No, I am not asking whether you are your only friend, but whether you are actually a friend to yourself? Confused? Think about the last few internal thoughts you have had about yourself. Were they critical? Did they decrease your sense of wellbeing? Or were you kind and encouraging?
I had a client recently, I will call her Jenny. When I first met her I asked what had brought her to me and I was met with silence. Meeting that silence with space to think, I waited. Slowly she tucked her arms around herself and the tears started to fall, along with the words, “What if nobody likes me?” She was about to move from Dubai and was scared, full of self doubt and self criticism. It was clear she didn’t value her own strengths and I knew that the first thing we needed to do was to get Jenny to like herself, to treat herself as she wanted others to treat her.
I have met many Jennys over the years. Some have been stay at home mums, with husbands who worked long hours; others have been stressed over-committing businesswomen, who do not make time for themselves. All have focused on the negative in themselves – they are not educated enough; they don’t have the experience; they don’t have time to focus on what they want or need; they think it selfish to do something just for themselves.
I set them all a small task to put themselves in other people’s shoes. I ask them to list five good things about themselves. I always wonder at how hard this task is for so many people. People will say, “well, I used to be…”. Where is that person now?
The second tasks I set is to ask them to think about how they would like to be. What are the changes they would like to make? What are the realistic changes they can make and what will they settle for? Very often the difference between what they will settle for and where they are now is not really that distant, but requires them to see themselves and practice a little self love.
So what can you do today to improve your own relationship with yourself? To start, choose just three of the things below to do this week:
- Take five or ten minutes to be still, do nothing but breathe, clearing the mind of all those thoughts of what you should be doing.
- Make a list of five achievements you are proud of, they don’t need to be huge, if you are struggling with life, then just getting up and showering can be enough.
- Remember that we don’t exist in a vacuum, make time this week to reach out and see a friend.
- Allow yourself to say ‘No’ to requests for help from others. Be kind while doing it, but if you are struggling to fit everything in, make some time for yourself.
- Have a ‘no plans’ day and relax. If this is too much to start with, find a morning or an evening.
- Reach out for help if you need it. Asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness, but a strength in that you can recognize your limits.
- Do something just for you – whether it is sitting watching the waves for half a hour, heading to the salon, or dusting off a bike in the garage and heading for the track, just do something that you enjoy.
- Find a friend whose judgement you trust and ask them what is good about you. Really listen to them.
- Remember that things do not have to be perfect. Sometimes ‘good enough’ really is enough.
This morning I took a half hour to head out and walk before breakfast. It cleared my head, ready for the busy day ahead. What will you make time to do for yourself?