Many years ago, during a college course called “Elements of Interpersonal Communication,” the professor recommended a classic book entitled, “How to Be Your Own Best Friend” by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz. Although I don’t remember many specifics, I can vividly recall the life-changing impact the book had on me.
The idea of being your own best friend is a strange concept for most of us. We just don’t consider this point of view. We understand how to acquire friends, how to be a friend, and how to maintain friends. But there is rarely any mention of being a friend to ourselves.
Have we made too many mistakes to be worthy of such self-admiration? Do we see ourselves as not being a good choice for a friend? Or is it just too inconceivable to imagine being a friend to ourselves?
If you think about it, you are the most qualified person on earth to be your best friend. No other person has been present every second of your life except you! No other person has been present to hear every thought you’ve ever had. No other person completely understands your abilities, flaws, needs, and dreams like you do.
I believe human beings have a natural instinct to act as a friend to their fellow human beings. You see the raw demonstration of this when people come to the aid of a person they don’t know who is in dire need of help due to a car accident, house fire, or other tragedy. People sometimes even risk their own lives to help a person they’ve never met. So why is it such unfamiliar territory when we consider being a friend to ourselves? Because our parents, teachers, and society repeatedly told us “Don’t be selfish.” Don’t be self-centered” “Think of others before yourself.” “Treat others like you’d like to be treated.” “Be a good friend and they will be good to you.”
Certainly, we need to be a good friend. Especially to our family and close friends. But we can only be a friend to others to the same degree in which we are a friend to ourselves. It’s like self-love. We can only love another person to the same degree in which we love ourselves.
Being your own best friend is about doing all the kind, caring, and loving things that you’d do for your best friend, for yourself. That means ALWAYS being loyal, compassionate, encouraging, and optimistic.
But this isn’t the way we “normally” treat ourselves. We frequently treat ourselves like a competitive, jealous, dishonest, or conniving pseudo-friend. If you were going through a difficult time, a true friend would NOT point out your mistakes, past and present, and tell you all the reasons why you are going to fail again.
No matter how many times you’ve failed, a true friend would build you up by pointing out your successes and talents and by telling you all the reasons why you will achieve your dreams. This is the same way that you should be with yourself. You do this by fully embracing the loving feelings you have for a close dear friend and then transferring those feelings to yourself.
If you were seeking advice on an important issue in your life, what sort of counsel would you imagine your best friend would give you? Certainly, you would expect it to be objective, honest, and positive. But what kind of advice do we usually give to ourselves? Is it not often contaminated because we’ve brought in too many thoughts about past mistakes, self-doubts, and fears? Just like an enemy would do.
The truth is that you are the most qualified person on the planet to give yourself advice “if” you are being your own best friend when you do it and NOT your worst enemy! No one knows what’s best for you, better than you. Every other person, including your family, will give you advice based on their own experiences and needs. You can try to explain yourself and convince them of your desires and dreams, but they will never get it completely. NEVER!
From the perspective of our uniqueness and thought life, each of us is alone in the world. Long-term married couples and friends get to know each other extremely well, but there is so much tucked away deep inside that will never be completely known or understood. So self-acceptance, self-reliance, and self-love — which is akin to being your own best friend — are essential for having a happy and successful life.
You can see why being your own best friend is so important. And since it’s the most valuable friendship you’ll ever have, it’s imperative that you embrace, nurture, and build it.