Whether single or attached, surrounded by people or alone on a mountaintop, loneliness and feeling empty inside occurs to most women at times. It's when these feelings become constant that we may want to take a closer look at what's missing.
What's often missing is a connection to our inner best friend — that constant, centered, compassionate soul that lives deep inside everyone but is often suffocated by "to-do" lists, critical judgments, and myriad responsibilities.
Luckily, it is possible to cultivate a friendship with yourself and learn to become your own best company.
Being your own best friend comes down to respecting yourself, suggests certified professional coach Denise Byron of Vision Your Life in Ashland. "And if I don't respect myself, no one else can!"
This requires identifying one's inner needs. For a crash course, try putting pen to paper, focusing on questions such as "Who am I?" "What do I feel passionate about?" "What do I need right now?"
"Journaling is the best way I know how to learn more about myself by myself," Byron says.
Any new art or skill — journaling, poetry, art, photography — can illuminate how to enjoy your own company. The trick is to let go of "perfection," says Byron. Simply let the pursuit lead your actions.
Personal growth-oriented movement and exercise can assist in the development of an inner friendship with one's self. Yoga, with its central tradition of turning inward and quieting the mind, has been the answer for many women.
"The goal is to release yourself of all those preoccupying thoughts: The groceries, selling the house, that 'if I don't lose weight nobody will love me' or that 'I'm a bad wife or mother,'" says Mariane Corallo, owner of Rasa Center of Yoga and Wellness in Medford. "That's the stuff that causes patterns and habits that keep us from moving into what we want."
Releasing these patterns through quieting the mind and doing yoga stretches and poses can ultimately result in what Corallo calls "compassionate awareness." This is a state of mind where one has turned inward, recognized the expectations present and can then "simply just be" instead of feeling pressured to achieve something.
"As women in particular we've lost that because we've got so many different roles and are constantly striving against loneliness and comparing ourselves to others instead of being happy with ourselves," Corallo says. "Compassionate awareness can help you not be so hard on yourself or others next time the feelings arise."
Embrace emotional work
When a woman isn't her own best friend, things start to deteriorate. Sadness and tension can take over inside, translating into blockages in careers, sexuality, finances and relationships.
"That can lead to addictions and compulsions," says Ashland psychotherapist Dennise Trager. "People think of that mostly in terms of drugs and alcohol, but I'm also talking about being busy all the time and not having a balanced life."
Balance, which Trager believes is the key to inner happiness, comes from developing a relationship with one's deep, inner self — that part that lives below personality traits and what we call mind and intellect. Do this by talking to yourself.
"Everyone I know talks to themselves secretly — it's those voices and dialogues that go on in the mind," says Trager. "So if we're talking to ourselves anyway, we might as well open up to a deeper dialogue between the personality and the deeper self."
Ask this deeper self what would really bring you contentment and how to access your inner wisdom. Give yourself time and space to listen for the answers.
When you do discover your inner best friend, you'll move away from the things that most often leave us feeling empty, like yearning for outside approval and pursuing false needs, addictions and compulsions.
"You'll feel centered and like you're in a state of well-being because you truly know yourself," says Trager. "Don't expect to feel that 100 percent of the time, but once you find it, you'll learn the signals of when you're straying away from yourself and how to bring yourself back."
And that's the hallmark of a best friend — to care, share, respect and always help us find our way home.