Be Your Own Best Friend
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
"Life is weird and love is weirder," I typed to a man I haven't seen in months, in part because I've been seeing someone else and in part because of irreconcilable differences in values and extraordinarily opposing ideas about what constitutes a good life. He reached out to say, "Hey, no hard feelings but I don't think we're going anywhere," a sentiment I had only assumed was true, given the radio silence. My time with him was brief but nice, and our parting ways was inevitable and mutual. I went on my merry way, enjoyed the Christmas holiday, and haven't thought about it since. But recently, a good friend had a bad breakup and I found myself typing the same thing, "Life is weird and love is weirder." She was doing the thing a lot of us do in the aftermath of a breakup: searching for closure, trying to make sense of it all, and rationalizing how or why it ended.
Sometimes life is the pits and sometimes it's amazing. Sometimes love lasts and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes growing is painful and sometimes it's necessary. Her heartache wasn't soothed much by my oh-so-sage advice. What I was (badly) trying to tell her is that life is weird but that's okay. And if you're okay with you, life's weird little disappointments won't feel quite so bad. Life is is weird and love is weirder and we're all doing the best we can (mostly).
Friendship, like love, does not and cannot blossom overnight. As we chatted about our respective love lives, I told her, "I love you so much!" And I do. But I couldn't love her, or anyone, if I didn't love myself. And I couldn't grow to love myself without significant alone time, the thought of which is frightening to most people. I wasn't able to be my own best friend without spending time with me. What an obvious yet strangely difficult task.
Florence Falk said, "We are meant to be in relationships with other people, but, just as surely, we are meant to partake of aloneness. To deny this part of our existence is a little like trying to walk the earth on one foot instead of two."
To be your own best friend, you need to spend time with you, embrace self-understanding, self-expression, and personal growth. Karyl McBride, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., writes that adult children of narcissistic parents often have a hard time being alone because their primary caregiver continually betrayed their trust at a young age. Part of healing is regaining trust in oneself in order to trust others again. One of the best benefits of engaging in alone time is learning how to rely on yourself. For some of us, this comes naturally. For others, it is a learned skill and one that takes time and effort to cultivate.
Below are some tips to help you be your own best friend and embrace all the weirdness that life and love throw at you:
1. Validate or Praise Yourself
This is reallllly important. If you don't learn to validate yourself you'll constantly be searching for outward validation and that is (very) unhealthy. You are wonderful even if nobody tells you that.
2. Understand That You Have Inherent Worth
Similar to validating yourself, but different. You might praise/validate yourself for doing something or being kind, but your inherent worth will crop up even when you're not doing anything for anyone. Know that you have inherent worth even in those moments when you may not feel particularly worthy of having worth.
3. Laugh at Yourself
The ability to laugh at yourself will come in handy many times over. Having a lighthearted and open attitude toward yourself will help you find harmony within yourself and cultivate a humble and open attitude toward others as well.
4. Cultivate Self-Awareness
Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, assumptions, behaviors, and motivations. This will promote self-understanding, an essential ingredient in any healthy friendship or relationship. Without being self-aware of who you are and what you do, you will never be able to develop a genuine bond with yourself.
5. Learn How To Comfort Yourself
Self-soothing is an important skill. Often, when left to self-soothe, we turn to food, drugs, sex, gambling, etc for comfort. But engaging in unhealthy behaviors isn't actually comforting, it's self-destructive. Instead of hiding your pain, learn to face it, embrace it, and deal with it in a healthy, productive way.
6. Learn To Trust Your Judgement
This is a big, important thing! If you don't trust your judgement, why would anyone else? Tuning into your intuition is a good first step, but also trusting yourself to make good, healthy, and sound decisions is crucial to self-love. Keeping the promises you make to yourself is an easy way to trust your judgement.
7. Have Fun Alone
Again, if you don't like hanging out with you, why would anyone else? Take yourself to dinner, travel alone, pursue a hobby you're interested in, and learn to embrace things you enjoy by yourself. Plus, it's nice to not feel limited or beholden to anyone when you pursue an interest that is uniquely yours.
8. Be Kind To Yourself
Wow, easier said than done. We are often our own worst critics and harder on ourselves than we are on other people. One of my first therapists told me to treat myself like a would the very young child version of me, and that stuck. Who would be mean to a child? Nurturing your inner child will make you a healthier, happier human.
P.S. Be Your Own Best Friend is a book by Chessie King. It's a Sunday Times bestseller and I haven't read it, but may be you should. A similar but different book entitled How to Be Your Own Best Friend is by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz, a pair of brainiacs who have good things to say.