I recently released a guided meditation practice entitled ‘Befriending Yourself.’ It got a huge reaction. Most of it positive, but some were asking questions like ‘Why was it needed?’ ‘Isn’t it a bit self indulgent?’ and ‘Is it the same as self esteem practices?’ I will attempt to answer these questions in this blog post.
So firstly, what is befriending yourself? It is a practice whereby we have compassion for ourselves. We understand that we are going to make mistakes and when we do, instead of berating ourselves, we are kind and caring. We don’t look to blame ourselves or others. We just understand that this is life and we learn from our mistakes and move on. We view our situation in a mindful way. It allows us to accept whatever we are going through non-judgementally. We are not suppressing or exaggerating the situation, we are just viewing it through compassionate are caring eyes.
I believe ‘Befriending Yourself’ is an extremely important practice, and this is why. Over the years I have found that we are very hard on ourselves. When we make a mistake, upset a loved one, put on a few pounds or keep getting carried away by strong emotions, we tend to be harder on ourselves than we would ever be on anyone else. If someone makes a mistake we tell them that it is fine and don’t worry about it. However, if we make the same mistake we tell ourselves we are worthless, stupid or some other derogatory word. We may, mistakenly, believe talking to ourselves in such a way doesn’t matter, but it does!
When we talk to ourselves in this way we become negative, and then it doesn’t matter how good a person we are, how hard we try or how much effort we put in, it is never enough. Failure, no matter how large or small, is not acceptable to us, but failure is a part of life. It is a part of our human existence, because the world is an imperfect place. By being hard on ourselves, we are setting ourselves up to fail. We get trapped in a vicious circle of never ending self abuse.
So we need to stop this destructive way of acting and start having compassion for ourselves. It seems that having compassion for others comes easy, but is very hard for ourselves. Compassion is the deep awareness of another’s suffering, and an understanding that this person is human and so is imperfect. We have to have this same deep awareness of our own suffering and see our imperfections as a human condition, and not a personal thing. This is not being self indulgent or having an over inflated sense of self worth. It is being kind, caring and loving towards ourselves.
This is were Befriending Yourself is different from self esteem practices. Self esteem is based on how much we like or value ourselves, and what we are doing is actually evaluating ourselves against others. The world is so competitive these days and we think we have to be special, or at least above average. But that is a fools game. How can we all be above average?
Because self esteem is about puffing ourselves up, what we are subconsciously doing is putting others down. This can lead to aggression, prejudice, and dare I say it, narcissism.
Befriending ourselves isn’t about being better than someone else, putting others down or judging ourselves against others. It is about understanding and accepting the imperfections of human life – our imperfections. It is about relating to ourselves in a non-judgemental way. If we decide to make changes it is because we care about ourselves, and understand that we are going through a difficult time at the moment. It certainly is not because we feel less than others or need to compete with someone. I personally see it as an emotional safety net or comfort blanket.
Life is not always going to be rosy. We are sometimes going to have off days, and it is during these times that we have to care for ourselves. The more we are able to open up to our human condition, the more we are able to have compassion for ourselves, and then for others. If we do not have compassion for ourselves, how can we have real compassion for others? We cannot give what we don’t have. So become your own best friend and stop fighting this imperfect world.
You can find the Befriending Yourself guided meditation practice here. Go on, try a bit of self compassion today.
You can read more blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos and practice guided meditations on the Buddhism Guide app. Available from the Apple Store and Google Play.