I recently shared my own struggles and joys with the process of being a friend. Additionally, I have reflected on the topic of friendship with my community via IG polls, chats over coffee, sessions with clients, in my therapist’s office, and so on. Through this process, I keep returning of Don Miguel Ruiz’ text The Four Agreements. The language and perspectives he shares provide a powerful lens for healing, particularly in the context of relationships.
Always Do Your Best
The fourth agreement is an invitation to keep going and keep growing. Each of the previous agreements requires significant awareness, effort, and unlearning of old patterns, and the fourth agreement, the commitment to doing our best, is the glue that helps us stick to these new beliefs. Additionally, change requires compassion, softness, and understanding; this is reflected in Ruiz’ language:
“Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired at night. Your best will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk. Your best will depend on whether you are feeling wonderful and happy, or upset, angry, or jealous.” –Don Miguel Ruiz
I so appreciate the fact that Ruiz acknowledges that your “best” or my best doesn’t look just ONE way. It will look different in each different context, on each day, for each person. Thus, we are invited to respect the natural ebbs and flows of our lives and our energy, while continuing to show up as fully as we are capable. Furthermore, this agreement calls us to let go of societal driven ideas of success and happiness and truly FEEL joy. When we do our best, we have more fun and vice versa.
How to Apply The Fourth Agreement to Friendships
- Check in with yourself with compassion. Create a regular ritual of being with yourself and reflecting on the day or week past. With kindness, ask yourself, “Did I do my best today/this week?” Allow yourself to name the ways you showed up, as well as the ways you were caught in untrue words, personalization, or assumptions. Think or write to yourself just as you’d talk to a friend you care deeply about. These personal practices contribute to your self-love, which in turn, contributes to your openness in friendships.
- Grow awareness of your motivations. When you are motivated by a desire to fit in, to be approved of, or to be liked, it is harder to truly do your best. There are parts of you that want to be validated and seen; this is SO HUMAN! However, if you enter into a friendship or a social situation with this desire as your driver, you will be performing, rather than being your authentic and best self. Before you call a friend or show up to a party, ask yourself “What is motivating me?”
- Offer yourself comfort and empowering choices. If your motivation to do something is about approval, I invite you to pause, take 3-5 calming breaths, and really listen to yourself. Is there a part of you that needs a little love or comfort? If you don’t hear anything this time, that’s okay. Instead, you might offer yourself 2-3 choices and see which option feels the best to your whole self. For example, if I know that I said “yes” to a sleepover because I want approval (but don’t really want to go), I might give myself the following alternatives: stay home and watch Netflix, call a faraway friend I’m missing, or ask my friend if they’d consider going out to dinner instead of the sleepover. (By the way, this is a good time to return to the first agreement and offer yourself some loving and truthful words.)
- Take the risk of being vulnerable. This agreement requires you to be with your humanness, and, quite honestly, being human involves vulnerability. Doing your best means that you will allow others to see you, and you will see them; this is vulnerability! As you practice self-compassion (tip #1), you’re building self-trust, which supports you in determining if and when you are safe to be vulnerable and with whom. Even when we feel safe and ready, vulnerability can be uncomfortable, especially at first. (Fact: you don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone, and being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you disregard boundaries. Proceed to #4.)
- Trust your limits and boundaries. A major part of doing your best is being honest with yourself and your friends. If there is someone you don’t feel like spending time with today or a social activity you don’t want to participate in, that’s okay. Doing your best means sharing this information kindly AND honoring your limits and boundaries. You always have permission to tell a friend that you need a break or don’t feel up for it. It can be as simple as “Maybe another time!”
- Spend time around people with whom you feel JOY. The more intimately you know yourself, the easier it will be for you to access and experience joy. Celebrate yourself and your friendships by spending time with the people who reflect joy back to you and who enhance your pleasure. Remember, doing your best means enjoying life; thus, enjoying time with friends is an important part of doing your best.
Do Your Best Today
You are loved.
You are whole.
You are worthy.
Today is simply an opportunity to show up as fully as you are capable of at each moment. Only you will know what your best looks like, sounds like, and feels like today. In my opinion, the whole “point” of learning the four agreements is to keep growing your capacity for love. You can’t mess this up! Sure, some days you’ll take a friend’s words personally and some days you’ll be stuck in untrue stories about your worth, AND you are further along than you were yesterday. Finally, I invite you to create your support system and invest in connecting with the people, places, and things that support you in doing your best.