Empathy involves a conscious and practical regard for another person. When that common regard is returned we call it ‘friendship.’ For most of us it’s easier to make friends, have empathic connections, and positive regard with others, than to make friends with ourselves.
We are often our worst critics. We may meet those who have an eternally rosy picture of themselves, but scratch beneath the surface and we’ll discover that they have the same insecurities and self-judgments we do. As we develop a true friendship with ourselves, an appreciation and even humor about our foibles and personality quirks, we’re better able to appreciate the unusual qualities in others.
Here are my Six Steps to Becoming Your Own Best Friend:
- Know and respect your boundaries. Begin by discerning your personal emotional landscape. Do you tend to be highly sensitive? Are you more, or less inclined to sense the emotions of others? Do you feel there are some topics you cannot discuss with anyone? Are you more comfortable expressing certain emotions than others? Do you jump into relationships with both feet or do stay on the sidelines waiting for the other to make a move? Are you clear as to what is and is not okay with you in your interactions with others? Can you tell them if they’ve crossed your boundaries and that you don’t like it?
- Be grateful. In describing yourself what are five positive qualities you have? What do you love about your physical appearance and about your personality? What are you really good at doing? Name five of your talents and skills. How do you describe your personal spirituality? How do you show gratitude? The conscious decision to be thankful for what you have and who you are will change your body chemistry, lift your spirits, shift your attitude, and is the starting point of appreciating yourself as others do.
- Watch for the Victim. A huge internal saboteur is the Victim, the voice inside you that reminds you that you are too much to handle, or not enough. The Victim reminds you that you have lost out on life’s advantages, that you have had a more difficult life than the rest of the human race. How do you ask your Sage, your wise, intuitive, self to deal with the Victim? You first need to become familiar with the voice of the wise Sage that is in you. You may be so used to hearing from the Victim, that you’ve overlooked the many ways in which your personal experience and wisdom have expressed themselves, especially through the feeling of hope. I usually stop, close my eyes, and think of the ways in the past that my own self-care and advice has gotten me through rough patches before, and will again.
- Be aware of the Judge. If you judge others, you’re likely even a harsher on yourself. You may not be aware of why people act as they do, and your intuition tells you when you don’t like it. How do you deal with that insight? What would happen if you became more conscious of what you do like about yourself, or others, and affirm the wonderful gift you and they are, the whole and complete package, ready to transform the world?
- Claim your competence and completion. You are talented, in fact, you have genius in you that comes out in the way you live, think, and complete your tasks. You are sufficient and competent. You are also born a complete person, perfect in this moment. When you look to a relationship to complete you, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you cannot live without someone, especially when that person is harming you in some way, then take responsibility for yourself to protect the child within you. If you need someone or something to ‘make you happy’ then find out more about codependence and how to recover from it. Seek healing through meditation, counseling, or coaching, but don’t let yourself get stuck looking for ‘the one.’
- Seek integrity. The more deeply you find healing for your heart and soul, the readier you will be for a spectrum of healthy friendships and a satisfying career. Integrity is bringing together all the parts of life you need to be and enjoy the whole ‘you.’ Ask, “What about me?” Discover a habit for self-regard and put yourself first in order to achieve the integration you seek.