Every now and then I get an email from someone who’s struggling with something. Usually it’s shyness, procrastination, or not knowing what to do with their life. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I always reply back with a few words I hope prove helpful.
Yesterday I realized that I was including one specific piece of advice in almost all those replies. And it’s pretty simple: Be your own best friend.
“One of the hallmarks of a professional is the ability to be his own best friend.” – Steven Pressfield
Now I don’t mean you should just be any old best friend to yourself. I mean you should be the best damn friend in the history of the universe.
What would that kind of friend be like?
- I imagine she’d be a hot Asian chick who’d be cool with sleeping over every now and then, but that’s just me.
- She’d realize when I’m slacking, and proceed to give me a timely and firm kick up the ass to get me back on track.
- She’d also realize when I’m just really bummed out and feeling low, and then, instead of kicking my ass, she’d tell me it’s okay, that I should take some time, that I can get back on track again when I’m good and ready.
The last bit is especially important. I often hear from people who are beating themselves up for not being social enough, for not being proactive enough, or for not having any idea what to do with their lives.
Yes, sometimes it’s good to get mad at yourself and kick your own ass. Sometimes you need to call yourself an asshole and say enough is enough.
But other times you really need to go easy on yourself. Those are usually the times when you’re feeling low, unmotivated, and pretty damn worthless.
Downswings. That’s what I call such times. And I used to get really frustrated by them. I used to curse myself for letting the energy and motivation wane yet again.
But here’s what I realized: Getting upset with myself during those times didn’t improve a damn thing. All that frustration and self-criticism just put me in a deeper, darker hole. On top of feeling low, unmotivated, and pretty damn worthless, I would also end up feeling bad for falling into that hole in the first place.
Vicious circle, longer slump.
So here’s what I do now instead…
Say I’m feeling particularly unmotivated one day, and it’s pretty much inevitable that I’m going to get nothing done and just spend most of my waking hours watching Whose Line clips I’ve already seen a dozen times. Instead of beating myself up for being so lazy and worthless, I choose to feel great about giving myself some downtime.
That’s it. A simple choice.
If you feel something’s inevitable, own it, as if you chose that exact outcome.
Another example: Say you’re shy with the opposite sex and have been pushing yourself to be more outgoing and social. But one evening you’re out and just don’t feel up to the challenge of approaching attractive strangers and trying to connect with them. And it’s not the fear that’s holding you back this time. It’s just… ugh. No motivation, no energy. You try mixing it up for a while but you’re simply not feeling it.
Here’s your choice:
Beat yourself up and give in begrudgingly.
Own that feeling and give in gracefully.
Either way, you’re giving in. One way makes you feel bad. The other makes you feel good.
Choose the good.
As a bonus, whenever I choose the good, I find myself bouncing back faster. That downswing doesn’t seem to last so long when you fully embrace and revel in it.
It’s bad enough being socially awkward without beating yourself up about it.
It’s bad enough letting procrastination get the best of you without feeling worthless because of it.
And it’s bad enough not knowing what to do with your life without feeling shitty for not knowing what to do with your life.
So when you’re feeling low, let yourself off the hook, give yourself a hug, offer yourself a few words of acceptance.
Just like a best friend would do.