Sometimes it’s hard to be our own best friend when we’re also our own worst enemy. We’ve been taught we need to regulate ourselves, but we haven’t been taught how, so we do it in all the wrong ways. We don’t need to curb our enthusiasm, we need to know when to employ it. We have somehow forgotten that of all the people in this lifetime we will meet and get to know, only one is sure to stay here from head to toe.
We can be our own best friend, and it’s well worth the effort. Not just because we’re stuck with ourselves – since no matter where you go, there you are, but because we’re the best resource for others who want to know us as well. No one can know us like we know ourselves, but we don’t automatically come knowing everything, since we’re inside of our experiences and living them out organically while we discover the world and ourselves within it. It takes time and effort to get to know ourselves, and then project ourselves outward.
Building our identity and growing into it is not just a selfish gesture. We occupy space and time in our communities, our jobs, our relationships – in this world. We absolutely affect those around us with our choices, even when we choose inaction or retreat. Whether or not we’d rather be noticed has no bearing on the fact that we are. Humans aren’t playing blackjack with the world as some authoritarian dealer – they’re playing poker and they trade off being dealer in turns.
As we have no choice but to be part of our surroundings, it’s up to us to define who we are and what we’re doing. It’s up to us to recognize our shortcomings, weaknesses, oversights; our failings and fears. But it’s not just our mistakes we need to learn about, since those tend to linger malignantly picking away out our confidence and self respect anyway. There’s something far more important and often neglected in our sense of self, in who we are.
We need to learn what’s best about ourselves: our strengths, our skills, our abilities, our greatness. If we don’t sufficiently find those out then how are to help them grow and flourish? We’ve got to see them as our keys to making ourselves who want to be, and by extension, remake the world into the better place it could be. It’s up to us to see and share the best parts of ourselves for the greater good, just as much as we need to own our faults in efforts to overcome them.
Loving ourselves has become an onus though, some sort of terrible obligation. Many of us have been taught to hate ourselves, or simply disregard ourselves as irrelevant. Most of that comes from disempowerment through manipulation from outside forces like the marketplace and the media (kissing cousins to say the least). But those pressures are very real and have dire consequences in the form of a highly unstable, emotional populace that is confused and scared about everything.
As much as loving ourselves has become a fad, it’s disingenuous often, or misunderstood. Defensiveness is not the same as pride or respect. It has become commonplace to see people joking about self hatred, even suicide and declaring “don’t judge me!” – both online and in public settings. These are clearly cries for self love in a time when it’s still not being achieved effectively by the masses, despite clichés and platitudes being tossed around extravagantly. It’s understandable and part and parcel of loving ourselves to accept ourselves as we are – but that means actual acceptance, not loudly expressing something we still judge as inadequate.
True self love is very difficult to achieve, I’m not going to minimize or deny that. But recent trends have led to a disturbing mix of defensive self loathing and wretched insecurity that are derived from a number of sources, notably broader societal pressure to seem “well adjusted” when we’re simply not. Or to avoid being burdensome to others, seeing ourselves as damaged or broken. In fact, that narrative of being broken or damaged has been woven into the stories and culture that are passed along to our next generation as well. We see it in in memes online, hear it in songs, and tragically, it’s been wrapped up in our visions of love.
So many feel like they are incomplete, because that’s what they’ve absorbed from messages in their surroundings. When we discount and dishearten ourselves that way, we take the pain handed to us by outside forces and re-victimize ourselves with it regularly. Each one of us may have struggled in our time, and may show scars from trouble along the way. But that’s the best part about being human, we’re malleable – our parts cannot truly break like things mechanical. Our hearts do not break as we’ve been told, they get bruised and battered but each still holds some grain of hope, even in a sea of confusion, no matter how despondent we get.
But there is someone still there in the bottom of that well of doubt and misery we can fall into. It’s the only person who can remind us that messages may abound, but it’s what’s inside us that counts in the end. We may drive others away, or tell them we’re fine, or they may even leave us behind on purpose. Yet still there remains in the darkest of places, one person we can always count on. Maybe we’ve kicked this one while down, maybe we’ve left ourselves hanging out to dry, maybe sometimes we forget or give up for a little while, but there’s still one person we haven’t yet managed to get rid of despite it all.
We can and should and desperately need to turn and look at the person inside each of us. We’ve got to hold on tight and never let go, and love that one like we love comfort and fun.
I used to think it was just another pop song, but I’ll turn it into my anthem now.
I couldn’t say it better myself: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”