The reality is, most of us are not great friends to ourselves.

We criticize ourselves, constantly tell ourselves we’re not good enough, and overall mistreat our mind and body in numerous ways. We know that we’re meant for something greater, but life has beaten us down so much that we’ve stopped believing in ourselves.

Ultimately, no one knows the light, and the dark, that exists within you better than you. For that reason, we’re either our own best friend or our worst enemy (often a combination of both and rarely if ever the former). Unfortunately, most of us have been taught from a young age a concept of perfection that is completely unrealistic and not at all what it’s like to be human. Because of this, we’re left chasing an ideal that doesn’t exist, all the while tearing ourselves down for not being able to embody this perfect ideal. If we ever hope to break this cycle we must learn how to develop self-love and become our own best friend.

How to Make Friends with Yourself and Uncover the Inner Dialogue

If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.

– Maxwell Maltz

Despite all that you’ve gone through and the damaging ideals which you’ve been raised with, you have the ability to become your own best friend once again and develop a powerful sense of self-love. How is this done? First, by uncovering the inner dialogue.

The inner dialogue is like an old record player that’s stuck on repeat. Over the course of our life, we’ve had various experiences that have shaped our belief about ourselves. Setbacks, failures, challenges, successes, and lucky breaks all help develop our system of belief and alter what we tell ourselves unconsciously on a daily basis. This is the old record player and it’s playing the same record on repeat every day of our life – whether we realize it or not.

Unfortunately, for many of us, the messages this record is repeating are negative and damaging. That’s because we naturally remember, and reflect more upon, our challenges and setbacks. They often cause us a stronger sensation of pain than the good experiences cause us to feel pleasure, and in the mind, the greater of the two feelings almost always wins out. So we’re constantly replaying messages to ourselves unconsciously such as:

“You’re not good enough.”

“You could never do that.”

“You’re a screw-up, don’t forget when you–”

This inner dialogue, our negative self-talk, is constantly beating us down and stunting our potential, whether or not we’re able to find some semblance of success despite it. But the good news is we can fight it and uproot these harmful and often blatantly untrue beliefs to cleanse our spirit and transform our life for the better.

By uncovering the inner dialogue and making friends with ourselves, we can face our anger, our fear, and the insecurity we feel over our “imperfections”, and learn to stop being critical of ourselves.

Emotion Mapping: How to uncover the inner dialogue and develop self-love

Self-awareness, which as far as I have found in my years of study is most effectively developed through mindfulness practice, is the key to uncovering the inner dialogue. And while mindfulness meditation is a big part of it, there are a lot of great meditation guides already out there that will teach you the practice, be it formal meditation or mindfulness in everyday life, so I won’t be covering a traditional practice here.

Instead, whether to accompany a regular mindfulness practice or to be used as a standalone practice, I’ve developed a simple exercise which has helped me develop greater emotional self-awareness and uncover my inner dialogue in the past. It’s simple, quick, and can be done conveniently as a simple journaling exercise if you prefer to keep it up over several weeks (or longer). I call it emotion mapping.

Keep in mind that as you go about this exercise you’ll likely uncover things hidden beneath the surface that make you uncomfortable. That’s the thing about the inner dialogue: it does a great job of staying undetected. It repeats itself in our unconscious so we don’t know we’re telling ourselves these things, but they’re there. Try not to react adversely when you uncover something that surprises you but rather greet it with open arms and in the spirit of love and caring.

Having said that, here are the simple instructions to begin emotion mapping for yourself. The exercise can be done in as little as five minutes:

  1. Reflect: Sit down with paper and a pen, your smartphone, computer, or whatever you prefer to write with, and take some time to reflect. The reference point is up to you and can change from one day to the next. One day you can pick ten years ago, other days you can just reflect on that day or the past week.
  2. Write: Pay particularly close attention to the emotions you experience while reflecting on these past experiences. Write them down. Remember that it’s particularly important to pay attention to the feelings that arise while reflecting as opposed to specifics about the event.
  3. Dig deeper, notice patterns: If you trigger a strong emotion, follow it and see where it leads. What is the emotion? Can you identify it yet? In the beginning, you may not be able to, but with time, you’ll gain greater clarity. This can be a very gradual process so have patience. Also, has it come up before in another session? Over time of doing the exercise, you’ll notice patterns emerging and these can be very good clues to help uncover parts of your negative self-talk.

The inner dialogue can be tricky and deceptive, but by investing the time to uncover our negative self-talk we can learn to make friends with ourselves and develop a great deal of self-love that helps us in everything we do. And the great part is, often simply by uncovering this inner dialogue are we able to rid ourselves of it as it often dissolves on its own once it’s been uprooted and brought to light.

Making friends with yourself is really about the journey to yourself, so spend a little time each day with yourself to uncover the inner dialogue and you’ll also uncover the rich rewards of developing greater self-awareness and self-love.