It was a cloudy Wednesday morning in Eugene, Oregon. I was halfway through the week, and something just felt off; I didn't feel like I was doing anything right. I work as a first and second-grade teacher at the Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley, and I was developing a habit of getting snippy with the kids. One of the most essential components of working with kids, especially vulnerable kids, is it's imperative to be a positive role model. You really never know what a kid is going through, especially during a pandemic and economic hardship. I was down on myself, not sure what to do about that.
On top of that, I felt like I was treading water with my startup, The Better World Challenge. How was I going to monetize my project? Does anyone actually care what I'm doing? Do I care what I'm doing? Should I just quit and climb the corporate ladder like I was told to do? That would be more comfortable, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Did I say it? Wrong.
Sometimes You Gotta Coach Yourself
It was time that I pull my head out of my ass and go on a walk. So I had an honest conversation with myself. Why are you getting so down on yourself, man? You're not a perfect human being, far from it. I know you hold yourself to a higher standard, and that's great. But don't quit because, after one week, you've seemingly "failed." This is an excellent opportunity for you to reframe what's going on in your life.
So I started counting my blessings on a walk near my house, filled with colorful trees that ignited my mood regardless of the gloomy weather. Now, this isn't a story about the power of gratitude, but by me recognizing all the beauty and wonders in my life, I couldn't help but notice a mood shift. This recognition is what I needed at the time.
This year has been a challenge for me, just like I'm sure it has been for you. I'm currently living alone, and during a pandemic, it's difficult to see people. I'm blessed I have my girlfriend, but it felt like something was missing, friends. So I decided that until the pandemic is over, I'm going to have to be my own best friend. Don't get me wrong, my girlfriend is also my best friend, but I had to step up and be my own best friend when minimal in-person human interaction.
And that's what I've done for myself. I'm always asking myself questions like, how are you doing? Not the bullshit we ask people passing by, but actually, how are you doing? Sometimes I need to treat myself with more kindness and remind myself that life isn't as serious as we make it. Other times, I give myself the kick in the butt I need to wake up, dust myself off, and get back to the grind. It really depends and requires digging deep and being honest with yourself. Do I really want to post and grind on social media for the next hour, or is that Gary Vee in my ear telling me to? Do I really need to Door Dash for financial survival tonight, or am I doing it because I feel like a lazy slob if I don't?
We have all these ideas about who we are as humans and what we should be doing. But often, it's lies and misinformation the media has told us. We define who we are. We get to define what success means to us. We determine what's essential in our lives. Maybe you don't want to be a millionaire working as a CEO in a company. It takes courage to be real with yourself and be your own best friend.
In a world filled with expectations, we continually debate how we should spend our time and what's worth it. I acknowledge that we are only here for a short period, so make the most of it, right? Always be on the grind and or living up those Instagram moments! No, that's not realistic. Yes, pursue your dreams every day in whatever capacity you can. Still, social media has created the comparison trap that often plagues us from the small "uninstagrammable" moments in life.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Being your own best friend isn't some misleading self-help myth and won't cure all your pain. For me, being my own best friend has given me the confidence that I am on the right path. I couldn't tell you where the course will lead, but as long as I'm kind and honest with myself, everything will be alright.
I'm a better person to everyone around me when I have a stronger relationship with myself. They say the quality of life pertains to the relationships you have with the people around you. Definitely agree with this, but if you can't be your own best friend, then you won't be able to be there for your partner, friends, coworkers, or friends in the same way. Maybe you're the person that always puts others before yourself, and that's great. But imagine if you were able to tend to your needs and do that? There's a myth that you're an evil or selfish person if you take care of yourself. That's a lie.
As a result of becoming my own best friend, I'm much more playful at work now and feel even more inspired to continue working hard on The Better World Challenge. I'll be honest, at times, I get lonely without other humans; this pandemic has taught me that I am most definitely a people person. But I do have more love for myself than I ever have before, which gives me the ability to love others even more.
Five Tips to Implement into Your Life to Be Your Own Best Friend
Mindfulness: Damnit, Justin, I don't want to meditate. It's so dull! I hear you, and meditating is not for everyone. Still, I recommend giving it a try as it has vastly impacted my life. When I don't meditate or get in any mindfulness, I'm much more in my own world instead of being present. If meditating's not for you, I recommend either journaling, painting, going on a walk, or doing anything quietly for 10-15 minutes daily. That time you make for yourself will be an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself better.
Movement: For me, it's lifting weights and playing basketball. There's something about lifting weights that gives me satisfaction and makes me feel good about myself. I also love basketball's competitiveness and how I can run around for an hour while having fun. Exercising is a gift to yourself, and you know it's what best friends do. Maybe it's dancing for you or yoga. Or going on long walks, possibly a bike ride? Try new things too, you could love rock climbing. Getting active, especially during these unprecedented times, is necessary to achieve a positive mental state.
Learn, Learn, Learn: Maybe you have to do research for college, and you're not about to learn any more than you have to. You don't have to read a 500-page book on the economy. There's so much more out there to learn. A huge thing I hear people say is they don't have time at the end of the day, and they want to spend time on something mindless, totally cool. Actually, you could watch a show or documentary on a topic that isn't familiar to. Maybe you've been a baseball fan your whole life; how about you check out gymnastics? It doesn't have to be a long and intimidating book. Still, learning will broaden your perspective and help you ask different questions to better understand yourself.
Asking Questions: Do I need a kick in the butt right now, or do I actually need a break? We often feel we have to send that last email, do that last set of weights, or finish the project tonight. Sometimes we do, and we need to ask ourselves the question, can I do this? Most often, you can. But maybe it's been a long day, and you're over it. Then take care of yourself and do what you need to do to show up the next day and finish that project. Maybe you wake up the next day, and you're like, Justin, you lazy piece of garbage, I wish you finished putting away the dishes! Well, guess what, that's in the past, and you know next time to push through and do the dishes so future you don't get mad.
You Are Enough: Insert some inspirational music, and a person on the top of the mountain living their best life. Actually, though, you are enough. I know I need to stop doing this, and it's probably one of my worst habits is I'll be like, at what age did he do this? Dang, I need to stop taking a break and get to work! A real best friend would be like, Nah, rest up and get back to work tomorrow. I love you for who you are.
If there's anything you take away from this article, you don't have to listen to a single thing I say; just be your own damn best friend. There's no how-to or guidebook on how to do it. The more you ask yourself questions, learn, challenge yourself, and grow, the better you'll get to know yourself. And the better you know yourself, the more significant your impact on our world. We need you, so step up and be your own best friend.