You all know I love all of Elizabeth Gilbert’s work, and there’s a part in Eat, Pray, Love where she talks about seeing herself in a mirror and mistaking her reflection for a friend. She talks about how profound it was in retrospect to acknowledge that even by accident, she’d seen a friend in herself.
I am the sort of person who would do anything for my friends, but I struggle to extend the same care, energy, and empathy to myself. If someone wrongs my friends, I will fight for them, but I often don’t feel justified fighting on my own behalf. And if my friends are struggling or facing challenges, that seems reasonable and understandable to me. I can extend sympathy and understanding to them, but when I face my own challenges, I get so mad at myself for not being perfect, for not fixing problems before they start, for not knowing exactly what I want from my life and how to get there.
I find that when I’m feeling particularly down on myself, he best way to get some perspective is to try to look at myself and imagine how I’d feel if the same thing were happening to one of my friends. How would I talk to a friend in my situation? How would I think of them? Nearly always, I’m kinder and more generous in that mindset than I was before. I understand setbacks more and empathize with struggle more. If I frame my problems or worries as something that could happen to a friend, it makes it easier for me to extend the same kindness and generosity to myself that I would extend to them. I have a tendency to allow vulnerability or fallibility in others but to hate it in myself. I have this idea that I have to be better and more perfect than all of the other people I know. But why? Why is it so easy for me to understand that my friends are human and are growing up and figuring things out, while I find it so difficult to forgive myself for my own human frailties and growing pains? Why is it so hard for me to be a friend to myself? There’s no good reason. I’m only human, just like the people I love and would fight for. And sometimes it takes a little reframing of perspective to understand that.