I have this person who follows me around all day. "Idiot!" she yells when I delete the wrong email. "Fat cow," she sneers, when I order an entree instead of a salad for dinner. "Lazybones!" she shrieks, if I turn over for an extra five minutes in bed.
It's very wearing, this constant litany of putdowns and insults. And oddly enough, despite this person being so severe and critical, she doesn't succeed in making me change my behavior. She certainly doesn't build up my confidence or make me feel good about myself in any way. And yet I find it very hard to shake her off.
Compare her with my real friends. These wonderful women tell me I look great when I've made an effort to look good. They tell me to relax, that I'm being too hard on myself. They remind me of things I have accomplished, of things I've done that have made me happy.
The thing is, this other person is me. She is a collection of all the negative judgments, late-night terrors and critical harshness that I have ever experienced. And the really crazy thing is that she is the one I listen to.
Lately I've been thinking about what it means to really love yourself. I've come to the conclusion that doing so is the same as being your own best friend. You enjoy spending time alone; are appreciative of your strengths; and forgive yourself after making mistakes. Best friends are kind, supportive, and respectful of each other. They speak to one another with kindness, know when to offer the other a pep talk, and honor one another's opinions.
It's pretty powerful stuff, this being my own best friend business. But the challenge becomes when we recognize how hard we are on ourselves all of the time. Whether I'm bashing my appearance, my job as a parent, my writing skills, the way I'm dressed or the way I treat my husband, it's more often than not that I'm closer to my own worst enemy than best friend.
I think that being our own best friend becomes a priority when thinking about ways to improve body image. It's a surefire way to turn wanting to have a healthy body imagine into actually having a healthy body image. Think about it: Your best friend would never tell you your thighs are too big or your stomach too jiggly. She would never say that you don't deserve to go out on a Saturday night because you've gained ten pounds, or that you should wait to buy new clothes until you lose weight. She'd never call you or your body cruel names. She'd never tell you to put off living life to the fullest until your body is "perfect." And she'd never think less of you because of the way you look.
I believe we can talk to ourselves about anything. Just as we put ourselves down, we can pull ourselves up. The dark side of each of us, the insulting inner voice, can be challenged and replaced with something more nurturing. If we pay attention to the way we talk to ourselves in private we can learn to correct the harshness and become our own best friend. One way to get rid of that negative voice we hear muttering in our ear is to ask ourselves, "What would my best friend say to me in this moment?" Whatever the answer is - be it that you're beautiful, or capable, or intelligent, or talented - say that to yourself, and make the choice to believe it.