For the past ten days, I’ve been sharing some of the ways that our best friends teach us how to treat ourselves. Today, I want to wrap up this little series by talking about the last two points in the list—that best friends listen to us and really hear what we’re saying, and that best friends care.
It’s the caring part that counts the most. We all need to feel that we matter, that our lives mean something to someone, that someone loves us, someone cares. To be your own best friend means, in essence, that you learn to care about you.
Genuine self-love isn’t egotism. It doesn’t mean you think you’re better than anyone else or everyone else. It means you value and respect yourself, and that even if you have no idea why your being is significant, you trust that there is a larger meaning to your existence. Loving yourself is honoring life.
The wisdom teachings say that the highest commandment is to love our God, whatever we conceive God to be, with all our hearts and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Only when we allow ourselves to open to loving ourselves as valuable and worthwhile beings can we love, honor and respect our neighbors in the ways that will bring true joy, harmony and peace to our world.
One of the keys to practicing love toward ourselves is to develop the habit of listening to ourselves and really hearing what’s going on with us.
On a physical level, that means paying attention to our body’s needs. It means feeding ourselves wholesome foods in appropriate amounts and eating mindfully. It means allowing ourselves to sleep a sufficient number of hours each night and to cultivate relaxation and meditation techniques that can help us deal with the stresses we confront in the course of living.
On the emotional level, self-caring means learning mood-management techniques, such as positive self-talk and releasing skills. It means cultivating our inner observer and listening to the kinds of stories we’re telling ourselves so we can make needed corrections and change tracks. It means educating ourselves about the way the mind works and practicing the skills of positive psychology.
Spiritually, self-care means taking time to connect with the Source of our being, with our higher selves. It means we find time to meditate, contemplate, worship, pray, commune with nature, immerse ourselves in inspiration from whatever sources provide us a sense of truth, beauty, goodness and higher meaning.
The essence of self-care is to ask yourself what brings you genuine joy, vitality and satisfaction, and then to do more of that. Learn to be happy. Follow your bliss. That’s the way you show that you care. That’s the call, and the response, of love.