We can learn to be our own best friend. If we do, we have a friend for life. We can buoy ourselves up, give ourselves comfort and sustenance the times when there is no one else. ~ Mildred Newman & Bernard Berkowitz
Every great sage, guru and Spiritual Master has pointed to a great, life-shattering truth: other people, including your wife, husband, partner, friends, parents, siblings, daughter, son, grandchild and grandchildren will never make you happy and whole. Never. EVER.
Your occupation, retirement, hobbies, dreams, aspirations and socio-economic status will also NEVER make you complete. Why? You probably already know the answer, but I will restate it nevertheless. Without first learning how to enjoy, appreciate and respect ourselves, we will never truly be able to enjoy, appreciate and respect the other people and things in our lives.
If we fail to put in the painful and strenuous effort of making peace with our hypocritical, deceptive, weak and sickly selves towards the cultivation of self-love and understanding, we will forever be like everyone else in society: running about like headless chickens trying to gain love, acceptance and validation in an endless futile cycle of chaos, confusion, disappointment and perpetual emptiness.
If you want to stop wasting your life seeking for something you wanted – and had – all along, you need to wake up. You need to realize that becoming your own best friend is not simply a bunch of fluffy, feel-good self-improvement talk, but an actual life and death matter. Sound a tad drastic and dramatic? It is.
If you don’t wake up and truly assimilate the importance of becoming your own best friend, you will continue to suffer dreadfully in life. Without taking charge of your life and becoming your own best friend, you will continue to feel the pain of rejection, the pain of loneliness, the pain of shame, the pain of self-disgust, and the pain of abandonment.
You will continue to unconsciously believe yourself to be terrible, to be unworthy, to be an unlovable person. And as Sol mentioned in his previous article, how can you love another person wholly and truly without first learning how to love yourself? Learning how to become your own best friend is an excellent start.
12 Ways to Be Your Own Best Friend
The longest relationship you will ever have in the history of your life is with yourself. Therefore, it’s up to you to labor over and cultivate the strength and depth of connection you have with yourself. Don’t think it will be easy, however. As psychologists Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz explain in their book “How To Be Your Own Best Friend“:
When you decide to take care of yourself, to take charge of yourself, there is still a big job ahead. It takes thought and effort to shake free of bad habits. A part of you may well be quite indignant at the changes you’re trying to make. That part of you that is quite comfortable in the old ways and has no desire to see things or do things differently can put up quite a fight.
We cling to what is most comfortable to us, even if that means perpetuating our own self-destructive cycles of misery and pain. Be aware of this: you must possess courage, determination, will power and persistence in order to break old habits and firmly establish new ones. Even something so simple as admitting that you’ve made a mistake in the way you’ve treated yourself can be a large mountain to climb. As Newman and Berkowitz comment:
It’s an awful blow to the ego to feel you’ve made a mistake. That’s why people don’t want to change. It would mean admitting they were wrong.
So even though the following list may seem commonsense and straightforward, I assure you it’s not. If you do decide to adopt these recommendations you will unconsciously – and maybe even consciously – be at war with yourself. The key is to not fight or resist, but to accept. It’s normal to feel a bit weird, or a bit unsettled or uncomfortable when establishing new thoughts, mindsets and behavioral patterns.
1. Praise yourself, rather than waiting for others to do it for you.
As Newman and Berkowitz point out: “when you do something you are proud of, dwell on it a little, praise yourself for it, relish the experience, take it in.”
2. Realize that you are fundamentally worthy.
Most of us equate failures in our lives with us personally being failures. We need to remember that if we outsource our self-worth and self-esteem, we will always wind up feeling like miserable failures. Why? Because the thoughts, opinions, beliefs and expectations that we use as yardsticks to measure our success and worth are outside of our control. They constantly fluctuate and change often causing us to feel like failures because we never cultivated an inner and innate sense of worthiness.
3. Laugh at yourself.
Not in a mocking or self-derisive way, but as a friend would. Be good-natured towards yourself and find humor in the little strange things you say, think and do. When you stop taking yourself so seriously, you open yourself up to more inner harmony and wholeness.
4. Accept, rather than punish yourself.
Does a good friend punish you with an onslaught of verbal criticism for hours? No. A true friend accepts both the good and bad in you without passing vicious judgement. They realize that no one is perfect, and everyone has some kind of monster, whether large or small, within them. Not only is acceptance the healthier option, but it also opens doorways that allow you to solve your problems, rather than wallowing in them.
5. Spend a lot of time discovering more about your character/personality.
What are your deeper drives and motivations, what things do you like and dislike, what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Often times people look outside of themselves for the formation of their tastes, ideas, goals and pursuits because they haven’t spent enough time developing a strong sense of self. The more you understand yourself truly, the easier it will be to like and respect yourself for who you are, rather than who you think you are according to external people, trends and circumstances in your life.
6. Cultivate self-awareness.
This is similar to the last point, but differs in that it doesn’t necessarily involve becoming conscious of your personality, but rather your inner workings, e.g. your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, assumptions, motivations, etc. Paying attention to what goes on inside of you is the first step to discovering why you think, feel and behave the way you do, promoting self-understanding; an essential ingredient in any healthy friendship and relationship. And without being aware of who you are and what you do, you will never be able to develop a genuine bond with yourself.
7. Seek out Solitude.
In order to develop a good level of awareness and understanding of yourself, you need time alone, away from the distractions and dramas of the world. Learning to value the restorative powers of Solitude is essential in developing a strong bond with yourself. If you can’t stand being by yourself and enjoying your own company, you will quite simply never be able to be your own best friend.
8. 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 day 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.
9. Learn how to have fun alone.
When most of us think of enjoying ourselves, we usually equate it with other human contact. Going to the movies, playing sport games, attending interest groups, booking a table at the restaurant … it’s a sad truth that many of us have learnt to enjoy life in the company of others, but not solely in the company of ourselves. Try developing an enjoyable interest that you can pursue alone. Doing so will help to deepen your bond with yourself.
10. Do a random act of kindness for yourself each day.
A nice warm bath, a relaxing hour in the sun, a delicious smoothie … there are many kind things we can treat ourselves to each day. We just need to take the time and put the effort into doing them. Doing so shows love and respect for yourself.
11. Listen to your body.
A true best friend treats you kindly and motivates you to be the best person you can possibly be. The sad truth is: many of us treat our bodies terribly. We neglect them, ignore them, and consistently abuse them, creating a host of physical, emotional and psychological sicknesses. Listen to the needs of your body. If you’re constantly tired, try to sleep more or research sleeping supplements. If you’re fatigued, stop drinking that Red Bull and seek healthier stimulants. If you’re overweight, start reassessing your diet and physical activity level. If you have chronic pain, look exhaustively into possible remedies. All too often we ignore the aches, pains and demands of our bodies, being caught up in the circus of worldly chaos each day instead. When we put the needs of our bodies above the other perceived needs in our lives, we show ourselves immense self-respect, as a best friend would.
12. Learn to 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 berate, 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”). In order to treat yourself more kindly by opening yourself to the good things about you, you need to develop a number of strategies. 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. Effective self-talk examples could include: “I forgive myself”, “I let go of my past”, “I treat my body well”, “I love being myself”, etc.
Becoming your own best friend takes a lot of persistence and effort, but when consistently striving to apply the above recommendations, your life will gradually become happier and wholer. The best thing about becoming your own best friend is that it’s a gift you will have for life, a gift that no one can ever take away from you.
Your thoughts, experiences and recommendations are welcome below!