Often in my work I speak about having “Forever Friends” – those people in your life who will not dump you or “better deal” off to cooler friends. I am fortunate, as I have several of these special souls who have been grounded in my world. But I have also had the fake bullshit people who have hurt me for sport. The “Forever Friends” are rare, and when you have them in your life, they should be cherished. But recently I have learned there is another part of this equation. You have to like yourself, too. It’s not just about the people in your life, it is about your life. Make yourself your most important “Forever Friend”.
This piece was shown to me at a breakfast gathering this week. My Buddhist friend Stephen said “you need to make yourself a Forever Friend”. It was a throwaway line, but it was incredibly profound. It was an ah-ha moment. I realized that while I believe deeply in the power of people in your life, I had ignored a friendship with myself for the past 14 years. (I had been a friend to me when I was younger, but a series of incidents made me doubt my worth. Most would not know about this struggle, as I hid it from everyone. Including myself).
There have been struggles that I have tried to ignore, fight through, or triumph over. But in the end, there had not been success in this area. When Stephen said those words it was like he kicked open a door that had been closed. My skin grew cold and I witnessed all the things that had changed in my relationship with self. I had allowed my ability to like myself to get kicked in the teeth. Do you understand? Do you like yourself?
Sharing everything in this forum of my blog is not possible. Partially because I do not understand all of the realities that are flooding out from the newly opened door. But more importantly, it would be hurtful to people who inadvertently caused my breakup with myself.
There has been a lot of time waiting for someone to come help me. I assumed that people would step up and guide me through some tough times. And when they didn’t I couldn’t understand why not. I was waiting for Godot. Waiting forever. Godot never comes. But what I really needed to do was show up for myself. Emerson’s famous essay “Self Reliance” comes to mind. Nobody else was going to solve my problems. I should have relied no me.
My ambition, which was wild-strong before 14 years ago has come back and is merging back into my soul. I have decided there is no finger pointing at any outside people. In the scope of a hundred year life, 14 years is a blip. And no individual who de-railed me meant to cause harm, they all had their own things to deal with. I assume they did not know how to manage pain and sadness in their own lives. Words, however, do have meaning. If we listen to the wrong words and internalize them, they can change our path (for better or worse).
As I became overrun with these feelings and had this epiphany, my self forgave myself. I quickly made the decision to like me again. I promised me that I would always believe and be supportive. This is vague, I know. But I am writing this because you, the reader, should like yourself and be your own cheerleader. If you do not do it, nobody else is going to have that positive support for you all the time.
Psychology Today has an article I found on ten ways to like yourself better. I share them below.
- Don’t be afraid to confront your failings. The Boyraz and Waits study showed that being able to think about your weaknesses doesn’t condemn you to a life of self-hatred.
- Step back and enjoy your accomplishments. When you’ve done something well, don’t be afraid to admit that you succeeded. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering: Having cooked a good meal, eat it with pleasure and allow any compliments from those you cooked for to sink in.
- Learn to look at the things you like about yourself in the mirror. Sure, your makeup isn’t perfect and that rash on your chin makes it look a little red. But what about the great job you did on your hair? If all else fails, find a mirror with better lighting than the bright fluorescents in your office.
- Go on a date with yourself. On the date, spend some time alone devoted to thinking about your experiences: Enjoy a movie or concert, or a meal at your favorite restaurant while you spend time reflecting on what’s going on around you. You can even laugh at your own jokes.
- Strive to be a better person, but don’t expect changes to happen all at once. You might be completely unhappy with your weight and can’t stand the thought that the pounds aren’t melting off faster. Give yourself a realistic timeline and measure yourself against smaller, achievable goals.
- Spend a weekend day or evening without worrying about how you look. Try a makeup-free Sunday or a grubby t-shirt Tuesday night. See what it’s like to be yourself without being concerned about impressing anyone else.
- Think about the past, but don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with regret. You wish like anything that you could turn back the clock and not have said the hurtful thing you said to your friend. Once you’ve uttered those words, though, you can’t unsay them. However, you may have learned something useful about yourself in the process and certainly can make every effort to apologize.
- Understand that no one is perfect. When you’re in low self-acceptance mode, you believe that everyone is better than you. It’s possible that others are better than you in certain ways, but that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person yourself. Instead of comparing yourself negatively, accept that fact, and then see if you can learn from it.
- Enjoy your personality, foibles and all. So you’re a little bit too meticulous and want everything to be perfect. When things don’t work out as you wish and you start to berate your weaknesses, stop and do a reality check. So you spilled coffee all over your brand-new tablecloth. OK, maybe you’re a bit clumsy. That doesn’t mean you’re worthless.
- Like “most” of yourself as much as you can. You’re may not reach 100% self-satisfaction, but maybe you can get to 75 or 80%. In the measure of self-acceptance that the Louisiana Tech team used, getting high scores meant saying you were happy with “most” of your personality traits.
Number five his home for me, as my whole goal now is to be a better person, but realize it cannot happen overnight. Plus, as I change the thing that is most frustrating is how other people fail to see the effort and results. People put you in a box and label it. Getting them to change their opinion of you is difficult at best. It is equally as hard to forgive yourself and like yourself quickly.
I am working on letting my friendship with myself become permanent. Just like some jerk-hats crush a friendship with another person, it would be easy to slip back into the self loathing pieces that have been there for a long time. But I see the power in liking myself and seeing myself as that one friend who will not kick me in the teeth. Self reliance is a gift that has been handed to me and I plan to be grateful.