Love at first sight is rare – for most of us, falling in love is a process. Often we start with friendship – developing respect and admiration, moving slowly toward a deepening of feelings. I’ve discovered that, when it comes to loving oneself, it’s really no different.
Do you love yourself? Back then, I certainly didn’t. If I’d been asked, I would have had to say no to these questions:
• Can I look in the mirror and say, “I love you”?
• How about, “I like you”?
• Am I kind to myself?
• Do I treat myself as I treat a good friend? If not, why?
• Can I happily spend time alone with myself? If not, why?
My first step, if I wanted things to change, was to establish a friendship with this person I treated so badly.
Becoming My Own Best Friend
Although a naturally shy and reserved person, I know how to be a good friend to someone else. I’m a good listener; for a long time I preferred listening to others rather than talking about myself. I admired others’ traits – beauty, gregariousness, cleverness, bravery, talent – but did not believe I had such qualities myself. I was thoughtful of others’ needs. When they had a problem, I supported them through it, offering a shoulder to cry on or advice to act on. I kept in touch. We did fun things together. We talked, shared feelings, kept each others’ confidences. Gave each other ideas, supported each others’ dreams.
It seemed so easy to do all this for someone else. But when I first heard the suggestion to treat myself as I would my best friend, I cringed. Be kind to myself? Empathetic? Listen to myself, encourage myself to do what feels right for me? I would never treat a friend the way I treated myself in my head. I berated myself for mistakes, obsessed over missteps and misstatements, put myself down, compared myself negatively to others, and generally ran myself into the ground at every opportunity. Turning that around was a long, slow process.
I developed more questions in the journey toward becoming kinder and more loving toward myself:
• How do I talk to myself in my own mind? Would I speak to a friend that way?
• What happens in my mind when I make a mistake?
• If I were my own best friend, what would I do today for fun?
• What is one thing I can do today to take care of myself?
One of the most basic friend skills I had to apply to myself was listening. I learned to recognize and identify what was happening inside. Becoming aware of the negative thinking was an important step to doing something about it. Identifying my feelings helped me to determine the best way to respond to them. I knew I had been sad for most of my life, I knew I was depressed, but I didn’t know I was angry. I also didn’t know what happiness or joy felt like.
As I began shifting toward a more positive way of thinking, I began to have moments of happiness. Oddly, I experienced them as mixed with pain and fear. There was something profoundly frightening to me about feeling happiness, that lilting of the heart made me feel so vulnerable. I would instantly impose negativity to drive it away. I couldn’t speak of it to others for fear of its dissipation. Discussion or explanation killed it. Only by practicing acceptance of these good feelings did I become more comfortable with them.
Over time, and with repeated practice, I have become my own best friend. I have developed a rich inner world, a playground that I look forward to visiting. I might be alone at times, but I am rarely lonely. Today I can say I like myself, even that I love myself. That’s because my actions are so closely aligned with my thoughts, feelings, and values, which leads to feeling good inside as well as in my interactions with others. I am – slowly – falling in love with myself.
Ideas for Developing a Friendship with Yourself
• Do things that you enjoy – by yourself.
• Take a vacation at home and don’t make plans, let each day unfold based on your desires of the moment.
• Listen to yourself – watch your thoughts and feelings, write them in a journal, share them with a friend.
• Honor your feelings – recognize how you feel and sit with them for awhile before acting on them.
• Treat yourself to something fun, something good to eat, something you’ve been wanting for a long time – without guilt.
Do you consider yourself your own friend? What do you think of the concept of falling in love with yourself?