Becoming Friends with Yourself

During my work as a psychiatry trainee as well as my non-work life, I come across a lot of people who are enemies with themselves. I don't mean that they yell "I hate you!" at themselves in the middle of the street, or that they swear at and punch themselves. (Though these things happen). I mean that people treat themselves badly in a way that they wouldn't treat others.

I was guilty of this for years. When I was around 10-12 years old, I lived in an area with a lot of racism. For nearly three years, I was verbally put down at least several times a week. This lead to a sense of insecurity, and a low sense of self worth. I think this (along with other factors, which I won't bore you with today) lead to a development of an internal voice which was critical towards myself.

I would tell myself how crap I was at this or that. I would say how ugly I was, or how no one really liked me and that my friends were hanging out with me because they pitied me. I did not speak out when there were more than two people, because I did not want to risk looking dumb. I was also convinced that no one wanted to hear what I had to say anyways.

Now I am generally a nice person, and would not think of treating someone else the way I did myself. But for some reason, I made myself an exception, and treated myself badly until I graduated from university. It never occurred to me that what I was doing to myself was odd, considering how I treated others, and how I felt that people should be treated in general. When I realized the hypocrisy of my behavior, I decided to change.

I stopped criticising myself. I realized that I would get enough criticism from others, so I would not have to worry about one less voice criticising me. Instead, whenever I completed some task successfully, I would praise myself, often in an exaggerated manner. I decided I would be a friend to myself. This felt very awkward because I was not used to it, but gradually I noticed that it took less and less effort to feel better about myself.

Eventually, my self esteem improved to the point where I didn't find any criticism very painful, and I was only saying positive things to myself. My depression and anxiety which plagued me since my early teens went away.

I noticed other benefits from being on good terms with myself. My brain worked a lot better, as now my subconscious mind aligned with my conscious mind, and stopped fighting each other. I could read and absorb more than I had ever thought I could, and I was getting many more creative thoughts than previously. It was as if a massive obstacle was suddenly removed from my life.

During this journey, I noticed most people were in the same boat as I had been. They are fighting themselves. This is partially why many people are stuck in a place that they don't want to be. Their subconscious constantly throws doubt and fear into their faces. We have all heard the quote that we are our greatest enemy, but the reverse is also true. We can be our greatest ally. I believe that once people learn to treat themselves better, and work together with themselves, they will find that they have more power than they ever thought they had.

JP

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