The Greatest Love of All

“Be your own best friend” is great advice, but it does beg the question how would you get along with your best mate if you were to spend every single minute, of every single day with them?  No toilet breaks.  Every.  Waking.  Second.  With.  Them.

Spending an entire lifetime with anyone, from the minute you are born to the very last breath you take is never going to be a bump-free journey, there will be fights along the way, but if you make that person a firm friend it will go a lot smoother.

It is after all a unique situation; you are the only person that you have to spend your WHOLE life with.  Everyone else can ultimately be escaped from, even those that require a Sleeping-With-The-Enemy-style fake-your-own-death level of effort (but let’s not talk about Grandad again this week).

Fair’s fair, everybody already knows they SHOULD “love themselves”, SHOULD feel they’re “worth it” and SHOULD “be their own best friend” which can make you feel even more of a failure during those times when you find yourself difficult to be around.  With that in mind my aim here is to impart as many helpful tips as I can.

You might wonder what qualifies me to give this advice, and the simple answer is absolutely nothing, but equally there is NOTHING stopping me either. 

I don’t know if it just comes naturally to me, or if I watched too many episodes of the A-Team as a child, but I’m so supportive of myself that I would more accurately be described as “my own best-enabler”.

This is how most people’s inner critic sounds if they eat a biscuit when they should be on a diet:-

Whereas I’m more like:-

First tip, be gentle with yourself, start out slow by looking out for opportunities to either compliment or support yourself with kindness. 

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.  Easy right?  Wrong.   It is actually easier to be critical than it is to be constructive so you’re going to have to put some effort in.  Look at the judges on any reality TV show, who looks like they’re working hardest Simon Cowell or Alesha Dixon?

Sometimes an easier way to deal with internal criticism is to think of it the other way around – what would you do if your best friend had just said that to you? 

I’ll level with you, I used to have a vicious inner critic but I didn’t like her so I stopped listening to her, not by ignoring what she said but by internally screaming “SHUT UP!” before she got her first word out.  It took a while but that b**ch backed the hell down eventually.

Remember that ALL human beings are both fabulous AND flawed, those are not separate groups.  Stop being so hard on yourself, and start defending yourself instead.

You will spend your entire life with YOU, right from the very start to the very end.  The only respite you will get from yourself is sleep, and during your twenties some bouts of alcohol-induced unconsciousness, so my advice is to make good friends with yourself early on if you can, but if you didn’t, it is NEVER too late to start.

Show More Than You Tell

There is a well-known writing mantra “show don’t tell” that applies equally well in life.  What you show people with your actions informs them about you far more than what you tell them about yourself.

Now just to be clear I’m not advocating for less talking, anyone who has met me knows that I will pretty much narrate my entire day to anyone who’ll listen, but what I am saying is people need to SEE who you are, as well as hear it.

Most people who care about each other, friends and relatives alike, show their respect for one another by consulting each other on matters than concern them both. 

It’s not always straightforward, admittedly. 

When arranging to meet up most people stipulate a few available dates.  Naturally, the other person won’t be able to make any of those dates, so they’ll then suggest some alternatives.  You then both get out your diaries and 4 short hours later you’ll have arranged to meet 2 months on Wednesday!

That’s how most people do things.  It is of course not how Grandad El Paso does things.  He likes to start with an angry answer-phone message to suggest he’s not at fault.

Then he makes an offer you can’t refuse, but still might not receive.

Am I being unfair?  I mean, sometimes he rings for a chat …when he’s stuck in traffic.  Also, if he’s stuck on a train, or- no, it’s pretty much only when he’s stuck en-route somewhere.  Nothing says “I love you” like “I had some time on my hands so I might as well”.

Still, when he does eventually turn up for a visit, every three months or so, it is of course the quality of the time we spend together that counts.  When he walks through that door, looks me in the eye, waves his phone at me and says:-

I choose to believe that him doing his phone admin the second he walks through my door is just his way of letting me know he cares, because clearly he’s really inconvenienced himself to come and visit us.

Whilst I maintain that the dog is definitely Grandma’s favourite child, she does tell us and show us she cares, in a variety of ways.  She voluntarily babysits (ha-ha fool!) and she brings us regular food parcels of fruit …although that could just be a comment on our eating habits? 

Also she tells me I don’t open my windows often enough – which tells me that she cares enough to look over and check up on us.  To maintain this beautiful ritual, and to let her know I care, I only open the ones she can’t see from her house.

So, if you want people to know who you really are, or you want them to know how much you care, don’t just tell them, SHOW them.

Relax, Do It

Frankie Goes to Hollywood was wrong when they sang “Relax, don’t do it”, you absolutely should do it (not the thing Frankie was talking about – bad analogy really) I’m talking about the relaxing. 

Life is full of relentless demands over which we have no control: work deadlines, house cleaning, form filling, insurance arranging, meal making, nose-blowing, lawn-mowing and list-making.  If you don’t take a break from those, and find some time for yourself, the minutiae of life can over-run you and bring you down.

“Me Time” sounds like something that involves incense and candles, and maybe some gentle-yet-potentially-crippling stretching; it can, but it can alternatively involve reading a book, watching a film, taking a walk or playing a computer game.  It is anything you do that is just for you.

I heard your giant gasp from the future and yes, I did just say you should play computer games, SOMETIMES. 

In a world where we are encouraged to work “smarter” to fit more in, to “clean whilst you lean” and generally “do more with less” we are missing out on essential downtime to rejuvenate ourselves.

In the olden days, before technology filled our every waking hour by making us infinitely contactable and in touch with the world, people used to have a little thing called “thinking time”. 

Have you ever concentrated on a problem so hard you got a head-ache but not much else?  Then you give up and do something else and the solution appears as if by magic?  Well, it’s not magic it’s a direct result of you taking a break.

I agree that occasionally pressure can be a great motivator; sure, without it I’d never get any exercise.

But to get the best out of ourselves we also need a little bit of downtime to balance things out and allow our brains to recover.

Find some time for yourself, each day if you can, each week if you can’t, and stop berating yourself for times when you feel like you’ve “done nothing”.  Human beings are amazing creatures who are always doing something, even when they appear to be doing little.

Make sure that some of the time that thing you are doing is resting, re-charging your batteries, processing problems sub-consciously and, most importantly, enjoying being alive.