The phrase, “Be A Friend To Yourself”, seems a bit trite and hackneyed. Maybe because it’s been seen on wall posters and inspirational gifts so often that the phrase has become all but invisible. But it’s still a very useful and effective phrase when you get right down to its basic message.
I was discussing the subject of self-esteem with an acquaintance the other day. Sam and I noticed that many of our friends and associates belittle and denigrate themselves regularly. This is especially true when they make mistakes. In fact, if we’re truthful, we mentally slip into that direction when we, ourselves, slip up. My pal and I hypothesize that it is because most folks think of themselves as the center of the universe.
To some extent, thinking of oneself as the center of our own universe is healthy. It’s just the manner in which we think of ourselves as universal centers that matters. On the one hand, a person can inflate themselves to larger than life wonderfulness and fabulousness. A common phrase of such conceit might be, “He thinks his tang don’t stink”.
The self-help movement seems to be of little help in this regard. Telling someone who suffers from low self-esteem that she is special and perfect just the way she is seems not only shallow, but is probably counterproductive. Not everybody is special. Most folks think of special as meaning superior, exceptional and extraordinary. The person of low self-esteem will take the message of specialness internally and will tell herself to believe it. Not only is the advice banal and full of hot air, it can actually be harmful in that believing that oneself is special can set back progress in feeling better about oneself. This happened to me, so I know.
Maybe you take up an esoteric path in order to change yourself. I’m all for taking up esoteric and arcane philosophies and studying non-western religions. Anyone who even casually knows me, understands that is a main focus of my life. You just have to know why you undertake the study and practice of non-conventional spirituality.
Is it done out of curiosity and a wish to broaden one’s scope of the world around us? Or is it to lose and deny yourself, so you can be humbled and cast out your “ego”? Doing so thus places yourself in the category “spiritual person”? Do you see the conceit of such spiritual pride? Again, done in the right spirit, esoteric study is a positive thing, but we must watch carefully for the subtle egoism of doing so. Been there done that.
My pal Sam mentioned that he used to suffer very low self-esteem issues. He had gone the route of endless self-help books and amature teachers of self-esteem training only to be enmeshed in the quagmire of subtle spiritual conceit. It wasn’t until a beloved aunt called him to task. She said that he really needed to just be a friend to himself.
If he could only get into that habit, his life would become more clear and simple. Sam started from scratch because he’d always been a loner and still tends to be that way. He became somewhat of a student of human behavior in order to follow his aunt’s advice. He figured that what makes a good friend to others should work as well for being a friend to oneself.
He thought about the qualities of a good friend. Acceptance is probably at the top, a friend accepts you the way you are. Why not start there?
A good pal is trustworthy and honest. He can be trusted to keep your deep dark secrets, secret. He has your back. His honesty will show through in his appreciation of your good points but he’s not going to let you get away with thinking that your tang don’t stink. In other words, he’s honest and loyal but won’t give you compliments just to gain brownie points with you.
When a friend suffers a setback or screws up, you aren’t going to berate and belittle him. Kind and gentle support is called for in these instances. You would never think to insult your pal by calling him a screw-up or a moron, why do it to yourself? Be easy on yourself, but don’t overindulge either.
A friend is supportive but doesn’t force you to be something you’re not. He knows what makes you tick and is with you in your efforts to be all that you want to be, realistically. That means some introspection is necessary, just don’t become self-absorbed. When you catch yourself overly concerned about yourself, don’t beat yourself up about it, just gently nudge yourself outwards.
A friend is generous and giving. We like to treat a friend with a special favor or gift on a birthday or holiday or maybe for no reason at all. We can do that for ourselves if we want to be a friend to ourselves. Just be careful that you don’t overindulge in goodies and toys for yourself. Buying stuff can be addictive and counterproductive so try to keep your special treats limited to extraordinary times. Your inner friend will gently inform you when you’re going beyond where you should in that regard.
Sam and I came away with some good pointers. We both promised to be better friends to ourselves and to each other. It should be an interesting experiment.
The Blue Jay of Happiness reminds you not to bad-mouth yourself.