How To Treat Yourself Like A Friend—Especially When You Feel Lonely
Let’s cut straight to the chase: Loneliness is a scary feeling—and it’s more prevalent than ever.
We surveyed Shine community members and found that 82% feel lonely on a weekly basis. They're not alone: One in five Americans experience loneliness, too—and it unfortunately can lead to negative side effects. A lack of social connection can take a toll on our mental and physical health, including increased stress and a decrease in quality sleep.
Loneliness is a pervasive feeling—it can leave us feeling bad about ourselves, our emotions, and more.
But the first element of overcoming that feeling of loneliness is accepting yourself through it all, and treating yourself like a friend despite what loneliness might whisper in your ear.
Here are some steps you can take to lean into self-kindness through it all.
Put a Pause on Self-blame
Shine coach Jamila Reddy shared a beautiful story in day one of the Be Kinder To Yourself challenge in the Shine app. After going through life transitions and opening up to someone in her life about the hard time, she geared up to say goodbye. But before she could leave, Jamila’s friend said something pretty poignant and meta: “Be nice to my friend, OK?”
“I realized I hadn’t been treating myself the way I would want my friend to be treated—as a capable, brilliant human worthy of all the tenderness and kindness in the world,” Reddy shared.
It’s a sentiment I go back to when I feel like I’m getting too hard on myself. When we ask ourselves “would I treat a friend like this?” we can often course-correct some negative self-talk that might be happening and have it serve as a reminder to hit pause on that instinct to blame ourselves.
The next time you feel a wash of guilt or blame courtesy of your inner critic, try treating yourself like a friend. Forgive yourself and move forward.
Know Yourself First
There’s a lot in this world that’s out of our control, but one thing that you can do is continue to show up for yourself in powerful ways.
For Rachel Wilkerson Miller, author of the upcoming book The Art Of Showing Up: How to Be There For Yourself and Your People, that means spending time understanding who you are at your core.
“I think [showing up] really starts with getting to know yourself,” Wilkerson Miller tells Shine. “At a really basic level, you can’t take care of yourself if you don’t know who you are or what you need. Before you jump too far into trying to take care of other people or practicing self-care, you have to just sit with yourself for a minute and ask, ‘Who am I and what do I want?’”
If you don’t know how to start doing that reflection, she suggests diving into personality tests.
“They give you language to describe certain things about yourself,” Wilkerson Miller says. “Personality tests have a way of making you feel safe and not super bad about all these things...It’s an easy and accessible way to start doing some introspection and thinking about who you are and what patterns and behavior you fall into.”
Plus, if you want to share with someone and open up a dialogue, they’re a low-stakes way to dive into deeper conversations. She suggests trying the Enneagram test first. If that doesn’t suit you, try the popular Myers Briggs test instead. Shine also created a self-care styles quiz that can help you learn how to treat yourself better.
Drop the Comparisons
“It can be helpful to remind yourself of how you got to where you are, and to not be so hard on yourself if your path looks different from other people,” Wilkerson Miller says.
The next time you feel yourself slipping into a comparison trap, try this tip from Wilkerson Miller: Focus on what you can do for yourself that would make you feel good.
“Developing your authentic self and knowing who you are is the thing that’s going to keep you rooted when you’re falling into the comparison trap,” she says. By reminding yourself of things you love, you may be able to tap back into a full sense of self.
Mantra It Out
If you find yourself in the midst of a negative self-talk spiral, a mantra might be your new best friend.
Whether you create your own personalized mantra or use one from the Shine app, research shows that repeating a phrase can help quiet the part of your brain that might be wandering into not-so-nice territory. Make sure your mantra is tied to themes you want to highlight (Ex. Your resilience, creativity, optimism).
Make it personal and don’t be afraid to repeat your mantra in moments when you need an extra boost of love.
Throughout your journey, it’s important to remember one thing: Loneliness doesn’t dictate your worth. Despite the feelings that can accompany loneliness, you’re still a resilient and powerful human.
Treating yourself like a friend through this time is key to overcoming the ups and downs as you navigate various relationships. Just don’t forget to show up and show love to the most important relationship you have: the one with yourself.