Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson
What kind of friend are you? Are you attentive, kind and compassionate or, are you neglectful, uncaring and critical? Scrolling through quotes on the internet, I was reminded of the immense value we place on friendship. Throughout the ages, the special bond that forms between two strangers has been the source of poetic inspiration and noble reflections. Often, the friendships we choose and nurture are more fulfilling and meaningful than familial relationships. The foundations of these friendships are forged one interaction at a time with each shared experience adding to the strength of the bond that provides us with a sanctuary from the turmoil of the world.
While many have written beautifully about the importance of having a loyal and forever friend, I believe that one type of friendship is often overlooked. This is the most important relationship you will ever have in your life; the one with yourself. Unfortunately, many of us forget or are unable to honor and respect ourselves. We may treat ourselves with little to no kindness or compassion. We may talk to ourselves in ways that we would never dare talk to our friends. After a perceived failure we may be the first to berate ourselves with a shower of unkind words such as “You are such a loser!”, “What is wrong with you?!”, “You never get anything right!” and many others. After a lifetime of self verbal abuse, this form of toxic self-talk becomes an automatic reaction to anything we perceive as a failure. Who needs enemies when we have this type of internal dialogue?
It is important to acknowledge that we have engaged in this type of behavior in order to put a stop to it. This type of self-talk often is unnoticed, since we have been doing it for most of our lives. Our earliest failures that perhaps were pointed out by our parents or others, activates an internal self-critical loop in our subconscious that we need to consciously deactivate. Life is difficult enough without having a toxic passenger in your head constantly pointing out your faults and failures.
The next time you make a mistake, reflect on the internal dialogue that is activated. For some, the internal critique is on pointing out everything you are doing wrong; seeing fault where perhaps there is none. Ask yourself if you would say the things you are saying to yourself to a friend who was in need. Also, what if someone spoke to you in such a negative way? I guarantee that you would think twice about having that person in your life.
In order to silence the negative talk, it is essential to cultivate a loving relationship with yourself. It takes practice and self-awareness, as well as, the ability to look at yourself from the outside. For example, say you become overwhelmed in crowds and are at a family gathering with a large group. As hard as you try, you are not able to fight the urge to flee. After you leave you are disappointed in yourself and the negative self-talk takes over. If you stop and look at the situation from the point of view of a loving friend your thoughts would be kinder and more accepting. Your friend would point out that you tried your best and not to be so hard on yourself.
You have to have compassion and kindness for yourself. No one is perfect and we all do the best we can with whatever obstacles come our way. Of course, it is important to acknowledge a fault, shortcoming or a mistake, but mentally beating yourself up is not going to help any situation. Give yourself the gift of a lifelong and loyal friendship by being a kind and compassionate friend to yourself.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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