The pursuit of true and lasting friendships can be very challenging. A large number of species have the tendency to form social groups and establish themselves favourably. Similarly, we humans seek the companionship of like-minded individuals who can provide us with a sense of security and belonging. Whilst the evolutionary advantages of groups are undeniable, we must be careful not to let them take over our own identities. In your circle of friends you can enjoy sharing ideas, mutual interests and aspirations. Everything is harmonious until you have a disagreement where you’re left feeling lonely, vulnerable and questioning your belief-system.
Now let’s touch on the influence of social media. People like their views to be heard and when you’re posting something out to hundreds of “friends”, some level of acknowledgement is expected.
You post and wait patiently for hours. Perhaps you check in a few times during the day…just to see.
Not a single person has “liked” your post.
It’s hard not to feel a little jilted. “Some friends they are,” you scoff.
Not only have you invested your precious time into a meaningless endeavour, but somehow you’ve come out of it feeling worse about yourself. Didn’t you just enjoy that video of the cat waking up its owner? Yet it affects you when no one else shares the same view and this diminishes your own experience.
With features like Facebook “reactions”, it’s never been easier to feel judged online. Ignoring a post is one thing but now people can freely express their anger with the click of a button. Why, they can even “laugh” inappropriately at something that was never meant to be a joke! The reality is we can’t stop anyone expressing themselves online but we can avoid being controlled by their opinions. To do that we need to become our own best friend.
Sometimes in our lowest points we may not find anyone to support us or offer a shoulder to cry on. And even if they do, we may struggle to feel any better. Such is life.
However, this article is written to help you realise that you are never fully alone. Once you’re able to find a friend in yourself, your entire outlook will change and you’ll attract real friends into your world. Here are 5 simple but powerful and effective ways to find your inner best friend:
- Leave your past in the past
Is there an incident in your past that you still feel guilty, ashamed or regretful about? Did you just spent a few moments recollecting some negative experience and replay a sequence of events in your mind? It’s very common to beat yourself up over the past. It’s completely normal. However, it’s also time that you’re never getting back.
Instead of using the past as a weapon, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. Our mistakes are meant to teach us valuable lessons in order to become better human beings, not condemn us for eternity.
- Don’t be afraid of what they will say
We recall a wonderful quote on the matter:
“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Aristotle (or Elbert Hubbard)
People will always have something to say. Whether it is a stranger on the internet or your own family and friends, everyone will put in their two pennies worth. Out of fear of criticism we often hold back our opinions and ideas, worrying that we may look ignorant or stupid. If we don’t take action then there’s no way we can fail and be mocked by society. This type of thinking focuses solely on external acceptance and is detrimental to success. You’re now living to please others and gain their approval, rather than working on your own life’s purpose.
- Get to know yourself through meditation
Meditation is becoming a popular practice these days, particularly due to endorsements from high-profile celebrities, sportspeople and well-known gurus. Behind all the glamour it is a powerful, ancient practice that really helps us cope with day-to-day struggles. Meditation helps you to go beyond your mind, your vagrant thoughts and your bodily sufferings. You learn to experience your true nature which shows itself to you as peace, bliss and unparalleled clarity. When you reach this profound state you no longer worry about how much work you have to do, how much weight you want to lose or what people are saying about you.
Don’t worry if you find it difficult to sit still and clear your mind for a long period of time. Most of us can’t even do that for more than a minute! Problems arise when we plan to do a 1 hour or 30-minute session without working up to it slowly. After about 5 minutes your mind may get completely distracted, tell you that you’ve failed and never want to meditate again. You must not allow your mind to fool you like this.
Instead, just take a few minutes out of your day to be with yourself. This does not always have to be in a meditation room with the scent of incense spreading. You can go for a walk alone, sit next to a river or even do some gardening. Whatever you choose to do, if you give it 100% of your attention and focus then that is meditation.
- Love yourself unconditionally
This may sound like another cheesy cliché but know that the word “unconditional” carries a lot of weight. Unconditional love is all-encompassing. It is without boundaries or conditions. It is true love. We frequently mistake deep infatuation or conditional love for true love because we can’t conceive that such a thing exists. The truth is, very few of us have actually experienced or shown unconditional love. This is one lesson that we have yet to learn from our pets!
How do you know if a friend loves you unconditionally? They don’t judge you, they stick with you through thick and thin, they support your endeavours and genuinely feel elated at your success. There’s no room for jealousy, resentment or hatred in this space. True friends forgive your mistakes because they know the real you. When you don’t reply to their message immediately they don’t write you off but choose to be patient or may even ask if you’re doing okay.
- Keep talking to yourself
Talking to yourself doesn’t have to be a sign of mental illness. In fact it’s absolutely essential to develop a positive internal dialogue with yourself. This is also known as positive affirmation. If you can’t speak kind words to yourself, how can you expect others to? To be your own best friend, you need to act like a best friend. For example, best friends are honest with each other but also offer words of love and support when you need it the most. When you’re feeling down, you don’t need to wait for anyone else to cheer you up. By repeating positive affirmations, you can effectively rewire your brain and thought patterns to propel you towards achieving your goals.
Try this at home: Create 5 positive affirmations that you will repeat as soon as you wake up and just before bed. These should be written in the present tense as if you’re experiencing it right now e.g. “I am confident”, “I am a successful doctor” or “I am a highly creative artist”. You can choose to either say them out loud, write them in a notebook or record yourself and listen to them regularly.
This process may feel artificial at first but we guarantee that you’ll feel differently if you keep doing it. Each time you do this you are reinforcing these positive beliefs in your brain and eventually your brain will say, “Okay, I’m on board now!”
You might be feeling like this is all going to be a lot of work. Well, unfortunately there’s no way around it. Friendship, or any relationship for that matter, takes an enormous amount of time, care and effort. There will be ups and downs, all of which you need to take in your stride.
However, these practices won’t work if you only do them for a few days or weeks. What you’re about to start is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and acceptance. So relax, be patient with yourself and most importantly enjoy the ride because none of us are on it for that long.
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