Who’s your BFF?
Who would you say is your Best Friend Forever (BFF)? If you said, “I am!,” you are already feeling my message. It may sound strange, but the idea of being one’s own best friend can be powerful and healing. I’m not suggesting that you should immediately drop your external best friends to cultivate an exclusive friendship with yourself, but I am saying that you (and I, and everyone else) deserve to treat yourself as well as you treat your best friends. With our best friends, we are loving and compassionate, understanding and forgiving. We see our friends’ best selves and we cherish them. When’s the last time you cherished yourself?
What does cherishing yourself even look like? It starts with sound self-care. Physically, that means taking care of our bodies:
- Frontloading our diet with nutritious foods that we actually enjoy eating
- Prioritizing adequate sleep for rest and repair
- Moving our bodies regularly to keep our systems fit
- Getting to the doctor and dentist at the recommended intervals in order to safeguard our health
Emotional self-care is equally important. Some of the many ways to nurture ourselves emotionally:
- Programming regular social time with our partner and/or close friends
- Pursuing an interest or hobby outside of work and parenting–something that is genuinely fun or interesting for us, and something that has no secondary agenda (i.e., not our regular workout at the gym)
- Practicing self-compassion–accepting ourselves as we are with kindness
- Prioritizing progress over perfection
- Setting ourselves up for success. What supports do we need to put into place to reach our goals?
- Avoiding over-committing ourselves in work or community activities
- Practicing gratitude
- Seeking mental health support if we’re persistently troubled by low mood, excessive worries, or unhelpful behaviors or habits
And there’s more. Self-care is also about how we think of ourselves and what we believe about ourselves. What does our internal monologue sound like? Does it sound similar to how we would speak to a cherished friend?
Many of us fall prey to negative self-talk and say cruel, judgmental, or hurtful things to ourselves in our minds–things we would never dream of saying to a cherished friend, partner, or child. Things we might not even say to our worst enemy! Why is that ok?
It’s not. But for many, it’s a habit we’ve developed over time, and it takes some concerted nurturing to revise.
Start by being a thought detective. Pay attention to your own internal monologue over the course of a day or two. In the first column of a two-columned sheet, write down all the unkind things you catch yourself saying to yourself. Review each one, and ask yourself, “Would I ever say that to my best friend?” If the answer is “Of course not,” use the second column to revise your statement in a way that supports and nurtures you without being dishonest.
Self: “I’m so fat!” (Or “You’re so fat,” if you speak to yourself in the second person.)
Self: “Timeout–would I ever say that to my best friend? Heck no.”
Now revise the statement. If your BMI is in the healthy range, you could say…
Self: “I know I often think I look fat, but the truth is that I’m at a healthy weight, and that’s something to be grateful for.”
If your BMI currently exceeds the healthy range, you could say…
Self: “Yes, I see some extra pounds, and I can identify options for dealing with them in the interest of health. But more importantly, I see my wonderful self, whose fine qualities far transcend shallow judgments about body shape and size.”
Then proceed to list some of your many fine qualities.
Or you can use humor with yourself…
Self: “Wait, you’re calling me fat? You somehow think that insulting me is the way to inspire me to prioritize healthy eating and exercise? I think not! Try again, but this time be loving.”
You get the idea. Best wishes as you cultivate a beautiful, lifelong friendship–with yourself!
Sarah Ince, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker