Sam Radford

April 4, 2022

How would I treat my best friend?

I wrote a few weeks ago about using the question, ‘What would I tell my best friend to do?’, as a decision-making aid. 

Today I want to share another question to help us be more compassionate to ourselves. And it’s this:

How would I treat my best friend?

Let’s back up a little before exploring that further though. 

The problem with terms like ‘self-love’ or ‘self-compassion’ is that they often get reduced to little more than an Instagram meme.

Plenty of the people I follow share lots of content in this genre. It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment, but I’ve become somewhat closed to it. It all ends up coming across as twee. 

Sadly, this is what happens to a lot of important messages. They get commoditised and turned into sentimental one-liners. But then we miss out on the truth that lies behind them.

Loving ourselves is important. It’s unlikely we’ll ever do a very good job of loving others if we don’t know how to love ourselves.

But how do we practically go about about ‘loving ourselves’ or practicing self-compassion?

That’s where this question comes in. How would I treat my best friend?

Oliver Burkeman explores this theme in his latest newsletter, pointing out that focussing on friendship, and how you’d behave towards a friend, feels less indulgent than ‘self-love’. A true friend doesn’t always try to be nice when a hard truth is needed. As Burkeman writes:

It's often friendlier to be firm. You wouldn't buy a good friend a fourth cocktail if that wasn't best for them. And if asked for advice, you might encourage a good friend to stick with a challenging work or relationship situation for a few more weeks, if you knew their standard practice was to flee at the first sign of difficulty. In the same way, being friendlier to yourself needn't mean letting yourself off the hook.

That’s what makes this question helpful. True friendship neither indulges nor diminishes. A friend picks you up when you’re down and lets you know when you’ve got ahead of yourself. 

Whatever we’re going through, whether we’re on a high or a low, this is a question I’m going to remember. If my best friend was in this situation, how would I treat them? That’s how I need to treat myself. 

—Sam 

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👉 @samradford | samradford.com