Mary O’Malley – I don’t know what I would’ve done over the years without my friends, the people whom I could be completely real with and together share life’s joys and pains. And research has now shown that with good friends, we actually live longer.
But there is another friend we have searched for our whole life and have rarely found. And that is becoming our own best friend. We are much more skilled in being a friend to our friends than we are at being a friend to ourselves. In fact, we are skilled in being the opposite. If you were sitting in a restaurant and a person in the booth behind you was saying the same things, which you sometimes say to yourself, you would get up and leave!
It’s quite a shock when you begin to listen to how much your mind critiques how you are doing, pointing out your failings and comparing you to imaginary ideas of how you should look, act, and be. If you had a friend like that, you wouldn’t want to hang out with them!
Every single day, we are bombarded with messages that say we must change ourselves in order to be okay. We must eat better or lose more weight or be more positive or exercise more or get plastic surgery or meditate more. Then our minds say, only when I do all of these things better will I finally accept myself as I am. But in the long run, it doesn’t work because it is based on the belief that you must change yourself in order to be okay. That is like chasing a butterfly with a net that has many holes.
If you’ve had a true friendship, the kind where the foundation is accepting each other as you are, you will begin to see that what you truly long for is to have that kind of friendship with yourself. It is possible to befriend yourself – the only person you wake up with every morning and go to sleep with every night! (Even though your mind may say this is selfish!)
So how do you begin to reach out the hand of friendship to yourself? First, by realizing that you are not perfect. You never have been nor will you ever be, for there is no such thing as a perfect person. Each and every person has strengths and weaknesses, has places where they are skilled and unskilled. One of my favorite Zen quotes is, “Freedom comes when you are without anxiety about non-perfection!”
It is also helpful to acknowledge that as a human being you are required to make mis –takes. They are how you learn and grow. Stephen Levine (who was 6 feet tall) once said, “If you take a step down the path of life you go two feet.
If you fall flat on your face you go 6 feet!” In other words, it is in the places where you don’t do life well that you actually grow! When a teacher once said to me, “With all the mis-takes you’ve made in your life, you have never made a mis-take!” I felt like I was let out of the prison of self-judgment I had been caught in for many, many years.
But we have disregarded and disconnected from ourselves so deeply that we may not even know what it looks like to be friendly with ourselves. There is a wonderful guideline that will help you clarify what you truly need from yourself and that is to imagine what you want another person to give to you.
Maybe it is a father who rejected you. If, in your imagination, he turned into a wonderful father, what would you like to hear from him now? Or maybe it is an old boyfriend/ girlfriend who rejected you. Get clear about what you would like from them, then give it to yourself.
Another doorway into befriending yourself is to imagine a child who is feeling/experiencing the same thing you are and imagine how you would be with them. This will help you to see what you are longing for from yourself. Or as Stephen Levine would often say, “Treat yourself as if you were your only child.”
With all the messages we get that say we have to be different in order to be okay, it takes courage to be authentically as we are, and since the muscle of our self-kindness is weak, it’s helpful to actually schedule it. That means literally putting it in your schedule book. It means carving out some time every day where the most important person in the world is you! (Watch if your mind just said this is being selfish!)
I leave you with some lyrics from the song, The Greatest Love of All, sung by Whitney Houston. It says that falling in love with yourself is the greatest love of all, which is so true. But it also says it is easy to achieve. That is not been my experience. There is so much conditioning that we’ve taken on that rejects and shames parts of ourselves.
So, it’s not easy to bring every single part ourselves back home to our hearts but it is the most powerfully healing thing you can do. Why is it so powerful? Because befriending yourself doesn’t only transform your life; it transforms the lives of everyone you meet, for true kindness arises out of self-kindness. As you fall in love with you as you are, you become a healing presence in the world.
I found the greatest
Love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
SF Source Mary O’Malley Oct 2019