When being asked to consider questions such as “Who can you rely on?” “Who makes you feel good?” “Who is always there for your emotional needs?” we tend to picture one person in our mind immediately or handpick a few of our peers who perhaps embody the answer to one of those questions, but not all of them. It is highly unlikely the vast majority of us would answer those questions with “me.”
When actually, the only person we can ever 100% count on to ever fully answer any of those questions is in fact, our self.
We tend to accept self-criticism as the norm, for instance, ask yourself this: how often do you wake up in the morning with a thought loaded with negativity? As a young woman in the 21st century, common thoughts that occur to me following the most peaceful of nights rest include: “I look fat in this dress” “The bags underneath my eyes reach my chin” or “it’s so embarrassing that the only person who shares this bed with me is my dog” Any of these sound familiar?
If so, ask yourself how you would feel if your best friend said any of those things to you? Is it even likely you would still want that person to be your friend? If so… you need new friends and new standards of friends. More to the point, how offended would you be? How long would the impact of such comments last? So why are we so blasé about saying those things to ourselves when it would hurt to hear it others?
Research from Miraca U. M. Gross (2002) found that some of the most common expectations in friendships include: understanding, encouragement and playfulness. How then, can we begin to expect these things of ourselves, from ourselves? And how can we practice the behaviours that allow us to become our own best friend?
Now more than ever, I feel it is important for people to feel independent, self-reliant and good about themselves. It is all too easy to be swept up in the toxic wave of comparison, doubt and desire to impress others (others, who in reality, probably won’t be impacting your life in ten years’ time.)
Take regular time to fully understand yourself. All too often our energy is put into others. The quality of relationships we share with others can affect our wellbeing. This can be a good thing when considering our most positive relationships, however if we do not take the time to become the best version of ourselves, we cannot possibly be our best for others.
I recently attended a talk from Andy Puddicombe who created the headspace app. He drew on the increasing “compassion fatigue” within the NHS. Our healthcare professionals often spend so much time looking after others, they fail to look after themselves. This can then result in the care they provide being of a lower standard. The same can happen in relationships.
Ways to understand
Get a week to view diary. At the back, write what you would have like to have achieved by the end of certain days, months, the entire year! And take steps throughout your week to ensure you are working towards those goals. When something is written down, we tend to conform to it more. For example, you want to lose 4 pounds by the end of this month? Great! Well write in the days you are planning to exercise and use your diary to meal plan.
You cannot be a good friend to yourself by letting yourself slip into irresponsibility. Understand your own goals and desires and take the time to mind-map what you need to do to get there. This isn’t a scary task- it’s exciting. It’s your future and you’re in the driving seat.
Become aware of what you look forward to, what or who makes you feel anxious?
Where do you feel safe? What makes you belly laugh? What are you doing when you get so lost in an activity you lose track of time? Whose name do you dread appearing on your phone? Why?
As humans we are great at identifying what others excel in. Take time to consider, what you love to do, how can you tailor your career to ensure you’re not walking into the office every day for financial motivation alone. Try to understand what makes you happy.
Those who encourage us make us feel good. This is because they show belief and faith in us by pushing us out of our comfort zones or simply supporting us. Something which if we do often enough allows us to gain new experiences and grow in confidence.
Ways to encourage
When looking to encourage yourself, think about the end goal. How will you feel when you have achieved what it is you’re looking to do? Nothing in life is going to change if you never step outside of what you’re comfortable with. So remind yourself every day that life is short and too short to waste opportunities due to fear or doubt. Attempt to separate your thoughts into what is rational and what is emotional. Put the emotional side on the back burner and crack on with what is rational. The only person you can blame for not giving you an opportunity is yourself.
Think about situations where you have surprised yourself before, what it feels like to have achieved something? Compare this feeling to walking away from something you wish you had the confidence to have done? One of the best people you can ever feel proud of is yourself.
It is well documented that laughter predicts levels of happiness (Vlahovic., 2012) But how often do you prioritise having a good time? Letting your hair down? Or doing something fun for the sake of having fun? With family and work ties, prioritising playfulness can seem futile, however, in order to be your own best friend you need to.
Ways to Play
Just as setting goals is important, organise specific time where you know you are going to be having a good time for no other reason than taking care of yourself. Whether that be meeting every week for a drink on a Friday afternoon with a colleague, blocking out the whole of Saturday to jump in puddles with your children or organising a spontaneous holiday with your best friend. Why not? In life all we have left is our experiences, these are what we will remember and be remembered for. So take every opportunity you have, to have fun. If you’re working hard in all other areas of your life, you definitely deserve some time to let your hair down and let go. Play feels so much better when we are rewarding ourselves for the hard work and energy we have put into something.
It is important when being our own friend we do not allow ourselves to become lazy either. Would you want to watch one of your closest friends with buckets of potential pouring energy into things with no tangible outcomes for their future? Down the pub every single night? No. So save the pub for a Friday when you can share that ‘end of the week feeling’ with likeminded people and hit the gym twice a week, read a chapter of your favourite novel each night, or walk the dog with your neighbour. Produce work your proud of and reward yourself often. By having play time to look forward to, the work we produce and the way we interact with others is more positive, zestful and productive.
About the author: Amy graduated the University of Essex last year and is currently a second year MAPP student. Her dissertation on kindness and wellbeing is due to be published later this year.