I have heard many times that early 20s are the years of personal discovery and self-growth. You are trying to figure out what career you want to pursue while your friend circles are getting smaller. You are wondering who you are, and if you are like me, you are probably exploring your values and morals to guide your decisions. I thought the sentiments I felt only existed in Young Adult coming-of-age tales. However, at the outset of my graduate studies, I realized they are very much real-life questions.
My first year living on my own for my graduate studies was one of the most challenging years of my life thus far. I was exploring my passion for my field of study, but also pondering upon the changing dynamics of my relationships with individuals in my social circle. Despite the academic and personal challenges, such as transitioning into graduate studies and moving out of my parents’ home, I was determined to use this change as an avenue to discover my interests, values, and priorities. All of this can be very overwhelming, especially if all of these questions arise all at the same time. I found myself being too hard on myself as I swam through an ocean of questions about my identity, values and life goals. It can be very tough; however, through my involvement with personal discovery initiatives and interactions with my real-life best friend, I realized that I can face these challenges better by doing one simple thing: becoming my own best friend. My real-life best friend reminded me that change is the only constant in life and that I cannot enjoy the ‘highs’ of life without experiencing the ‘lows’. Due to my relationship with my real-life best friend and the way they supported me, I reflected on ways through which I can support myself. After months of reflection on my values and relationships, below is a list I generated to invest in my relationship with myself. The crux of this list is treating yourself as your dear best friend.
Be there for yourself
You are always there for your real-life best friend. They are always there for you. To be your own best friend, you have to be there for yourself under all circumstances and regardless of who else is there for you.
Listen to yourself
A great characteristic of a ‘bff-ship’ is the empathetic listening which leads to the strengthening of your relationship with your real-life best friend. Applying the same listening skills to yourself can be very impactful. For example, if you have been working hard and your mental health is being compromised, you have to listen to what your mind and body tell you.
Be kind to yourself
Real-life best friends are kind to each other. They remind each other that it is okay if things don’t work out. It is also okay to make mistakes. By showing kindness to yourself, you are investing in your relationship with yourself. The key is to be forgiving to yourself, just the way you are towards your real-life best friend.
Give yourself space
Your real-life best friend is always there for you, but they also give you your space when you need it. Let’s say you worked extremely hard to do well on an exam, but you did not do that well. Your real-life best friend is most likely to give you your space, so you can reflect on your experiences. Similarly, giving yourself space to make mistakes and learn from them can help you accept yourself the way you are.
Although you may not actively engage in reflection practices with your real-life best friend, reflection helps you move forward. I have personally found that reflecting on my experiences helps me appreciate my efforts and the quality of my work. Reflection also allows me to critically think about the mistakes I have made and how I can avoid them in the future.
Loving yourself is difficult, yet it is the most important part of developing a strong friendship with yourself. It can take on various forms for different people. Loving yourself might mean taking a vacation after a long stretch of work or it could mean treating yourself to a face mask tonight. Doing anything that brings you peace and joy can be an opportunity to love yourself.
A while ago, my real-life best friend told me that no matter who comes and who leaves, the longest and the most important relationship I am going to have is with myself, so it is worth working on my friendship with myself. Your journey to becoming your own best friend may look very different from mine as it is highly influenced by your relationships with others. Remember to invest in your relationship with yourself as if you are your own best friend, and nurture it with honesty, genuineness, and wholesomeness.