I’ve not blogged for a while now (read: ages!) and that is largely due to being busy with lots of exciting things, and simply not taking the time to sit and write some of it down!
I want to share a concept I’ve been playing with recently – hopefully in a useful way. This is the notion of becoming your own best friend.
The latter is a phrase I came across in a book called The Confidence Code for Girls, a book I bought a few weeks ago for me and my daughter to work through. The notion of being your own best friend is introduced to help combat the negative self talk we can find so easy. The authors ask the readers to imagine yourself as your own best friend and then imagine how you would speak to yourself.
Very often the people I am working with have come to identify unhelpful self-talk habits, those ways of speaking to ourselves that downplay our achievements, blame, criticise, and make us feel oh so small. It’s one thing however, to notice that we don’t like the way we speak to ourselves, and it’s another to feel able to change out the soundtrack for something more life-giving. I find it’s usually easier to begin a new habit than it is to give up an old one. We need a new model to replace the old.
This notion of being my own best friend really struck me. Not least because I have mixed responses to the notion of a ‘best friend’! We have all got varied and different experiences of this from our childhoods, but I never felt I had a ‘best friend’, and I certainly never felt as though I was anyone’s first choice of friend either. Moving around a lot as a Third Culture Kid was challenging in terms of moving between friendship groups, and while some love the opportunity to dive into new groups, I struggled. I quickly learned instead how to feel okay about being on the periphery, and to develop smaller groups of friends where I could feel some sense of social security and belonging.
Whether you have many friends or few, I believe the need to be your own best friend is crucial. It is crucial for me. No amount of loving friendships will calm my negative self talk if I’m stuck in a loop, and I’ll likely isolate myself from these friendships, in some kind of martyred attempt to avoid “inflicting” myself onto them. In fact, being my own best friend isn’t merely compensation for a lack of friendships, but it actually helps me to deepen already present friendships too, and certainly to enjoy them more.
So what would being a best friend to myself look like? I wasn’t sure, so I decided to work instead with what I can conjure of an ideal type, and observations from what I saw around me. I identify three main qualifications, that at least make sense to me.
- Best friends are loyal. I would observe what at times felt like a blind, irrational sense of loyalty in the friendships of my less mobile peers. Discounting some of my negative interpretation of their behaviour as simply being sour grapes (it’s easier to disapprove of what we don’t have access to than to long for it) I can reframe this as consistent, reliable approval. Not necessarily of the behaviour of the person, but approval of the person themselves. In counselling terms, we’d say UPR – unconditional positive regard. And this is deemed a crucial element for a successful therapeutic relationship. So far so good.
- Best friends want to share life together; if not all activities, news of them. Best friends are the people we check in with, tell our news to first, chew over difficult situations with. We do friendship ‘in real time’ – the desire to maintain intimacy by maintaining communication.
- Best friends remind us who we are. They are identity markers, holding our memories safe and reminding us of the journey travelled so far. They are the people with whom we want to adventure, offering us opportunities to ground our sense of self in ongoing experiences of growth. Best friends challenge us when we act against our own characters, holding up a mirror and asking, ‘Where have you gone?’
How would it feel to have your own back? To be your biggest fan, and ally? How would it be to feel loyal to yourself, to guarantee yourself approval for your being, even if you occasionally question your doing! Put down the stick you use to ‘beat yourself into shape’ today, and offer yourself the loyalty and approval you would offer a close friend.
What does it mean to share life with yourself? To relate to myself ‘in real time’ means checking in reguarly with my feelings, my experiences… To ask myself how I’m doing. We autopilot so much through our days, and can carry bedded in narratives that tell us how we feel or experience events in our lives. I have a narrative that says, “you are doing too much, you are running behind on everything”. Checking with myself, being my own best friend, means asking, “How are you actually feeling? What is really working, not working for you?” Can you be your own best friend today, consulting your own feelings and opinions and (this is the magic bit!) actually listening and validating your experiences?
I spend an absurd amount of time reminding myself who I think I should be. How would it be if we could redirect that time and energy into reminding ourselves who we are – just as a friend does when they say, “Remember when…?” or they send a photo we’d find funny, or seek our advice or invite connection in a million other ways. I find it so easy to think of all I haven’t done, all I am not (not clever enough, funny enough, kind enough). Instead, today and I invite you to join me, I will look around my home and life at all the evidence of what I am. I am busy, creative, colourful, a baker, a mother, a reader, a hard worker, a crafter… Oh what wonderful things are you?! And how would it be to affirm yourself, your identity (identities?!) today?
Let’s do it. Let’s start today. Let’s be our own best friend.
So many useful concepts, Dr. Rachel.
I particularly was taken by ‘unconditional positive regard’ . . . those special (‘best’ friends) friends bring this to the table in a good relationship. In the aspect of being our own best friend, a realistic self-regard undergirded by that principle (UPR) will oil the gears that may be grinding a bit.
Sorry I was a bit late in approving this comment, Dan – I get a lot of spam and it can take time to sift out the true gems 🙂 Yes, I think UPR is a wonderful concept to give self-care a good framework.
Yesterday, I stuttered on the “Post Comment” button, and apparently got the boot. If this seems to be a repeat, you’ll understand why.
Many useful concepts here, Dr. Rachel.
One that really stands out to me is Unconditional Positive Regard. In relation to being your own best friend and reminding yourself of who you are, the foundation of UPR in conjunction with realistic self-consideration could bless us all plenty. We’ve got this!