How to Treat Yourself Like a Friend

As an only child, I often felt lonely and bored. Having a sibling sometimes means you have a built-in best friend, so when you’re sibling-less it can be a struggle if there aren’t a lot of other kids around. I was always pretty creative, so I had three imaginary friends (who, for whatever reason, resembled miniature versions of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Paula Abdul, because… the late ‘80s). As I got older, I realized the value of my alone time and began to enjoy spending time with myself. The more time I spent with myself, the more time I realized that I was learning to treat myself as a friend.

Of course, that poses the question: what makes a good friend? For example, I would never call a friend stupid or fat, or encourage a friend to work themselves into a nice frothy exhaustion (bad habits I had previously found myself falling into). By imagining the look on my friends’ faces if I made derogatory comments about their appearance or degraded their intelligence, I could remind myself to be a little less harsh. Sometimes it can be difficult to extend the same grace we show to others to ourselves, but we can all learn to treat ourselves better.

If you want to learn how to be your own BFF, the following six ideas may help:

Speak only words of truth and encouragement to yourself.

Consider replacing “can’t” statements with “can” affirmations. Instead of saying “I probably can’t get my dream job” I’ve started saying “I can totally get my dream job!” When I encourage myself with the positive language I don’t hesitate to use for my friends, I find that I have more confidence going after huge goals because I feel better about my capabilities.

Feed yourself the best foods.

When I cook for friends, I typically don’t phone it in by serving a bunch of microwave dinners. I do my best to pull out all the stops: the freshest ingredients, the most colorful flatware, and maybe even those beautiful sandalwood scented candles. It makes me feel good to provide others with the best of the best, but sometimes it’s really nice to prepare an equally as delicious and thoughtfully prepared candlelit meal for a party of one.

Give yourself plenty of exercise and fresh air.

It’s no secret that regular exercise and exposure to fresh air are good for us. Making your physical fitness and overall well-being a priority are always good choices. I always encourage friends to soak up some sunshine or get moving when they are feeling down. In warm months, I love going for a walk or a jog outside, and I return feeling really good.

Spend quality time with yourself doing the things you love.

You carve out time from your busy schedule to chill with your bestie, so make sure you set aside a few hours a week for some “you” time as well. Plus, riding solo means you get to do whatever you want, no matter how silly or weird someone else thinks it is, all on your own schedule. Want to eat an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen in a unicorn onesie while binge-watching documentaries about manatees? Who’s gonna stop me? Oops, I mean… you – who’s gonna stop you?

Give gifts to yourself, just because.

I didn’t really expect any gifts for Christmas last year, but I was totally okay with that. Until I received my friend’s gift of soap, a convertible headband, and a book from one of my besties! I lit up when I opened the box and smiled for hours afterward. As a result I’ve decided to start treating myself to the same simple excitement. Sometimes I enjoy ordering a fun novel or buying the occasional goofy statement T-shirt to make my week or month.

Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.

In the past, when I forgot an important call or ran late to a meeting, I would spiral down into a pit of self-pity and shame, as if berating myself just enough would somehow undo the mistake. Once I realized I would never hold a grudge if my friend was late every once in a while if they apologized, I stopped panicking so much and started to tell myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. As long as I know that I am trying my hardest, there is no reason to mentally beat myself up.

When you make compassion towards yourself a regular practice, you will find that your confidence and overall self-image improves. Now that I am my own friend, I’ve started encouraging myself to pursue grander goals than I ever have in my life. Mostly because, rather than saying “Aisha, you’ll never be able do this,” I tell myself “Aisha, you can totally do this!” All of this newfound confidence has enabled me to launch Our Turn 2 Care, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting marginalized millennial caregivers to information, resources, and other people in the same situation I pat my own back when I need some encouragement and celebrate my successes when I achieve my goals. Besides, who makes a better best friend to you than someone who knows you inside and out — you!

Originally published on March 1, 2019.

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Aisha Adkins is a writer, advocate, graduate student, and speaker based in Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Georgia Southern University, with Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology, this authentic storyteller is driven by faith, inspired by family, and eager to use her talents to affect positive social change. She is a full-time caregiver for her mother. When she is not a doting daughter and agent of change, she enjoys classic film, live music, and nature.