get to know myself more intimately. I turn with awareness to my inner chatter; noticing moments when I am over critical of myself and exploring ways to talk to myself as a friend.
2. Accept myself unconditionally
A good friend reminds me that we all make mistakes, we all screw-up at times and that it will be okay in the end that we can sort it out. So maybe I can turn toward myself and do the same. I can be generous and supportive of myself like I am towards my friends. I can work to build a better relationship with myself by listening, seeking to understand and postpone negative judgments and criticism.
Like everyone else I wish I was better than I am, I have made some mistakes, I am not perfect. I can begin to learn to forgive myself for being human, for not knowing, for learning. As a good friend to myself, I can explore ways to accept that I am still a “work in progress” and that I also have done some very good things.
When I accept myself as I am, I let go of unhelpful inner dialogues which creates unnecessary difficult emotions, sapping my energy and motivation. I uncover new inner resources that allow me to correct my ways more effectively and to become who I wish to be. When I accept myself as I am, I am also better in my relationships with others, being more understanding and open to who the other person really is.
3. Being honest and authentic
When I accept myself as I am and appreciate the good in me, I can be more myself and deal with who I really am. There are some aspects of myself that I don’t like and I regret the mistakes I have made in the past.
The more I believe my inner-critic, the more I hate myself, the more I want to punish myself, the more likely I am to repeat the mistakes and be stuck into the ways I don't like about myself. The more I am fuse with what my inner-critic says,that I don’t deserve to be happy and the more happiness will elude me and yet it is what I seek and when I am at my best. The inner critic sabotage my ability to change, my for happiness. So I wish to care about myself while I still take care of others.
As my inner critic is less vocal, I can see myself as I am. I recognize my strengths as well as what I need to improve on. I care for my well being in the long-term and the consequences of my actions. So, if I am overweight I am honest with myself, I don’t deny it and because I care about myself, I seek ways to be healthier because I want a good life today and tomorrow. When I am impatient and I lose my temper, I accept and I explore ways to regulate my emotions better rather than indulging in unhelpful blames, ruminations and regrets. I see what I need to correct and I take actions on how I can improve. I become solution-focused rather than problem- focused.
4. I enjoy my own company
When my inner dialogue is friendlier, it is easier to be alone with myself. When I make peace with my inner critic, I begin to appreciate my own company. I can enjoy my own cheerfulness and sense of humour.
I can offer myself some simple good wishes such as:
May I see the good in myself
May I begin to appreciate myself as I am
We can develop the idea that we are worthy of our own friendship. Like any other relationships, it takes time, work, care, mindfulness, and patience. We can remind our self, each day our shortcomings do not define us and that we are worthy of our love and kindness.
At the end of this page, you are invited to listen and download, for your own personal use, a guided meditation audio to help you to cultivate an attitude of good will and friendship with yourself and others.
5. Key is to become more self-aware
Making that commitment to become my own best friend is the essential first step. The goal is then to watch in my mind when the old chatter of harsh, non-helpful self-criticism return and replace it with a more friendly inner chatter, one thought at the time. Being overly critical of myself is deeply ingrained in my psyche. It’s an old habit that I have been engaging with for however old I am, minus a year or two. So, I can expect that it will take time to replace my harsh inner criticism and unsupportive thinking habits for an inner voice that is friendly, caring and supportive. I can re-wire my mind, in the moment, when I am aware of the harsh inner criticism, when I stop and decide at that moment to think and talk to myself differently in a more encouraging and kinder manner. And as I do this again and again, 100 times, 1,000 times, 1,000,000, I begin to change the neuronal circuits in my brain and eventually it becomes easier. It is not an easy endeavour, but as I persist, despite the setbacks, it becomes a most rewarding endeavour, I gain the best friend for life.
So the first step to becoming my own best friend is to first notice when I am hard on myself. So I begin to notice when the old chatter has returned and I say: “I hear your inner critic!, Thank you for your opinions or trying to help, but the way you are going about it is not so helpful, I want to hear a friend now”.
I can re-wire myself the moment I notice the harsh inner-critic anddecide to respond to it in a different way. One self-talk at the time, I step back from my inner critic. I recognize that the inner critic is just one voice in my head, it does not define me anymore, I make way for another voice in my head that is more friendly, wise and supportive.
I wish to no longer identify with the voice of the inner critic who is telling me that I am not good enough, that I am stupid, that I am doing it all wrong, that I will never succeed. I begin to notice the impact of hearing those criticisms in my head, how it is making me feel tenses, discouraged and inadequate. So I become more and more awareness, I develop the focus and maintain my commitment. The new friendly voice in my head reminds me that I am good enough and that I have strengths and helps me to cultivate good intentions towards myself and others which in times becomes a better way of acting and dealing with the everyday life’s challenges. The new friendly voice reminds me that it is not all my fault, that I can still be responsible and that I can work to appreciate the good in myself and achieve realistic goals. At the same time as I learn to relate to myself in a more supportive way and to attend to my own need, I also become more self-reliant. Over time I will become the friend that I have always wished for. The added bonus is that I also become a better friend to others. But that is another new beautiful chapter in my life!
Befriending ourselves and others -Meditation (22 min)
In this guided meditation practice you are inviting you to cultivate friendship towards yourself and others to promote harmony in the heart and mind. Your most important relationship is with yourself!