Friends and relationships will come and go in life, but we will remain with ourselves for ever. So, it makes sense that we learn how to be our own best friend. Psychologist Stanislava Puač Jovanović explores eight ways you can support and love yourself and stay happier.

 

Most of us know how to be good friends; by being supportive, kind, understanding. Also by knowing how to listen — when to stay quiet and when to ask the right questions. Indeed, a good friend knows when to be the voice of reason and when to be the most enthusiastic cheerleader. They know when to act and when to silently be there for another, showing that they care. 

 

You surely have been a great friend on many occasions. You've saved a friend from pain. You've helped them when they had it rough. You gave them the courage they needed to pursue their talents.

 

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However, do you know how to be your own best friend? Think about it this way. You are the only friend you are guaranteed to have for as long as you live. So, it makes sense that you strive to be your own best friend.

 

Being your own best friend: a personal reflection

I was talking to my best friend a few weeks ago. I expressed an insight I came to recently — when the toughest moments of our lives come, we are immensely and utterly alone. He looked at me in silent disapproval. This thought seemed too gloomy for him with his everlasting enthusiasm and optimism.

 

Still, it is not a pessimistic realisation, even though it might seem like one at first glance. Why? Because you can be the ultimate support to yourself. You can be your own best friend who will be there with you no matter what. What I came to understand is this — whether you are surrounded by support or alone, it is ultimately you (and you alone) who goes through whatever comes your way. 

 

When you have a decision to make, a move to take, and consequences to bear, friends can help. However, when the pain comes, you are the one who will need to keep standing. You need to do the work and dig yourself out of despair. No friend, however supportive, can do it for you. 

 

You will need to be your own best friend. 

 

For several years, everything in my life was collapsing. Punches and losses kept coming without mercy, one after the other, brutally strong. The agony, fear and anguish went far beyond what I could ever imagine (and I am used to enduring a lot). During those years, I was alone. No one knew what I was going through every moment of every day for years. I was, in a way, invisible. 

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Be kind to yourself at all times

 

Not only that. I was also not a very good friend to myself. In fact, I was actually my worst enemy. I loathed and scorned myself incisively. As if what I was going through was not enough. I kept telling myself I deserved all the suffering. I probably needed a reason for putting up with was not to be put up with.

 

Finally, it came to the point where I had a straightforward choice — I was either going to end up dead or learn how to be my own best friend. I chose the latter. 

 

How to be your own best friend: 8 ideas

So, how can you be your own best friend? There are as many ways as there are people. Indeed, we all have different needs and diverse ways of meeting them. So, we all need different nuances of support and care in friendships. This is why the first of these eight ways to become your best friend states:

 

1. Get to know yourself

What is the first thing you do when you are about to befriend someone? You get to know them, of course. 

 

Although we all believe we know ourselves perfectly, there are always bits and pieces hidden from our consciousness. These concealed parts of ourselves can control our lives. For this reason, psychoanalysts Newman and Berkowitz argue in their book titled How to Be Your Own Best Friend that we need to understand ourselves to the core. It means knowing both the most complex truths about ourselves, as well as the magnitude of our potentials. 

 

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In that way, we can become the kind of support for ourselves we would readily give to others. Therefore, take time for a bit of soul-searching. Journal, examine yourself. Who are you? What aches you? What motivates you? Get to know yourself.

 

2. Respond to your needs

A study on happiness revealed why quality friendships make you happy. You’ve probably heard (or, hopefully, experienced) that having great friends leads to well-being and joy in life. The reason? Good friends help you meet your needs. They are there for you, emotionally, financially, to lend a helping hand.  

 

RELATED: The 8 types of friend we all need

 

Therefore, if you wonder how to be your own best friend, think about what you need. Are you hungry for emotional warmth? Do you need a pep talk? Or, do you need to hear the harsh but healthy truth? Do you need some rest? What is it exactly that you need?

 

And now — how can you meet those needs? Help yourself as you would expect your best friend to do. 

 

3. Understand that being your own best friend is not selfish

Sometimes, we feel that we are being selfish and egocentric if we are too kind to ourselves. In my (collectivistic) culture, when people start taking care of their needs, they face the risk of being seen as self-centred. Such a conviction is a profound obstacle to becoming your own best friend.

