To thine own self be…a true friend
Don’t we all love our friends? Friends are wonderful – such an important part of our lives. Friends are a blessing. Friends are those people with whom we share joy and pain. Friends are those people we choose to have in our lives who bring sunshine and happiness.
Whether true friends, best friends forever, or even fair-weather friends we tend to think of friends as others outside of ourselves. Sometimes we forget that we can be a friend to ourselves as well.
So how do you be a friend to yourself anyway?
There’s a whole bunch of things I’ve started building into my life to be a better friend to myself. I thought I’d share it with you to inspire myself as much as anyone else. It’s a starting point and I guess it will grow over time. And inasmuch we often to look to friends to help us through hard times – I have focussed on this aspect of managing challenges with grace, dignity and courage.
Look after your physical health:
- Exercising and eating well are foundational for our health and wellbeing. Find ways to encourage yourself to do these things.
- Find a class you like. Connect with an exercise friend or two. Be your own cheerleader. Try to find a way you can release endorphins when you are exercising – they are great feel good chemicals.
- Prepare yourself nourishing meals – the same way you would for a friend. Eating food prepared with love has something special about it doesn’t it?
- Go to the doctor, dentist, or any other health professional you need to. And listen to their advice, talk to them. They are on your side. Together you can work towards developing a plan that works for you.
Find the right people:
- Find people who give you a lift – who make you feel good and give you pleasure to be with. Be mindful of this uplift when you are around feel-good people (whoever they are) and store it up.
- Remove yourself from people who have a persistently negative outlook, or who devalue you in any way.
- Be open to wonder and the special gifts each person you meet has. Cherish them.
- Be a wonderful friend to others and be kind and compassionate. Be ready with a smile, a hug, whatever. Use your empathy muscles and feel with your friend – it will enrich you both.
Look after your emotional health:
- Sometimes your friends may not be able to provide the support you need despite the best intentions. Remember some will be uncomfortable with hearing pain and won’t know what to do. So learn to support yourself.
- Accept yourself for who you are. This doesn’t mean don’t grow and develop – that is mandatory. It means work out your strengths and weaknesses and cherish that for right now wherever you are on your journey. Each point of your growth and envelopment is a starting point for future growth and can be cherished. If you want friends to accept you warts and all – then you need to learn to do this for yourself too. Accept yourself for who you are today and let go of the destructive self-talk and self-criticism that is sometimes downright cruel and draining. Saving energy on this gives you energy for finding solutions and moving forwards – warts and all. If this feels hard, remember we all have infinite worth because we are human beings no matter what our actions. So be a friend and accept yourself because you are worth it.
- If you are in need of a hug – give yourself one. Comforting ourselves is something we don’t value as highly as we should. I read about self-hugs in a book about self-compassion. I’ve tried it – it works.
- Listen to yourself – hear your feelings. Practice empathy and compassion for difficulties you may be in. You can try writing things out (sometimes I do this via blogging), or imagine talking to a deeply trusted person. What comfort would they give? Hold that space in your mind and accept the discomfort. Cry if you like. But like everything, it will pass and you may feel as comforted as if you’d had a dear friend with you.
Look after your spiritual health:
- Pray if you like. Connecting with G-d through prayer (whatever religion you happen to be) can give you an important uplift and strengthening that can last the whole day.
- You don’t need to be religious to look after your spirituality. Practicing mindfulness or meditation are also invaluable.
- Be a good social citizen – give charity, practice acts of goodness and kindness, visit the sick and look after them, be hospitable and have guests, comfort mourners, make peace between others. All of these lift up others, lift up yourself, and lift up the world.
- Appreciate and give thanks for all the blessings in your life – family, friends, health.
So there are so many ways you can be a friend to yourself – and in the process become a better friend to others as well. I’m certainly building as many of these into my life as I can. How about you? What else do you do to be your own friend?