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How to Be a Better Friend to Yourself

Practice treating yourself with compassion, like you would a valued friend.

Key points

  • It's important to have a good relationship with ourselves — to be able to trust ourselves, meet our needs, and enjoy our own company.
  • Most of us know how to be a good friend to others, but being a friend to ourselves feels harder.
  • Some ways to treat oneself like a friend include self-acceptance, getting to know oneself, doing nice things, and setting boundaries.
Brooke Cagle/Unsplash
Source: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Most of us know how to be good friends to others. Friends are trustworthy and loyal, give encouragement and empathy, lend a helping hand when things get rough, laugh, have fun, and celebrate life’s joys and accomplishments together.

If we know how to do this for our friends, why is it so hard to do the same for ourselves?

Being a friend to yourself is no different than being a friend to others and yet it feels so much harder. Almost daily, I hear from people who want to be kinder to themselves; they want to learn how to give themselves the unconditional love, support, and acceptance that they give to their friends and family.

Why you should be your own best friend

The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship with yourself. Other people will come and go from your life, but you can always be there for yourself. There will be times when your friends are unavailable, perhaps you’ve moved to a new city and have yet to create a new support system, or when you’ve had a falling out or grown apart from your friends. Therefore, it’s important to be able to count on yourself and meet your own emotional needs. Even your best friend since kindergarten, who knows you better than anyone, can’t meet all of your needs. It’s simply impossible for someone else to always be available and tuned into your needs (even if you’re great at communicating them).

Expecting others to meet all our needs can leave us disappointed, frustrated, or feeling rejected. But if we learn to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, we’ll be able to trust ourselves, give ourselves compassion and comfort, and rely on ourselves when life is tough.

How to be a better friend to yourself

1. Accept yourself unconditionally. A good friend accepts you for who you are, notices your best qualities, and doesn’t compare you to others. If you notice that you’re being self-critical, try to notice what you’re struggling with and offer yourself compassion instead of criticism. Here’s an example:

Self-criticism: I can’t believe I lost my keys again! I’m so stupid!

Self-acceptance: I’m frustrated that I lost my keys. Being busy and overwhelmed is taking a toll on me.

2. Get to know yourself. How well do you really know yourself? In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to lose track of what matters to you and what you like to do. Self-understanding and awareness are important parts of being a good friend to yourself. Try spending a few minutes regularly writing down your interests, likes and dislikes, goals, and values (or try answering these questions). Getting to know yourself is a bit like an experiment; try some new things and see what feels right.

3. Do nice things for yourself. Friends help each other out when they’re struggling and they do nice things to brighten their day or ease their load. You can do this for yourself by saying something encouraging or complimenting yourself, spending time doing something you enjoy, cooking your favorite meal, taking time to relax, or giving yourself a small gift.

4. Set boundaries. Boundaries are also a form of self-care. Without boundaries, we run the risk of overextending ourselves, getting burnt out, feeling resentful, and letting people treat us poorly. A good friend will help you protect your boundaries and encourage you to stand up for yourself, speak your truth, and ask for respect. You can do this for yourself when you practice setting healthy boundaries.

Building a friendship with yourself is a process just like building any other friendship. It requires an investment of time and energy and a commitment to be open and honest. Being a better friend to yourself starts with small steps to get to know, listen to, care for, and be with yourself. Loving and trusting yourself will develop over time. Keep showing up for yourself and your friendship will bloom.