If someone is a true friend, they will unlikely call you a “shithead and a failure” when you find yourself in trouble. Yet we quickly cast equally harsh judgements on ourselves without a thought. If you’re able to extend kindness and patience to close friends when they’re in need or suffering the fallout of poor life choices, you already have the framework for being there for yourself too.
According to Alain de Botton, “We know instinctively how to deploy strategies of wisdom and consolation that we stubbornly refuse to apply to ourselves,” and therefore, by looking at the traits possessed by a good friend, we are more likely able to befriend ourselves in a meaningful way.
Here, he outlines the key traits a good friend has in spades.
A good friend… likes you as you are
Sure, friendship means growing and improving together, but it’s based on the foundation and understanding that you are loved as you are. This also means that any suggestion of change or progress required is due to the benefit to your growth, rather than a shift away from your true self.
A good friend… keeps your positive traits front of mind
A good friend is aware of your strongest attributes, and is quick to offer up the occasional compliment or emphasise your potential should you need a reminder.
A good friend… is compassionate when you fail
A good friend is aware that you will fail, more than once. They are able to lovingly acknowledge that your upbringing and personal experiences make you who you are, and that you are often steering blind when it comes to important decisions, like life partners and career paths. In light of that, they will travel the ebbs and flows of both failure and success with you. “Failures are not, in fact, rare. They bring as a starting point their own and humanity’s vivid experiences of messing up into play as key points of reference,” says Alain.
Finally, a good friend is constantly reminding us that our specific losses and wins may be unique to us, but that this general pattern is common in everyone, and all will be OK. Watch the video here: