Being your own best friend is the secret to amazing compassion.
One of the most common human desires is the desire to change the world for the better. Even though we grow up in different places, meet different people, and carry different spiritual beliefs, many people find themselves looking for ways to make the world better. You want to be the friend that brings joy to those around them and the stranger that provides help in a time of need. You probably yearn for a career that moves humanity in a positive direction. Compassion is important to many people, but sometimes we struggle to act in accordance with this value.
Many of the people that hurt us actually have good intentions. They simply haven’t found the best way to express themselves. With that in mind, here is a simple and essential piece of the compassion puzzle:
Be Your Greatest Friend
What is friendship at its core? It’s not about what you do with your friend or the status they give you. At its core, friendship is based on the support you provide each other. Friends pick you up when you’re feeling down, show you a good time when you need it, and believe in you as much, if not more, than you believe in yourself. Good friends often see you as a sum greater than all your parts.
To truly learn compassion, you must learn how to see yourself as a sum greater than the individual parts. Its necessity boils down to one key fact of humans:
We spend each moment of our lives projecting our beliefs and ideas onto the things happening around us.
Therefore, the things we believe about ourselves slowly moves its way into how we see everything around us.
Our ability to be compassionate to those around us is constantly affected by these beliefs. If we start to believe that we won’t ever be loved the way we want, it becomes more difficult to see the love people are trying to show us. When we let the disappointment of a failure turn into self-hatred, it becomes incredibly hard to see the world around us as anything other than a mix of hatred.
The brightest, most loving people I’ve gotten know in my life all have ways of reassuring themselves and caring for their mental and emotional health. They believe in themselves despite their failures and they remain kind to themselves regardless of the circumstances.
How to Start Being Your Own Friend
Just like friendship with another person, there is always room to be a better friend to yourself. Through new information and actions, we all have the opportunity to support ourselves better.
Friends Support and Reassure
People are biologically wired to find negativity in most situations. It doesn’t require much focus to pick out everything that is wrong with your life right now. Most mistakes and regrets make themselves apparent within a few days. Frustration and disappointment happen whether we want them to our not. Instead of obsessing over or intensifying these emotions, tell yourself that it’s okay to have difficult emotions. Reassure yourself that you are strong and resilient. Acknowledge the problems in your life when they make themselves apparent, but consciously focus on finding the parts of yourself and your lifestyle that you enjoy.
Don’t let doubts stop you from doing the things you want to do. When doubts show up, as they inevitably will, arm yourself with the important reasons for continuing. Acknowledge your fears and worries, but remind yourself that you are capable of overcoming the obstacles placed in your way. Speak the words of encouragement a good friend would offer and allow yourself to act through fear and anxiety.
For years, I struggled with social anxiety. I was afraid to talk to people, I avoided public bathrooms whenever I could, and the pressure I put on myself often took all of the joy out of daily life. I knew my social skills were abysmal, while also expecting myself to be nearly perfect in every situation. I had no idea how to be a friend to myself, and it made helping others and holding any form of responsibility extremely difficult. Once I learned how to be okay with my awkwardness, I gradually became more confident. I started to learn how to emotionally support myself and I continue to learn each day.
Compassion Has No on or off Switch
Compassion is not something you can turn on and off at will. It is a mentality that sticks with you wherever you go. It’s impossible to go back and forth between chastising ourselves and praising others without one carrying over to the other.
Opportunities to set a higher baseline for compassion waltz their way into our lives nearly every day. Just yesterday, I found myself frustrated with how a test had gone. Sure, it was a small grievance, but it still forced me to make a decision. Would I focus on the disappointment, letting it hold my attention throughout the night, or would I lead myself with kind words that a friend might offer me? I chose to remind myself of the good work I had done leading up to that test.
Situations vary and sometimes channeled anger can lead to a positive result, but those circumstances are rare. Many of our long-term struggles are a result of us being too hard on ourselves. Finding a way to be compassionate when things don’t work out as planned isn’t a sign of weakness. It serves as a platform to create a healthy relationship with yourself in the future. Compassion for yourself can’t be dismissed as an obstacle to success, because it is a necessary part of enjoying that success and being able to share it with others.