It’s quite unusual, it seems, to meet anyone who’s genuinely made friends with themselves.
For good reason, the people who love us as we grow up teach us all kinds of ways in which we can keep the socially unacceptable parts of ourselves out of view. And while that’s a necessary part of becoming an adult, it leaves us with at the very least an aversion to fully being with ourselves. What we might discover, we think, will be too much to deal with – frightening, unpredictable, incomprehensible.
For perhaps the majority of us, it’s not so much an aversion to fully being with ourselves as a downright loathing or terror. In some fundamental way, we feel ashamed at all that roils and turns within us. And so we turn away from ourselves, into busyness, or distraction. Into activities that occupy us without really stirring us. Into the numbness of our devices and our habits.
And if we can’t befriend ourselves, we can hardly befriend others. When we’re so busy avoiding ourselves, we don’t have the openness and receptivity to be fully with anyone else. Even though it’s contact with others – the experience of seeing and being seen – that we long for.
So, for all these reasons, the task of befriending ourselves is not luxury but responsibility, so that from there we can reach out and touch the lives of the people around us.
And we have to start by understanding that this – all of it – is an inevitable part of being human. The joy, exhilaration, rage, anger, resentment, gratitude, longing, love, doubt, fear, anguish, fury, desire. The loathing and shame. We have to begin to experience it not so much as our deficiency, but as part of our fullness and part of our heritage.
When we befriend ourselves, we befriend being human, and we open the possibility for the first time of befriending life itself.