Spirituality

How To Be Your Very Own Best Friend


Twenty-four years ago, when we wrote How to Be Your Own Best Friend, it was a time of great social upheaval and dissolving values. Many people were dissatisfied with their lives. They might not have been any worse off than people of other decades, but they were no longer ready to accept boredom, anxiety and misery as natural states. They wanted more.

The same might be said of the 1990s. Life is more confusing and values are more uncertain than ever. Today's stresses and demands require a strong, solid sense of self - which is what being your own best friend is all about.

FORGIVENESS AND REWARD

Most people seek happiness outside themselves - more money, a better job, more sex - but there's no true contentment unless it first comes from within.

When some people look within, they don't like what they see. Their disappointment in themselves and their self-hate may be masked by habits of compulsive perfectionism...criticism of self and others...or escape into alcohol, drugs, TV, etc.

In order to be your own best friend, you must learn to develop the same kind of tolerant goodwill, positive attitude and love toward yourself that you feel toward people whom you treasure as friends.

To put it differently, being your won best friend means becoming your own parent. We never outgrown the need to be loved an nurtured. We must simply take over from our parents the task of loving and nurturing ourselves...

Learn to give yourself the boundless encouragement, kindly patience and unqualified support that a good parent gives his/her children.

Forgive yourself when you make mistakes - and reward yourself when you do well.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR FEELINGS

Emotion has an undeniable - even mysterious - power. There's a payoff for regarding feelings as stronger than we are. They can get us off the emotional hook for doing something damaging to ourselves or others in the heat of a moment.

But being ruled by emotions takes a heavy toll. We feel weak rather than strong...self-pity rather than self-respect.

There are two parts to any feeling that we experience - the emotional part, which includes anger, passion and fear...and the intellectual part. Using our knowledge and intelligence, we must decide how we want to react. Feelings are not independent. We evoke them...and if we're mature, we then choose how to act on them.

You must make a basic decision. Do you want to be a ruler or the slave of your emotions? Recognize that you have a right to your feelings - including the painful and hateful ones. But whether you act on them, cling to them or let them pass is within your power. Remember, feelings change and don't last forever.

HOW TO BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND

l Choose to lift yourself up and not put yourself down. How you feel about yourself is up to you. If you don't like what you do, change it. If you can't change it, accept it with love, understanding and compassion. But above all, don't beat up on yourself emotionally. You will only succeed in feeling rotten. Pay attention to the things you say to yourself.

Examples: Get out of bed, you jerk... That was stupid... or When will you ever learn?

While negative self-talk can have its desired effect, it can easily become a habit...and often leads to low self-esteem.

Solution: The best way to break this habit is to substitute the opposite statement immediately after you've said something negative to yourself. Try to be kind and gracious to yourself.

Examples: Sure it's hard, but you can do it...Everybody makes mistakes.

Become a good, encouraging person to have by your side. Positive feedback is emotional self-feeding, and your approval is key to being a good parent to yourself.

l Give yourself positive recognition. When you do something you're proud of, don't let is pass unnoticed. Pause...bask in the glow...tell yourself that you did well, even is no one else does.

If you wait for recognition from others, you'll be resentful when you don't get it. Even, when such recognition does come, there's something fundamentally unsatisfying about such external praise. But when we compliment ourselves, the positive reinforcement stays with us - if we let it.

l Be ready to forgive yourself. If you're going to be a best friend and good parent to yourself, you must be compassionate. Who would subject their best friend to a life sentence of recrimination for opportunities missed and mistakes made? Self-recrimination for things you wish you hadn't done is no better.

Strategy: Extract what wisdom you can from your past experiences, and learn to improve your performance the next time. Avoid self-blame and labeling yourself a loser, fool, etc.

It's amazing how many people can remember a vivid, excruciating detail some terribly painful, embarrassing event from years - even decades - back. Learn to use that same wonderful capacity to remember in a positive way.

Strategy: Remember some triumph that really makes you feel good about yourself. Keep that memory with you, and think about it at least once a week.

Meet your own expectations. If you set reasonable goals for yourself and meet them, you'll have good reason to like yourself. Such achievement leads to positive self-talk, such as, I did a good job... I came through for me... I can count on me.

Important: We're not talking about grand achievements. Even minor ones, such as cleaning the house or balancing your checkbook, can give you a boost if you let yourself savor the success of having gotten the job done. Enjoy being in charge of yourself.

Get to know yourself better. Fears, desires and fantasies make it hard to see ourselves as we really are. But only through self-knowledge can we overcome the parts of ourselves that get in the way of happiness, self-respect and success.

Why do people pick at themselves so unmercifully? Surprisingly, it is an attempt to dispel loneliness. It is as if a nagging parent were there. For some children, nagging was the only semblance of love they ever received. When these children did not need any correction, their parents, who may have been exhausted or depressed at the time, were not there for them.

For many people, the same need to avoid aloneness is what makes the fear of success stronger than the fear of failure.

If we're successful, we won't need others and we'll have to be on our own. It's a frightening prospect - until we realize we can give ourselves the comfort and sustenance we seek from others.

Strategy: If you constantly fall short of your aspirations, find out what you're getting out of failure. A simple question - what if...? - can be a powerful tool for knowing this part of yourself better.

Examples: Ask yourself if you were able to succeed - if you somehow could overcome all the limitations that have frustrated your efforts at work, in your personal life, etc. - what would be the consequences? What would it lead to? Would you lose the sympathetic support of people who are only there when you seem needs? Would you become independent in ways that feel uncomfortable?

If you do this honestly, you are likely to learn a great deal about yourself.

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.