After I wrote last week about “tending yourself” instead of eating as a response to stress, I started thinking about the other newer response option, befriending. According to the article I read, women might look to friends for support more than men.
But what if we also befriend ourselves?
In the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, we talk about the fact that many of us are much harsher with ourselves than with other people, becoming our own worst critics and judges. This can apply to our eating decisions and bodies, where we might chastise ourselves for having that cookie or cake or eating so much ice cream, or focus on how flawed our bodies are.
But those aren’t things I would typically say to a friend. I might notice how much they were eating, but that’s it. I wouldn’t tie it to an automatic negative judgment. Similarly, if someone asked me how they looked, I would focus on the good things – unless they had something unbuttoned or unzipped that would be embarrassing. If asked, I might offer advice about ways to learn from the experience and make a different decision next time. And if they’re really upset about it, I would simply listen and try to comfort them, perhaps with a hug or sharing something humorous.
If this is how I would react with a friend, why do I treat myself differently? More importantly, what if I try to change that, so if I’m stressed about something negative that’s happened, I tried befriending myself?
This idea made me imagine an alternate universe version of me walking over and enveloping me in a big hug. This other me simply listened, accepting me as I was no matter what mistakes I’d made, making soothing noises and reminding me that I’m only human, and even if I didn’t like how things had gone, it didn’t mean that I’m a terrible person, or that I couldn’t make a different choice in the future.
It felt a little silly at first, and then it felt wonderful. How freeing to give myself the benefit of the doubt, to be my own friend!
I realized that while I can’t expect a parallel dimension to open up like that, nothing prevents me from the mental image, or from changing the chiding, berating and deriding voice to one that’s gentle, comforting, and supportive. So that’s what I’ll try, and I suspect that it will certainly be less stressful.