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I’ve always chosen my friends carefully. Even in grade school, I had a few very close friends, and that was it. I was never one to collect acquaintances. My list of friends was — and remains — an exclusive one.

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Probably because I value and cherish my few friends so highly, I tend to also be very loyal to them. I have no doubt that there have been occasions when a friend may have felt that I was disloyal, but I can promise it was completely unintentional. If you’re my friend (not an acquaintance or someone I may speak to on an occasional basis but a friend), I will drop everything and run to your side if you need me. More than once, it has been at the price of my own best interests.

In fact, as arrogant as it may sound, I’ve often wished I could find the kind of friend that I strive to be. This is certainly not to suggest that I never have. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful, loyal, and giving friends in my lifetime. Alas, however, friends come and go, and there have been times when the friend I needed just wasn’t in my life at a moment of crisis or self-doubt.

What I have learned is that I have to be my own best friend, and there are times when I have behaved more like my own worst enemy. I have said things to myself that I would never say to someone I considered a friend. I have felt insecurity and worthlessness that I would have gone out of my way to quash were I to detect it in one of my friends. I have ignored all the positives in favor of focusing on all the negatives …. in myself.

Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) is quoted as saying:

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

This is the kind of thing I often do with my friends. I’ve given some of the best pep talks a person could ask for. To be sure, I’ve had friends who have reciprocated, who have been just the cheerleader I needed when my strength and motivation was lagging. Yet I’ve never given myself one of those pep talks.

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Being your own best friend often requires ignoring the rules and forgetting admonitions to be humble and modest. There’s a time and place for that, of course. No one likes a person who is boastful or stuck on himself. But it’s okay to recognize and appreciate the good qualities in yourself, and it’s vital that you turn off the recordings in your head that tell you you’re not good enough.

Using an example from what has been the biggest struggle of my life, my weight, I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up in the morning and immediately started beating myself up for eating too much the day before. I tell myself I’m hopeless, worthless, and weak — and to be honest, society reinforces that belief with fat shaming. And guess what I do to make myself feel better? You got it. I turn to food.

Trust me, if having those feelings resulted in anything positive, I would know it by now. They don’t. And my habit of doing this was so ingrained that it took me decades to first recognize it and then choose not to do it anymore.

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Let’s face it. I would never beat up on a friend for overeating when she was supposed to be on a “diet.” Yet for years I did it to myself.

So, this year, I resolve to be my own best friend. I am a valuable person who has a lot of good qualities. I need to focus on them. It will inspire me to take better care of me. One way I plan to do that is to (once again) start journaling. I know that it can be a valuable way to sort things out, but despite being a professional writer, I’ve just never been able to make it a habit. I believe part of that is because I’ve never understood what I was supposed to write about — and I’m also not sure who makes the rules about such things.

If my best friend was rejected or failed at something, I would support her by telling her all the reasons she shouldn’t have been rejected (adding something like “It’s their loss!”) or all the reasons she’s actually very good at the thing she failed at and why she will succeed next time. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement that inspires people to dig deeper, to require more of themselves, and to achieve the things they are capable of achieving. And that’s the kind of thing I need to write in my journal.

My Best Friend Journal.

What do you do to bolster your own self-esteem?

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