 

“If you wonder how to be your own best friend, think about what you need. Are you hungry for emotional warmth? Do you need a pep talk? Or, do you need to hear the harsh but healthy truth?”

 

However, what good can you truly do to the world if you are drained, depressed, lonely, unhappy? Or, in simpler terms, as drag icon, RuPaul put it: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else?

 

4. Speak to yourself as you would to your best friend

What do you say to your loved ones when you witness them beating themselves up? Probably something like: “Please be good to yourself”, “You’ve got this”, “You are a wonderful and competent person”, “I love you no matter what”, “It’s going to be all right”.  

 

And what do you say to yourself when you fail or hit the rough patch? Chances are, your self-talk is the opposite of how you speak to your friends. Unlike compassion, self-kindness often feels unnatural. 

 

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Be your own best friend. Monitor your self-talk and correct it. Commit to not saying to yourself anything that you would avoid saying to your best friend. Support yourself in the same way you would those you love.

 

5. Engage in self-care

Similar to the previous point, here, you expand the self-care realm from inner talk to all sorts of acts of self-kindness. 

 

RELATED: Be good to yourself – 8 self-love techniques

 

How are you eating and sleeping? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you overworked? How are you taking care of your emotional needs? Are you assertive? Do you have toxic people in your life? How will you handle them? Do you meditate? Are you pursuing your hobbies? Do you have enough of what makes you happy? 

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Practise self-care with meditation shutterstock/Deborah Kolb

 

If you saw your friend acting recklessly to the detriment of their physical and mental health, you would speak up, wouldn’t you? You would encourage them to change their habits and eliminate the negatives in their lives. Therefore, you should do the same for you.

 

6. Write a strengths CV

Being a good friend means calling attention to someone’s strengths when they fail to see them. So, when you’re learning how to be your own best friend, you might want to write a special CV — one containing your strong points and talents. Do not be modest. Display all your fortes and successes with pride.

 

Then, hang it somewhere you can look at it often. Whenever you feel you could use some encouragement, go to this list of things that you are amazing at.

 

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Finally, as a psychotherapist Carissa Karner advises, to be your own best friend, you need to learn to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for past mistakes. Also, let your inner critic off the hook. Let it go. Focus on things you can do right this time around. 

 

7. Do an act of kindness to yourself

This is a fun one. Do you like to surprise your friends with random acts of care and kindness? I always loved to see the child-like joy my friends would have in their eyes when I brought them a small gift out of nowhere, bought them a ticket to a show they liked or took them somewhere nice to buy them to a meal. 

 

“When you want to be your own best friend, you are committing to honesty. You will need to call things by their names. Sometimes, it will not be pleasant.”

 

Do the same for yourself. Treat yourself. Take a warm bath with candles and a good book in your hands. Buy yourself that something you have been craving for — just because. Celebrate yourself!

 

8. Be honest with yourself

Finally, being a good friend does not mean being a cheerleader. You would not put rose-tinted glasses on your friend’s eyes while their lives are falling apart, right? 

 

When you want to be your own best friend, you are committing to honesty. You will need to call things by their names. Sometimes, it will not be pleasant. Still, it is the right thing to do. 

 

Yet, remember, a best friend is also not a bully. Being honest does not mean being mean. Honesty with kindness and compassion is the ideal combination you are after. 

 

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For example, if you failed a test or messed up the big presentation at work, an honest friend would not go about and blame the professor or the boss. They would tell you that you should not have stayed all night partying instead of preparing for it and getting some good night sleep. Still, a good friend also would not call you a deadbeat (or any of the names you might be inclined to call yourself in such situations). 

 

So, find the golden middle and provide yourself with constructive criticism and support. Be the kind of friend who helps you get up when you fall and find your way to growth.

 

The takeaway: be your own best friend for life

You are stuck with yourself for life. You could leave partners, quit friendships, cease contact with your family. But the one person that will always be with you is yourself. So, this is where you decide if you are going to be kind to yourself or you are going to be the inner critic, the sadistic voice in your head. I hope you choose to be your own best friend and guide yourself to greatness with self-compassion and self-kindness. • 
Main image: shutterstock/Dmytro Zinkevych

 

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Written by Stanislava Puač Jovanović

bert.jpgStanislava Puač Jovanović has a master’s degree in psychology and works as a freelance writer and researcher in this area. Her primary focus is on questions relating to mental health, stress-management, self-development and well-being.

 


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