I'll never forget the day that someone told me these words: "Madison, I think you're a good friend to everyone but yourself." I stood there completely in awe of that statement. Before that day, I never really thought about being a friend to myself, and at the time, I didn't really know what it meant. Now, I realize that you can't fully be there for other people unless you're there for yourself, too. You can't show up for others until you're willing to show up for yourself.
Here are five things everyone should learn in order to be a better friend to themselves. These steps are hard, but they're so worth it.
1. Learn to say no, and actually mean it
This is one of the hardest things for me to do. I'm an enneagram 2, for goodness sake — I love to help and I'm happiest when I'm busy. I've realized that I over-commit and burn myself out, simply because I'm afraid of letting other people down. I often worry that if I don't do something, they won't like me.
By no means am I advocating for everyone to walk around and say "no" to everything, but I want to encourage you to be intentional about what you put your time and energy into each day. Pick a few things that you genuinely want to do and commit to them.
I struggle with saying no, but I've come up with two questions to ask myself when an opportunity arises: Do I genuinely want to do this? If not, is there a chance that I might be taking an opportunity away from someone else who does — someone who will do the job just as well, or even better than me?
2. Realize that doing your best does not mean sacrificing your health
Too often, we're judged so much on our performance and output that our health often becomes secondary. I hope you know that doing your best and striving for excellence does not mean rejecting your basic needs and overall wellbeing. Doing your best does not mean perfection, and trust me, this is something that I'm very much working on myself.
Just as it's important to set clear expectations in our outside relationships, we have to do the same with ourselves. This might look like allowing yourself to take a nap, even though you have five hours of work left. It might look like showering and getting dressed, even if you don't feel like it. It might mean putting the textbooks away for the night and watching an episode of your favorite Netflix show instead.
Something that's helpful in this endeavor is having friends that actively encourage and hold you accountable to your physical and mental health as well. You can also do this on your own by setting a timer or a schedule. In high school, I had a rule that if I wasn't finished with my work for the day by nine, I would go to bed. Now, I give myself thirty minutes each day to do something that I enjoy that's free of work, whether that be listening to music or going for a walk. It's the little things that end up being the big things — take them seriously.
3. Enjoy your own company
As an extrovert, I'm someone who adores being around people. I've started realizing that part of being a good friend to myself is setting time to be alone. Being alone used to terrify me — sometimes, it still does. Yet, I've found that setting time each day to do something independently is valuable.
Whether that be writing poetry, browsing Pinterest for inspirational quotes (yes, I'm definitely that girl), or making a quick run to Target, I'm working to incorporate some alone-time into my daily routine. For you, this might look like going for a run or taking yourself out to get your favorite Starbucks drink. For others, this might mean cooking your favorite dinner and binge-watching your favorite show for hours.
If you don't want to schedule out time each day to do something for yourself, you can also pick a certain day each week to treat yourself and enjoy your own company. As strange as it sounds, taking time for yourself is the foundation of your relationships with others. It's not selfish, and quite honestly, it's one of the most selfless things that you can do. I've found that having a clear view of myself has given me greater clarity in my relationships with others. Most importantly, I'm aware of what I bring to the table and no longer tolerate those who don't.
4. Realize that not everyone deserves a front-row seat to your life (and you don't need a front-row seat to theirs)
Embracing this truth might mean something different for all of us. For some, it might mean unfollowing accounts on social media that continually make you feel unworthy. It might mean limiting your time on social media. For others, it might mean distancing yourself from others who don't make you the best version of yourself. By all means, be kind and respect them, but realize that you don't need to be everyone's best friend.
You don't have to like everyone, and they don't have to like you. You owe it to yourself to surround with those who are dedicated to your well-being and give you energy instead of taking it from you. As difficult as it is, you can love people and want the best for them but not allow them back into your life. Wish them well, and realize that gaining them isn't worth losing yourself. You owe it to yourself to unfollow your ex or remove yourself from toxic friendships.
The same is true for others. Respect the boundaries that they might put in place, and realize that you don't need to know every detail of their lives, either. Seek out people who continually build you up. These are the people who do deserve a front-row seat to your life. Seek relationships that speak life into your bones and give you a sense of purpose, but realize that these relationships don't define who you are.
5. Give yourself grace
Your relationship with yourself takes work, just like your relationships with other people. It's OK if there are moments where you slip up and think that you've failed. Those moments will come, and it's these moments that push you to grow as a person. It's these moments that will ultimately define your character and shape who you hope to be. You are worthy of the love that you so freely give to others — use that truth to advocate for yourself. Live fiercely and do big things, but remember that even if you didn't do these things, you would still be just as wonderful. You don't have to be perfect. I promise, and I'm still learning, too.
You are worthy of every good thing that comes your way. Don't ever forget it.