There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Our best friends take us how we are and love us through it all. And in return, we talk out our problems and often speak from a place of truly wanting the best for each other.
This is something most of us have in common: we are capable of good advice for our best friends. This advice might sound like, “You deserve better” or “Apply for the job, the worst they could say is no.” It might even be as simple as, “Let it go.” So, have you ever noticed that it’s harder to speak so lovingly to yourself?
The trouble comes from the negative slant the brain favors. It may seem messed up, but often by being negative your brain is trying to help you. Say you are applying for a job, your brain is actually trying to protect you from feeling disappointment by saying “Why bother, they won’t hire you.” You don’t apply so you won’t feel sad about not getting the job. Of course the unfortunate side effect is you end up feeling crappy anyway and lose out on new opportunities.
In this example, what would your best friend say? They might remind you of how qualified you are for the job, how much the company would miss out on by not hiring you, and if you don’t get it another job will be lucky to have you. Sounds better! How come it’s so easy to say that to someone else? Well, we wouldn’t have very many friends if we talked to them the way we talk to ourselves. Instead we learned to be supportive, caring, and encouraging in order to maintain meaningful relationships.
Here are 5 ways to develop positive self-talk and treat yourself like your own best friend.
1. Improve Awareness of Negative Thinking
The most important step is distinguishing if what you are currently telling yourself is what a friend would say. Is my self-talk nice or nasty? Now, there are friends that might tell us “That dress is not that cute on you,” but we often don’t have pals that say “Why are you even bothering to get dressed up? No one is going to talk to you at this party.” Negative thoughts have an obstructive slant, leading to poor self-worth and restrictive behaviors. A true friend tells it like it is with the hopes of helping you, not bringing you down.
2. Picture How Your Best Friend Might Respond
If you are having trouble knowing if your self-talk is helpful or unhelpful, picture your best friend’s response to what you are saying. Would he roll his eyes and say, “Give me a break!” or would he give you thumbs up and an encouraging “I agree!” Many friends when they hear a negative statement will tell you exactly how nuts they think you sound. That girl that says, “OMG I’m so fat today” will very often have a good friend that responds, “What are you talking about? You’re a goddess and I wish I had hair like you.” If you hear your internal best friend having to encourage you, then practice saying something that is already supportive.
3. Focus on the Type of Relationship You Want
Do you want to be frenemies with yourself? Ask yourself if your self-talk is fostering a good relationship between you and…well…you! We want to love ourselves yet destructive internal monologues fracture that relationship. If you have ever been bullied you know what that sounds and feels like. A bully’s words strike at our most vulnerable spots, leading to negative feelings and behavior changes. So be your own buddy not bully!
4. You Can Fight And Make Up
Even the best of friends have fights and fractures, but find a way to get back on track. So allow the times when you fall down and then work on picking yourself back up again, just like a friend would. Sometimes the negative voice is too loud, the events too nerve wracking, or the sadness more intense. That’s okay! Recognize it and say, “Oooooh, I was kind of a jerk to myself through that. I don’t want to do it again.” Best friends forgive. Move forward with the intention of trying a different way next time.
5. When in Doubt, Pick Up The Phone
If you ever need a refresher course on what a best friend might say to what you are thinking or feeling, then ask them! Try not to stay stuck in the negative thoughts if you are having trouble thinking of what a helpful statement might sound like. Text or call your best friend and I’ll bet they will have the words of encouragement or reality check you needed. Hopefully next time, you will remember what they told you and you will know what to say to yourself.
Being your own best friend takes time and practice, just like building friendships do. You have to call, make plans, and have ups and downs before someone become your BFF. By using these tips you too can foster a meaningful relationship. The most important connection of all: the one you have with yourself.