Being My Own Friend

During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.

Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.

If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:

“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”

Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:

“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?

I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.

Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.

She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):

What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?

What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like  working with me?

This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.

I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.

“I’m a failure.”

What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.

This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.

I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.

We deserve to be our own best friend.

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17 thoughts on “Being My Own Friend

    1. Thanks Athina. Yes, she most certainly is good. I got lucky in finding her. Any progress is better than no progress. That’s what I’m going to tell myself when I feel I should be “healed” by now. Baby steps. I actually tried practicing that self-compassion at work today. I made some embarrassing mistakes, and found myself starting to get angry and hating myself again. So I made a conscious effort to practice self-compassion, by telling myself that it’s normal to make mistakes, especially since I’ve only been doing this job for not even 2 weeks yet. I’m still learning the job. It was a damn hard effort to put this stuff into practice, haha! Hopefully it will start getting easier and more automatic the more I do it. 😉

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      1. Your new job is still very fresh & is also very exciting for you. I am glad you put self-compassion into practice today..Good for you for trying..It does get easier but yes, it is bloody hard work! 😉 ..I never thought I would feel as self-compassionate towards myself a few years ago, as I do now..It does take practice and the support from other empathetic, ‘safe’ people. 🙂

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        1. Thanks for sharing your experience. It gives me hope. 🙂 I’ve been finding that the relationship my therapist and I have, has already started changing how I view my other relationships as well. I’m learning to set healthier boundaries, let go of negative “unsafe” people and focus on the few people who make a positive difference in my life. Another form I self-care I think. 😉

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  1. Its only really in the past year or so I have been able to discuss with the harsh inner critic the reason it is wrong with a lot of what it tells me. I started to talk to myself as I would a child that was in pain on those dark days with lots of love, softness, firmness and encouragement. It really does help. Undoing those old thought patterns is lots of work but its well worth it. Would anyone else really speak as harshly as we do to ourselves. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. I’m glad you’ve started treating yourself better. It makes sense that you started talking to yourself like you would with a child… A lot of our inner dialogue has evolved through the years as we’ve grown, but there’s still that child in us that longs to be handled with love, gentleness and care, which we perhaps didn’t have from our caregivers. I was spoken to very harshly as a child, and even told that I was a mistake and no one really wants me. So that’s what I believed growing up. But I can change those negative words now and start healing that inner child. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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  2. Hi
    You’re moving forward, you went to therapy, you shared your feelings, insecurities and she offered up a tool to try, she did her job, you see and pay her to help you learn how to overcome obstacles on your own. The tool may not work, she has to keep giving ideas, it’s up to you on how committed you are in working with tool. You have a Mental Illness, there is no cure, no time frame to get better by, no assurance when we feel better we won’t take another dive. You know these things, your illness is driving the car. I don’t have BPD so it’s not for me to say what you will or won’t do or will or won’t work. I was diagnosed at 19, I’m 52, the Black Dog of Bipolar Disorder is part of me, I had to learn how to live with my illness and when I can’t what to do. There are many times I’ve needed help, Psychiatric Hospital, 20 ECT treatments, Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in the chest, taken over 40 different Rx’s. I’ve been suicidal, delusional and just last month went thru total withdraw from one I’m addicted to, not my choice, CVS doesn’t know how to handle an increase in dosage when you bring a new script in. My life has sucked so many times, years, I won’t even use the excuse of my background. I had to come to terms, when I can’t, ask for help and there is a plan in place. A system prepared in agreement with husband on when to call my doc and when it’s time to head to Zale Hospital. I don’t know what your future holds or the obstacles to overcome to feel better. I’ve seen the same therapist for 17 years or so, she does me no favors by reassuring me my shitty days are ok. You are young, you set high maybe to high expectations, I do to, but you have to learn when the goal is unreasonable. In the future I believe research and technology will offer more options for people with mental illness.
    Be gentle on yourself, keep working on the balance of negative talk, and keep challenging her to help you with other ideas to help keep the voices down.
    You’re very smart, I understand the feeling of wanting to feel better now, we have to do our part and the rest we can’t control. We have to learn to not use our illness as a crutch.
    When you get some forward motion that you can recognize chances are you will feel better.
    Keep praying for guidance.
    🙂
    M

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. I want to reply properly, but I can’t seem to consolidate my thoughts, or even know what it is I want to say. Please just know that I appreciate your words. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with me too. 🙂

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  3. I SO relate to this post as the way I speak to myself I would never speak to anyone else. One of my most frequent comments to myself is “for fuck’s sake!” whenever I make a mistake I’m just totally intolerant. I’m not that tolerant if other people make a mistake either but maybe if I start being kinder to myself I can spread the love and tolerance around to others. I think this harsh self-criticism is typical of BPD my mother was incredibly critical and told me I was useless and selfish bitch when I was a child. A lot of my negative thoughts come from her. Great that you are bonding with your therapist and that she is making you work through your negative thoughts. It is so important that close bond with a therapist.

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    1. Intolerant is the word. I’m tolerant with others, but not as much with myself. I need to find that balance. I’m sorry your mother spoke to you that way. It hurts when those who are supposed to love us the most are the ones who hurt us the most. The therapeutic bond is very important, I agree. But sometimes it’s painful to feel that close to someone.

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