Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An open letter to women, or “how to be your own best friend”

Yesterday I woke up to a text message from a friend who's going through a (pretty) terrible break-up with her boyfriend. Said friend has a fear of abandonment, and a history of staying in not-so-great relationships in lieu of being alone. I know this is a debilitating feeling for many, and often translates moving from one relationship to the next, searching for outward love and acceptance when that internal love and acceptance is M.I.A. This may or may not lead to emotionally abusive and (hopefully not) physically abusive relationships that further weaken poor self-confidence.

Even though it's a common theme, it hits close to home when I see it happening to one of my friends. She didn't have the best of upbringings -- both of her parents basically abandoned her at different points in her life -- so it's easy to see where this lack of self-esteem stems from. But she's an attractive, intelligent woman now who is one of the few females in her department at the prestigious international biotech firm she works at (think pipettes and cell cultures and petrie dishes – she is a bona fide scientist). A lot to be confident about, right? But you wouldn't know it by speaking to her, and that is beyond depressing to me.

When did people stop realizing their worth? After this recent breakup, she told me over the phone a few days ago that as sick as it sounded she still wanted her (now) ex. I was shocked, considering they had a history of bad arguments and sad times. “No you don't,” was all I could reply. “You can be happy, you know. You're worth more than that.” She said she wanted to believe that, but couldn't. It was as if a thick and weighty gauze had been tamped down and hardened around any semblance of confidence she had.

Her text this morning asked a simple question “How can you be your own best friend?” The question broke my heart, because it's so simple yet the answer – if there even is one -- is so complicated. “I have an awful habit of relying on my boyfriend to be my everything... How do you rely on yourself?” she asked.

Good question. How do you rely on yourself?

We kicked some more texts back and forth, and I told her I'd email her. I initially thought writing to her about this would take some thought, but when I began typing it all just starting spewing out like verbal diarrhea:


Hope you're hanging in there. So you asked me earlier how to be your own best friend, but I don't think anyone has the definitive answer for that or else it would be easier for more people to depend on themselves. I think the first thing to do is start trying to perceive yourself differently. Continually tell yourself that you are valuable, you have worth. Remind yourself what you love about yourself, or what makes you proud.

When people look in the mirror every day, their perceptions of who is looking back at them are often warped. Past experiences, upbringing, etc. can shape many people's minds to see a skewed image in front of them, but you must stop allowing that to happen. You can't change your past but you can change your future. It's never too late. Tell yourself that from this point on, that person looking back at you in the mirror is beautiful, strong, compassionate, intelligent and doesn't need a boyfriend to feel valuable. All of these things are true about you, so you must see yourself in this light. The only way to begin to chip away at the low self-esteem that makes you depend on others and not yourself is by repeating that you are an amazing human being. You might not believe it at first, but you need to affirm this over and over again to yourself.

I think the most important thing you need to remember is that being alone has no projection on your value as a human being. You are a great person, and great people are okay with being alone because they know they can rely on themselves. This stems from self love. You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. If you don't love yourself first you will only be giving half of yourself to whatever man you're with, and that isn't fair to either of you. Self love takes a lot of nurturing, a lot of repetition, a lot of alone time that might be really scary at first. But realize that this scariness in the beginning is just your low confidence talking. It is not scary to be alone; it is merely an illusion put there by your past to frighten you. You must break this cycle or else it will repeat for the rest of your life and you will always be unhappy because no one else can love you as much as you should love yourself. Depending on others to fill this void may work temporarily, but it will only make you weaker over time, and you will never be happy. You deserve happiness.



  1. Tell her to read Eat Pray Love too. I didn't LOVE that book but she touches on this very issue.

  2. And PS that letter is amazing and true and you should send it to a women's magazine or something!!

  3. NOOOOO do not tell her to read "eat pray love." That book was the worst self-depricating piece of shit I ever forced myself to read.

    Crys- amazing letter. I found myself reading it and thinking back to those times that I was heartbroken and newly single and so not ready to mingle. I think your wise words are encouragement for her to believe in herself. Some people never truly accomplish this, but perhaps your friendship will cultivate that empowerment.

  4. Awesome Awesome Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!!!!

  5. I have been in your friend's shoes. Can I suggest you direct her to the Love & Sequins podcast? All about how to foster self love:

    Highly recommend.