Why I'm my own best friend
by Ati Balding, 19th June 2023
I have been dumped by so many friends in the past for either being too much or not enough. And - let me be clear - it’s through no fault of theirs but at the time I was deeply wounded by it.
I have been dumped by myself as well – I haven’t always been kind to myself.
And let's not forget that we've also been given messages from others from a very young age about whether we're enough or not or perhaps we haven't been taught how we can be friends with ourselves. These messages are often subliminal which is why most of us won’t recognise where this self-sabotage or not so helpful self-talk comes from.
We may not have been taught that our voice matters or we are selfish for considering our own needs. Our dependency on others supersedes the relationship we have with ourselves, and we get tangled up in the lives of others, so our own needs get pushed to the back. Sometimes we don’t have a choice as we take on a caring role, but we can still cultivate a relationship with ourselves. It is never too late.
Over the years I have cultivated this mostly loving relationship with myself.
I often come back to the younger Ati. Growing up with a stutter I was always self-sufficient as a child, living in my own world and spending a lot of time in my head. I found ways to self soothe and nurture my nervous system and I have my mum to thank for that as well.
Back then I didn’t go on retreats or book myself in for massages or even talk to myself in positive reassuring ways, but I treated myself with kindness, and that was through massaging my hands, talking to my dolls as if they were my friends, my mum taught me to practice gratitude and overtime, this nurturing self-talk travelled with me in the form of mindfulness, mantras and affirmations, self-care and working on boundaries (although the latter has only just come to me!).
If we are continuously being unkind to ourselves, what is that going to do to mind-body?
Our neurons are very clever at the deepest cellular level. Our mind-body stores all of this information and never forgets that every single time we speak badly about and to ourselves (which comes in the form of back chat and negative talk that isn’t helpful or perhaps self-neglect by not exercising or eating well or getting enough sleep, excessive phone usage or scrolling when we know it’s not good for us) our cells and neurons store this information and every single cell in the body reacts.
In my case, when I’m not slowing down and nourishing my nervous system, my autoimmune condition flares up (and absolutely the warnings and signals come well before I take to my bed) however sometimes I don’t listen because my ego takes over and assumes that it knows better.
How many times might you have said to yourself you're so silly or perhaps held your hands to your head and chastised yourself for making a mistake that was simply a human error?
If I catch myself saying an unkind word or treating myself badly, I will treat myself like I would a friend and speak to myself in a self-compassionate manner that is calm and helpful, and it could be ‘you are doing your best Ati’. Even if I had made a mistake I will often sit in the car or take myself off for a walk and say out loud ‘OK you made a mistake or you feel like you've made a mistake, but you've always been enough’ ‘it's categorically enough’ ‘you are OK’ and ‘all is well in your world’.
I have a running commentary throughout the day where I will pat myself on the back or write a note to little Ati to say she's been doing well. And this might sound silly to begin with but it's not - your inner child is always there with you, and they need you to champion them.
I will often write my name in my diary several times a week even if it's a 5-minute break away from my desk. My name is there. I will never forget to do that for myself. I will also take time out to think of times in my life where I have really felt deeply loved, safe and secure and this sends some wonderful signals to my brain to slow down and to take stock of the memories that I have.
I remember clearly after my hysterectomy when I was readmitted with life threatening pulmonary embolisms across both my lungs. My mum reminded me to speak to myself in a compassionate manner.
When we are in fight or flight mode the part of our brain known as the amygdala sends a signal to our limbic system and activates stress or leads us to experience some kind of stress however the more kindness and self-compassion, we show ourselves makes us respond in a kinder way to presenting challenges and I remember doing this every single day I was in hospital.
When one is given hours to live it really shakes things up and I made-up my mind that I was going to appreciate the small things that when added up can lead to a beautiful topsy turvy miraculous life. I was given a second chance. I will never forget this second chance because it's made me who I am today and my biggest achievement apart from surviving (!) is to teach people how to be successful in self-care and that is to start by being their own very friend, confidante, and ally. I really had no choice but to be my own best friend. I had loving support from everyone around me but I was the only one that could heal myself from within.
I don't think there have been studies of people who become their best friend to those that constantly berate themselves, but wouldn't it be interesting to measure this?
So, how do I do it? How am I my best friend?
Starting small is the only way we can build this self-nourishment and kind talk into a habit. Habits, as we know, take practice.
- Write your name in your diary every day even if it's for 5 minutes. Spend time with yourself. Perhaps over time it’ll be an hour or longer.
- Talk to yourself in a compassionate and caring manner - if you find yourself using language that isn't helpful, start again.
- Even when we can’t say nice things to ourselves, just the soothing act of self touch helps. Massaging your crown, face, hands and feet. This act of self-love is deeply nourishing. It sends a wonderful calming signal to the nervous system. I often tell my clients to watch YouTube videos of animals stroking and cleaning each other. It's such a deeply rewarding and relaxing thing to see another human or animal in a deep state of bliss*. Watching this will feed your soul and you will soon be stroking your hair (I know I do!)
- Using simple mantras every day such as ‘I am doing the best’ ‘I am enough’ ‘I am loved’.
- Practice mindful breathing. I’m not suggesting meditating for hours on end.
- Practice being mindful in the way you speak, moving your body with reverence, move kindly and overtime these loving acts store themselves in the archives of your mind, and soon you will reap the wonderful benefits of self-compassion.
- Work on boundaries to cultivate self-confidence and self-esteem.
I will leave you with this: There is only one you and it is so utterly beautiful and unique. Why wouldn’t you be your own best friend and champion? It is never too late.
Ati, of Surrey Hill Wellness, defines herself as a human first. She supports people from all stages of life with their wellbeing, guiding them through the challenges we all face, helping them make connections with their mind, body and soul to find balance through The Sensory Journey.
*There was a study in the social behaviour of the Barbary macaque monkey. They looked at a special behaviour that all monkeys do and that is grooming (where one animal cleans the fur of another and removes dirt and ticks etc) They discovered that the ‘groomer’ appeared to be as equally relaxed as the monkey being groomed, and that even observing others being tended had the same effect. These findings suggest that for monkeys, being cared for —or just watching others —makes them feel good. And can you imagine how true this would be for humans? I often say to my clients when they take care of themselves and listen to their whole mind body not just to their heads all their hearts, they have great clarity, and everything feels and seems more spacious. And the more they do this to themselves they will also impact on this behaviour will also impact those around them and even people they will never meet because the circle of good and kindness and self-care spreads far and wide.