There are even professions dedicated specifically to helping us form better relationships with ourselves. But still, sometimes more often than we want, we feel like we aren’t enough. Like we aren’t significant. Like we’re failing.
It’s taken me a while to become someone I like. Some of my teen years were tougher than anything, and I didn’t think I was worth much at all. But now, things are different—and I think that has something to do with the relationship I’ve built with myself. Learning how to love yourself—it’s not something you learn in school, but it’s so important for your happiness and success. It’s as if we’re expected to come to that realization by ourselves and automatically know all the steps to take. But it’s about forming your identity, and it’s more than just figuring out your favorite music or clothing brand like you usually do at school age.
I think becoming your own best friend has to do with understanding your own emotions and what you want. Forming a good relationship with yourself is about knowing what you want out of life, what you stand for, and who you want to be to people. Forming a good relationship with yourself is about being able to spot when a relationship with someone else is hurting you and being able to walk away from it. It’s all that self-realization stuff: those existential questions people are afraid to ask and even more are afraid to answer.
If no one else has told you yet, you’re doing a great job. You’re not failing—you’re doing your best, and you’re trying to figure things out with what you know. But, let me tell you, if you haven’t tried it yet, becoming your own best friend can lead to that positive tape playing eternally in your head.
Here’s why your relationship with yourself is so important: bottom line, you’re with yourself until your death. Relationships may leave, memories may fade, but you’re always going to be with yourself through whatever you do. Sometimes, you’ll feel on top to the universe and you won’t need a pep talk. Other times, you’ll be in a valley, and you’ll need some support. What you need is a cheerleader to get you through what you’re doing in every stage of life. You need to be your own support system and talk to yourself in a way that’ll help you feel better and motivate you to continue.
And, unlike other aspects of life, this isn’t necessarily a characteristic that grows with age. I’ve met people my age who love themselves and adults three times my age who don’t. Becoming your own best friend requires persistence, but anyone, no matter the stage of life, can learn to be a self-cheerleader.
So, onto the DIY part. How can we make you your own best friend, so nothing can hold you back? Here’re a few tricks I’ve used:
- Don’t regret things you did or didn’t do: A really wise friend told me this after I’d been angry at myself for not saying something when I knew I should’ve. She told me that, when you’re in that moment, you’re doing the best you know how to. It’s easy to go back and figure you should’ve acted differently, or things would’ve turned out better for you if you’d just done that other thing instead. But thinking like that isn’t doing you any favors. Looking back and regretting how you acted is silly, because it isn’t constructive towards who you are now. For things you regret doing or not doing, remind yourself that you were doing all you could in that moment—you didn’t fail yourself.
- Talk to yourself the way you would someone you love: If someone you care about had hardship, you wouldn’t beat them down with all of the mistakes they made to get them there. You’d tell them how strong and smart and amazing they are, and how they’re going to make it through this. That you’ll be with them if they need anything. That they’re so special, and you want to see them happy. Do.The.Same.For.Yourself. You need that too. Be understanding of yourself when you’re in a struggle, and be cognizant that not everything’s in your control—sometimes, even if you acted differently, you’d still be in the situation you’re in. You deserve some of kindness you give everyone else.
- Recognize a toxic friendship: As much as we deny it, we become who we associate with. If you’re surrounding yourself with someone who makes you feel like you’re nothing, soon, you’ll start to feel like you’re nothing. And it isn’t something wrong with you—it’s something wrong with them. Surround yourself with people who’re excited and inspired to see you accomplish things. Surround yourself with people who recognize how special you are and who make you feel good about yourself. Their voices are the ones you want in your head.
- Create a personal mantra: When things get difficult and you don’t know what to say, it helps to have something prepared. Having a word or phrase that makes you feel safe or strong can help take lost/confused/scared-you out of the bad situation and put in the version of yourself who knows they’ll get themselves out of it. Forget if it sounds cheesy; if it’s helping you, it’s helping you.