You might have had a dozen best friends growing up. Or maybe your pack has always been small and mighty. Any way you count them, friends teach us who we are, and help us toward who we want to become.
When our life circumstances change, our friends often change with them. Gone are the days when our closest confidants were just a short drive away. Now, Skype sessions are planned months in advance, and frequent flier miles are racked up with regularity.
But what about being a good friend to ourselves? We put heart and soul into our tight bonds, but can forget that it starts with being kind to the fresh face we greet in the mirror each morning.
Spend time getting to know yourself better
How well do you really know yourself? It’s easy to show your best side to the world and forget about the parts you leave hidden. But when they surface, you can recognize and accept them as pieces of your imperfect, whole self. Learn what makes you tick and what makes you cry. What do you crave after a long day at the office? What brings you the most fulfillment? Dig in, and let yourself marvel at what you uncover.
Focus on your positive traits
You are an abundance. Of good, bad, weak, strong, tender, and tenacious. We all have bad habits and things we’d like to change: about ourselves, our past, even our future. Don’t dwell on the negative. Use it as a stepping stone to create something positive. When your mind wanders back to the negative, remind yourself of what grew from it.
Show yourself compassion
We are naturally compassionate beings, but can be unmoved by, even insensitive to our own suffering. Be patient and gentle with yourself, especially when you’re struggling. This is when we most need a little tenderness, and shouldn’t have to look any further than ourselves to find it.
Do a random act of kindness for yourself
Leave yourself a cheerful Post It. Eat your lunch outside. Let yourself sleep in. Cook your favorite meal. Take a new route home that intrigues you. Have an impromptu visit with someone you love. No act is too big or too small. Soak up your own thoughtfulness and reap the rewards.
Honor your needs
We often rush to fulfill our wants, without focusing on what we’re needing in a given moment, day, month, or year. If you’re unsatisfied in a particular area of your life, you likely haven’t considered what your genuine needs are. You may need work that brings you fulfillment, a relationship that lets you feel heard, or a space that reflects your taste and values. No one’s needs are all the same, so don’t let others steer you away from what’s most important to you. By honoring your own needs, you also make room to honor all your talents and strengths that manifest as a result.
Be honest with yourself
Sometimes we have a harder time being honest with ourselves than we do with others. The truths we tell ourselves are the ones we live by, so we’d best be sure they’re on point. This means knowing when we’ve messed up and knowing when we’ve succeeded. It also means trusting our inner voice, but not being afraid to question it from time to time. It means finding space to forgive ourselves when we stray, reflect on our values when they’re challenged, and stand by our convictions when we know them to be worth fighting for.
Learn how to have fun by yourself
Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, it’s important to be comfortable in your own company. Learn to enjoy it! Go sightseeing and travel at your own pace. See a movie with a friend and then see it again by yourself. Take a book to your favorite coffee shop and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells. Experiment, and see what you can come up with.
Realize that you are fundamentally worthy
This one might look simple on the surface, but how often do we live with this in mind? Our self-perceived worth can rise and fall a dozen times a day, because we evaluate it based on unstable criteria: a conversation with our partner, an ad on television, a performance review, and any number of external factors we rely on to determine our value. The truth is, you are as worthy on your best days as you are on your worst. Your worth comes from within. Start owning it because it’s not going anywhere.
Say attentive and affectionate things to yourself (Yes, out loud!)
You say these things to others, so why not to yourself? I’m not suggesting you start having regular conversations aloud with yourself — that’s sure to warrant a few stares! But make a habit of lifting yourself up each day with a compliment or a few words in the morning to boost your spirits before you get out of the car. You’ll be surprised at how natural it feels and how much it can improve the course of your day.
Listen to your body
There will always be pressure to look a certain way, and the standards of beauty are constantly changing. Societal trends are far less important to follow than your own body’s signals. Make friends with your insecurities, and when it comes to eating habits and exercise, tune in to what works best for you.
Accept rather than punish yourself
If you’re in a space where you’re punishing yourself, you’ve likely already suffered: from an argument, a disappointment, a personal failure. Think about how you’d treat a friend in this situation. Maybe you’d encourage them to see their strengths, draw their attention to the factors beyond their control, or remind them that their pain isn’t permanent. Start doing this for yourself. Recognize when you’re being hard on yourself, and change course. It’s far easier to accept ourselves when we’re feeling on top of the world, but it’s just as important when we’re feeling run down by it.
I’ll end with an easy-peasy: treat yourself! Don’t wait until it’s your birthday or until you have something to celebrate. Celebrate you! I love getting gifts for others. I’m a natural giver. But I’m reminding myself that in order to give to others, I first have to give to myself. So whether you crave a milkshake or a glass of wine, a day out shopping or a walk in the woods, treat yourself just because. (A pedicure and a pint of ice cream have been known to work wonders for this writer.)
Craving inner peace? Tune in next week to learn how to bask in the present and find inner stillness in the midst of any surrounding.