Think about your closest friends. Your friendships may span months, years, or even decades. You might have a dozen best friends you can call on day or night, or maybe your pack has always been small and mighty. Any way you count them, our friends teach us who we are and help us toward who we want to become.
When our life circumstances change, our friends often change with them. Cross-country moves introduce us to new social groups; coupledom expands our inner circles; and parenthood fosters additional bonds. Gone are the days when our closest confidants were just a short drive away. Now, get-togethers are planned months in advance and frequent flier miles are racked up with regularity.
But what about being a good friend to ourselves? We put heart and soul into our sisterhoods (and brotherhoods!) but can forget that it starts with being kind to the fresh face we greet in the mirror each morning.
Self-compassion or treating yourself with the same kindness as you would a close friend, can radically change the way you relate to yourself. Check out these 12 tips for doling out some serious self-love. And while you’re at it, pass ’em on to a friend.
Spend time getting to know yourself better
How well do you really know yourself? It’s easy to put your best foot forward and forget about the parts you keep hidden. But when they surface (and they always do), you can recognize and accept whatever arises as pieces of your complete, imperfect self. Learn what makes you tick and what makes you cry. What do you crave after a long day at the office? What brings you joy and fulfillment? Dig in and let yourself marvel at what you uncover.
2. Focus on your positive traits
You are an abundance. Of good, bad, weak, strong, tender, and tenacious. We all have bad habits and things we’d like to change: about ourselves, our past, even our future. But that doesn’t mean we have to consistently dwell on the negative. Use your faults and weaknesses as stepping stones to create something positive. When your mind wanders back to the negative, remind yourself of what grew from it.
3. Show yourself compassion
We are naturally compassionate beings, but can be unmoved by, even insensitive to our own suffering. Be patient and gentle with yourself, especially when you’re struggling. This is when we most need a little tenderness and shouldn’t have to look any farther than ourselves to find it.
4. Do a random act of kindness for yourself
Leave yourself a cheerful Post-it. Eat your lunch outside. Let yourself sleep in. Cook your favorite meal. Take a new route home that intrigues you. Have an impromptu visit with someone you love. No act is too big or too small. Soak up your own thoughtfulness and reap the rewards.
5. Honor your needs
We often rush to fulfill our wants without focusing on what we’re really needing. If you’re unsatisfied in a particular area of your life, think about what your inner needs are. You may need work that brings you fulfillment, a relationship that lets you feel heard, or a space that reflects your taste and values. No one’s needs are all the same, so don’t let others steer you away from what’s most important to you. By honoring your own needs, you make room to honor all your talents and strengths that manifest as a result.
6. Be honest with yourself
Sometimes we have a harder time being honest with ourselves than we do with others. The truths we tell ourselves are the ones we live by, so we’d better be sure they’re on point. This means knowing when we’ve messed up and when we’ve succeeded. It means trusting our inner voice, but not being afraid to question it from time to time. It means finding room to forgive ourselves when we stray, reflect on our values when they’re challenged, and stand by our convictions when we know they’re worth fighting for.
7. Learn how to have fun by yourself
Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, it’s important to be comfortable in your own company. Learn to enjoy it! Go sightseeing and travel at your own pace. See a movie with a friend and then see it again by yourself. Take a book to your favorite coffee shop and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells. Experiment and see what else you can come up with.
8. Realize that you are fundamentally worthy
This one might look easy on the surface, but how often do we live with this in mind? Our self-perceived worth can rise and fall a dozen times a day because we evaluate it based on unstable criteria: a conversation with our partner, an ad on television, a performance review. The truth is, you are as worthy on your best days as you are on your worst. Your worth comes from within, so start owning it because it’s not going anywhere.
9. Say attentive and affectionate things to yourself (Yes, out loud!)
You say these things to others, so why not to yourself? I’m not suggesting you start having regular conversations aloud with yourself — that’s sure to warrant a few questions! But make a habit of lifting yourself up each day with a compliment or a few words in the morning to boost your spirits before you get out of bed. You’ll be surprised at how natural it feels and how much it can improve the course of your day.
10. Listen to your body
There will always be pressure to look a certain way, as beauty standards are constantly changing. We often forget that societal trends are much less important than our own body’s signals. Make friends with your insecurities and embrace them as part of what makes you whole. When it comes to eating habits and exercise, tune in to what works best for you.
11. Accept rather than punish yourself
If you’re tempted to punish yourself, you’ve likely already suffered: from an argument, a disappointment, a personal failure, or maybe just a plain rotten day. Think about how you’d treat a friend in the same situation. Maybe you’d encourage them to see their strengths, draw their attention to what’s within their control, or remind them that their pain isn’t permanent. Start doing this for yourself. Recognize when you’re being hard on yourself and change course. It’s easy to accept ourselves when we’re feeling on top of the world, but it’s just as important when we’re feeling run down by it.
I’ll end with an easy-peasy: treat yourself! Don’t wait until it’s your birthday or until you snag that big promotion. Celebrate you! I love getting gifts for others. Giving is my nature. But I’m reminding myself that in order to give to others, I first have to give to myself. So whether you crave a milkshake or a glass of wine, a day out shopping or a walk in the woods, treat yourself just because. (A pedicure and a pint of ice cream have been known to work wonders for this therapist.)
Emily Rose Barr is Space Between Counseling Services’ newest LGPC. A Midwest Native and Mid-Atlantic Transplant, Emily has called Charm City home since 2012 when she began her graduate studies in Counseling Psychology at Loyola University Maryland.
Emily enjoys working with adults who are struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety, life transitions, difficult relationships, and forming a healthy identity. She firmly believes in the importance of self-care and self-compassion and encourages her clients to look inward to reconnect with the parts of themselves they often keep hidden, while cultivating healthy ways of engaging with the world around them so they can feel confident, relaxed, and joyful.
Emily is also a freelance writer, and publishes a monthly wellness and self-care column for Baltimore Style Magazine. When she’s not in the therapist or writer’s chair, Emily can be found chasing the sun, ticking books off her to-read list (often with a cup of tea in hand), playing with her sweet pup Lyla, and whipping up the best desserts. Emily is currently accepting new clients. Book your free 15-minute phone consultation today!