The Importance of Being Your Own Best Friend

In these divisive times, it's never been more important to have friends, and, especially for many intersectional feminists who live in conservative areas, never tougher to make them.

Which is why, among lots of other reasons, it's important to be your own best friend.

First of all, let us be clear that, as so perfectly articulated by Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) on The Mindy Project, "best friend" is not a person. It's a tier.

split screen of Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) saying 'How many best friends from college do you have?' and Mindy replying 'A best friend isn't a person, Danny. It's a tier.'

Secondly and relatedly, let me stipulate that I am not suggesting you be your own best friend to the exclusion of other best friends. This is about making sure that you part of the Best Friend Tier, one of as many best friends as you can have, for yourself.

Being your own best friend isn't easy, since nobody knows all of your flaws and all of your insecurities better than you do. No one, not even your closet, oldest friend, can do an impression of the collected voices who drag you down with urgent whispers better than you can.

But there are three things to remember, when being your own best friend gets hard:

1. Never to hold yourself to standards to which you'd never hold anyone else. This is an important practice in self-care of all sorts, including esteem-building. (For me, it was critical to my body acceptance journey, for instance.)

Letting go of outward judgment is Step One: In our profoundly sick culture of judgment, one of the most important — so simple, so difficult — bits of social justice teaspooning we can all do is simply refuse to judge other people's appearance and choices, which has ramifications both culturally and personally.

Judgment is, at its roots, projection — evaluating people's deviations from a standard we endorse. We are thus quick to see our own "flaws" in others. Judgment reinforces our own shortcomings, reflects our perceived failures back to us, makes it difficult to love ourselves when we see our own supposed defects everywhere we look.

Loving ourselves, "flaws" and all, is an integral part of dismantling the rigid tyranny of the Perfection Dictate, present in everything from the kyriarchal Beauty Standard to the expectation we meet an unattainable level of undiluted fabulousness suggested by carefully curated social media influencers. By embracing our Less Than Perfectness, we refute the obligation to conform to any standard that purports to be universally achievable and demand we be judged by a measure of our own making.

And we grant ourselves the right to be happy in who we are.

It's funny how much easier it is to grant that right to everyone else having once gifted it to yourself.

Letting go of the culturally-imposed compulsion to judge everyone is hugely freeing — a gift to ourselves that makes self-acceptance a helluva lot easier, and a gift to everyone else who steps into our gazes, to whom we can extend the same generosity and esteem.

The most important thing I have ever done for my own sense of value, the most profound kindness I have ever offered to myself, is to take a long look at the deeply unreasonable, inherently condemnatory, nakedly cruel, worth-subverting, kyriarchy-entrenching, target-moving, can't-fucking-win Perfection Dictate in its impossibly unachievable face and tell it to fuck off.

I am a much better friend to myself, now.

2. Remember that you're never alone. Sometime the hardest time to be a friend to ourselves is when we're feeling lonely. When that voice in our head starts spiraling, playing on a loop the scary, painful words I don't have anyone, it's crucial to remember, and to tell yourself: Yes, you do. You have YOU.

And you — wonderful, idiosyncratic, deeply empathic, funny, flawed, smart, wounded, strong, complicated person who is committed to leaving the world a little better than they found it — are pretty fucking great.

What luck that you have all the best parts of you to keep you company and see you through.

3. You can be the friend to yourself that you need. You know what you need better than anyone else does. You know what you need without even having to put it into words. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure it out, but no one will ever be able to figure it out better than you can.

We're not always capable, at least not right away, of giving ourselves what we need. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need lots of help. Sometimes being your own best friend is just about asking for help.

There are, of course, so many things that can stand in the way of being good to ourselves, of loving ourselves, of having the resources we need to take care of ourselves.

Like, sometimes our brains want to be our own worst enemies, vicious saboteurs and abusers, instead of our own best friends.

It's not always going to be possible, but it's a worthy effort to try.

It's worth it to try to be a voice of encouragement that is equal, in volume and authority, to the voice that tells you that you can't, or that you shouldn't, or that you aren't good enough.

After all, your best friend would never let anyone else get away with shit-talking you like that.

[Related Reading: The Best of Friends and Let's Be Radical.]

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