If I ask you to describe a good friend, what comes to your mind? A kind of person that accepts you unconditionally? A loyal person? Or, authentic, honest, and trustworthy? Most of us can really be good friends with others because we know that humans deserve kindness rather than cruelty. But in this blog post, you’ll learn how to also cultivate that same thought for yourself. Knowing how to be a good friend to yourself—through having self-compassion.
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We’ve talked about having compassion in many of my blog posts before. It is because I truly believe that being kind to yourself is the foundation of self-improvement.
In her article for Harvard Business Review, Serena Chen wrote, “we tend to associate personal growth with determination, persistence, and hard work…” which I absolutely agree with. Personal growth is being committed and having a strength of will, however, we often forget that compassion is also present there.
Self-compassion gives us the motivation to improve ourselves and be true to ourselves.
Being true and supportive.
Sounds like the same qualities which make a good friend, right?
Whether you admit it or not, we’re the harshest people to ourselves. We say words to ourselves that are too rough to even say to others.
Thinking that you are your own best friend is a “trick” that will remind you to have self-compassion—because you deserve the love and kindness that you give so easily to others as a good friend.
How to Be a Good Friend to Yourself
Some people think that self-compassion is selfish or narcissistic, but it is actually not true. According to Chen from the same article I mentioned, “being kind and nonjudgmental toward the self is good practice for treating others compassionately.” With all that said, here are tips on how to be a good friend to yourself:
Stop judging and being hard on yourself
As stated by Kirstin Neff, author of the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, there are three components of self-compassion and the first one is self-kindness.
Being kind and understanding rather than harshly critical to yourself is exactly the first step on how to be a good friend to yourself because as I mentioned earlier, we, ourselves are the harshest to our own selves.
One of the great exercises to help you cultivate self-kindness is the one that Neff shared in her book—it is Changing Your Critical Self-Talk. You can do this exercise through journaling or do whatever works for you.
Over several weeks, notice when you are being self-critical. Try to accurately note your inner speech verbatim. Once you really get a clear sense of how you talk to yourself, the next step is to soften the self-critical voice with compassion rather than self-judgment. Lastly, you’ll reframe the observations made by your inner critic in a kind, friendly, positive way.
Kristin Neff’s example in her book goes like this:
If you’ve just eaten half a box of Oreos and heard your self-critic say something like “you’re so disgusting.” Soften that critical inner voice with compassion by saying something like, “I know you’re trying to keep me safe and to point out ways that I need to improve, but your harsh criticism and judgment are not helping at all. Please stop being so critical, you are causing me unnecessary pain.”
Reframe your observations and try to imagine what a good friend would say to you, perhaps by using terms of endearment. It could be like, “Darling, I know you ate that bag of cookies because you’re feeling really sad right now and you thought it would cheer you up. But you feel even worse and are not feeling good in your body. I want you to be happy, so why don’t you take a long walk so you feel better?”
By doing this you are not encouraging judgemental thoughts and instead, you are slowly minimizing self-loathing and responding to your suffering with kindness.
Make peace with failure
Most of us beat ourselves up whenever we face difficulties and failures. The truth is, we all make mistakes. I know you already know that failure is part of growth but as a person learning how to be a good friend to yourself, you must also make peace with failure.
In this world that pushes us to be successful in everything we do, we tend to compare ourselves to others and unconsciously strive to be perfect.
Looking at a new point of view is a great way to help you change your unhealthy attitude towards failure. In Susan Tardanico’s article for Forbes, she wrote that instead of saying, “If I fail, it means I am stupid, weak, incapable, and am destined to fall short”, you can shift your perspective with kindness by saying, “If I fail, I am one step closer to succeeding; I am smarter and more savvy because the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience”.
Allow yourself to feel fully
Another tip on how to be a good friend to yourself is by allowing yourself to feel fully.
There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, disappointed, or frustrated. Our culture taught us to escape these kinds of unpleasant emotions, for many, by doing unhealthy and destructive habits which leads to more suffering.
Being your own best friend is allowing yourself to feel and express your positive or negative emotions in a healthy way. You can do this by crying, listening to music, dancing, or keeping a journal.
How can YOU be a good friend to yourself?
Self-compassion is a learnable skill. It is a practice that will not just help you improve and love yourself but also breathe more love and understanding into the world.
I hope this post will help you to be the most compassionate, gentle, and loving friend for yourself and to others, as well. Comment down below how you think you could be a good friend to yourself. If you have any other tips on how to be a good friend to yourself, feel free to also share them below!
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Jocelyn is a coffee lover who believes that a bad day with coffee is better than a good day without it. You can find her obsessing over stationery, hanging out with her cat, or singing her favorite Taylor Swift songs.