As we grow up in this complex world, we incorporate a lot of external standards and ideas as a part of ourselves in an effort to find our place in the world. It’s a kind of map to understand where we fit in this diverse place. We are taught how to define ourselves, either as loud or shy, smart or athletic, studious or social. With these characteristics we then take on roles withing our families, with our friends as well as in social settings or the work place. A lot is determined for us by others in a way we are rarely aware, to the extent we can tell you how others define us, but not how we see ourselves and if that differs.
This focus on external validation is completely normal and differs in depending on different stages in your life. For example when you start a new job or a new school, you look towards the outside more to understand where you fit in. Overall in your life, there should though be a greater mix of external input and internal input. Meaning, just as much as you rely on others to be there for you, help you understand your role and your place in the world, cheer you up and look out for you, you should be relying on yourself. It’s great to have a support network – but those too can be flawed, have a bad day or just not be able to meet your needs. If you are not strong in the inside you are more vulnerable towards all external situations and matters. You should aim to be self-reliant that calling a friend to cheer you up is just a icing on the cake while you have already put all the ingredients that made the cake in the first place.
Easier said than done. We often tend to be the hardest towards ourselves. Integrating what we have heard others tell us about ourselves, only remembering the negative rather than the positive. There is a general negativity bias the human has, as we feel negative things help us survive than positive things. If we think so negatively of ourselves, why would we want to be our own best friend? I don’t want to be friends with someone who tells me what is wrong with my body every time I look in the mirror or when I make a mistake tells me I am stupid. Other people are nicer to me than I am to myself. A friend once told me “The hardest thing in life to learn is how to forgive yourself” and it really resonated with me. In that sense – here are some tips on how you can learn to be your own friend:
- Know what you need – Learn to Help Yourself
When you are down, know what cheers you up that doesn’t rely on others. Is it a walk? Is it a nap? Is it a hot cocoa or tea? Learn to understand what you need from various situations. Try them out, you may not know them. Ask your friends what they do to cheer themselves up, write a list what you think might help (like looking at dog pics on your phone usually helps me!)
One of my friends does a little jiggle dance when she notices she gets angry about work. It makes herself laugh and she has to giggle how silly it feels and looks. Another one of my friends always steps away. When she notices her mood is dropping from work, she steps away. She grabs a cup of tea, walks to the printer, what ever it is she steps away right away and feels it helps her build some distance to the thing that is annoying her.
Try to refrain from negative things like alcohol, coffee or eating. These do not actually help but only mask your actual needs. I often feel like a drink, but when I tell myself:”No Nika, what is it that you ACTUALLY need” – its usually a hug.
- Talk to yourself like you would talk to others
Correct yourself all the time. When you notice you say something negative, ask yourself if you would say that to others. Better yet, say it our aloud to see how it sounds. You may be surprised by how the words actually sound, how harsh they are when spoken out aloud than inside your head.
Another step is to ask yourself what that voice that is so negative sounds like. Describe it and see if it sounds familiar to someone in your life. See if it reminds you or a time or a person. The more we can attribute this negative voice to something that is not a part of us, something external, the easier it is to build distance to it.
- Treat yourself like you would treat the 6 year old you
I find this the best trick I have learned in the last five years. Anytime you do something or you talk to yourself in a certain way – imagine you are doing it to the 6 year old version of yourself. We tend to have so much more understanding and compassion with children, we forget that that’s what we still are, even if we are older we are still the same people we were back then. Be compassionate with yourself. Listen to yourself and sprinkle some kindness to how you treat yourself.
You are your only one constant in life and the only real partner you will have from day one till day end. Might as well spend your life with a friend.