How we treat ourselves, what we say to ourselves, and what we think about ourselves tremendously impacts us. We are the closet person to us, and so if we treat ourselves in a continually hostile or cruel manner, it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and worthlessness.
On the other hand, if we treat ourselves with continual compassion, support, and respect, we can create a safe and loving space for ourselves. This space is a refuge in the worst of times and a joyful abode in our life in general.
That is what true friendship is.
Here are five things you can do to be a good friend to yourself.
One–Show yourself compassion in hard times.
Life can be extremely painful, confusing, and overwhelming sometimes. All of us, no matter who we are, face really difficult situations at one time or another. Often when we face difficult times and are emotionally overwhelmed, we feel like we have to toughen up and repress our feelings. We may receive pressure from other people to “just get over it”.
Trying to “just get over it” is rarely a good idea because repressing and denying our feelings usually makes them more severe and volatile, and even if we are able to repress them for a while, they come out in other ways that damage ourselves and other people.
One of the best ways we can be a friend to ourselves is to allow ourselves to feel sad and overwhelmed about life when we do. When I am suffering, one of the ways I show compassion to myself is to say things like the following:
It is okay that you feel sad.
It is okay that you don’t understand what to do in this situation. That’s a normal feeling.
You don’t have to fix anything right now. You are allowed to feel what you are feeling.
When we allow ourselves to be sad and to feel painful feelings, we create a safe space where we can express them, gain distance, and then think about helpful actions to take in the situations we are dealing with.
Our goal in life is not to be happy and on top of things all the time. Our goal is to live our unique life, to gain wisdom, and to share the light of this wisdom with the world. Much of our wisdom is gained through the sad and difficult times of life. So by honoring our sadness and giving ourselves time to reflect and grieve, we create the space to gain wisdom and live our lives in the most meaningful way possible.
Two: Praise yourself for good qualities and accomplishments and for the light in you.
I have been a teacher or professor my entire adult life, and one of the most important things I have learned in my teaching career is that frequent and sincere praise strengthens students and helps them flourish. Constant criticism disorients and crushes them.
This is true for everyone, and yet most of us walk around with a constant negative stream of thoughts about ourselves. For example, consider how often do you say things to yourself like this: “I’m a mess. I look horrible. I will never be able to get that job. I can never accomplish my dream. Why am I so stupid? I am the worst person ever”?
A while ago, I realized that I constantly said negative things to myself all throughout the day and rarely, if ever, said any kind or encouraging things to myself.One of the things that helped me be able to speak more lovingly to myself was to realize that no matter what faults or failures I have in my life, I always have a beautiful light of love, creativity, wisdom, joy, and compassion inside me. This is my Wise and Loving Self, and it is something that everyone has.
Saying loving and encouraging things to ourselves is one of the best ways to connect with our Wise Selves. Here are some loving things you can say to yourself if you don’t know where to start:
My truest nature is the Wise Self, and I honor, respect, and connect with it.
I have a beautiful light in me, and I can never lose this light.
I am willing to make wise and loving choices, and I do so now.
I am proud of myself for the wisdom I am gaining right now and the way I am sharing love with the world.
I am a ray of God’s light, and I share this light with the world.
I have a place of wisdom and compassion inside of me, and I can always figure out the loving thing to do for any situation.
Three: Make space to be quiet and listen to yourself, even if it is only for a minute.
If we want to be a loving and supportive friend to ourselves, we need to spend regular time with ourselves, even if we can only manage a little bit of time. One of the best ways we can do this is to spend at least a minute or two every day (or every other day) being quiet and sitting with ourselves.
When we do this, we check in with our feelings and thoughts and notice what is going on inside of us. When we do this, we recognize the kind of inner garden we are cultivating.
When I make the habit of spending quite time with myself, I often have realizations like the following:
I am really anxious. I need to slow down and figure out what is going on with me.
I don’t have very much energy right now. I think I need to change my diet or get more sleep.
I am really excited about this project. I think I need to do more of this.
The way I am doing things isn’t working. I need to find another path.
I feel really sad about my relationship with my friend. Perhaps I need to communicate more.
When I make space to listen to myself and understand what is going on with me, I much better understand how to support myself and solve problems constructively. This makes me feel clear-headed and supported, much like I feel after a good talk with a friend who loves me and listens to me.
Four–Give yourself good gifts, even if it is just looking out the window at the beautiful trees for a bit.
One of the most beautiful things about loving friendships with other people is when they see who we are and honor that with special attention. They may do this through listening or compliments, or they may do it with a special gift of time or a unique present. These gifts make us feel seen, grounded, and cherished.
We can honor ourselves in this way by giving ourselves regular gifts of time or even a special present. This gift to our self does not have to cost very much money or even any money at all. The important thing is that it is something special to us.
Here are some no cost or low cost gifts I give to myself:
Time to bake bread.
Time to peruse cookbooks.
A warm bath with bubbles.
A walk in the park.
Time to take pictures outside and create photo albums on Facebook.
Time to window shop at a thrift store or a used book store (occasionally I bought low-priced books or clothes).
Time for a long, meaningful conversation with a friend.
Time for a long nap.
A bowl of soup (which was pretty cheap) at my favorite local coop.
One gourmet chocolate from the local coffee shop.
A rose or beautiful flowers that are on sale.
Giving thoughtful gifts to a friend makes them feel seen and cherished. We do the same thing for ourselves when we give thoughtful gifts to ourselves.
Five: Listen to and support yourself in your dreams.
When we listen to each other’s good and beautiful dreams and support one another, we become a loving wind in the sails of our friends’ life ship. We can empower ourselves in that very same way by listening to and honoring our dreams.
Right now, you have beautiful dreams you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to write a book or become a chef or open a retreat center or start a business. When we have good dreams that inspire us and invite us to give more light to the world, I believe that these dreams are actually the Wise Self leading us gently down the path we need to go to become more fully ourselves.
You can support your dreams by taking time to listen to yourself. You can support them by telling yourself things like, “I don’t know where this dream is leading, but it is important. I recognize it and honor it.” You can support your dreams by asking yourself, “What is one step I can take to follow this dream?” And then when you figure it out, take the step.
Realize that no matter how many times you have failed or goofed up, your Wise Self is always trying to lead you down a wise and loving path that helps you be more of who you truly are so that you can express your light in the world. Listen to your dreams. Listen to your Wise Self.
You Always Have You
The world can often be a confusing and lonely place. People do not always treat us as they should.
The good news is that we can always learn to be a better more loving friend to ourselves. This does not completely take away the pain that life and other people can bring, but being a good friend to ourselves brings us stability, peace, and safety. We are worth it.
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