What Does My Best Self Even Look Like?
For many of us, there is an understanding and acknowledgement that where we are right now is not necessarily the place we are meant to remain forever. We may be using the current environment to gain skills, perspective or resources that we believe will help us reach some destination. However, some of us may be a bit less sure of the destination or even the path forward; we exist in our current space because it is available, convenient, or possibly even materially fruitful, but we have no clue if this place is right or what the next step would even look like. What we do know is that we want to find a way to reach for an existence that embodies what we can claim to be a very real materialization of the best of who and what we believe we are called to be.
One helpful way to first frame the conversation around what your best self may look like is to first identify what it is not. I would argue that your best self is not about beating your peers at some arbitrary career or wealth accumulation contest. It is not about mirroring the exact path you saw a mentor or professional you admire pursue. It is not about being the thing that your parents or your relatives have told you that you should be since you were a kid. And lastly, it is not about becoming a certain thing by a pre-ordained or assigned age because you see that advocated in the broader society or even your social circles.
What all of these things have in common is that they are beliefs that we buy into as a result of external factors. Because so many of us wrestle with internal insecurities — a perfectly normal part of the the human experience by the way— we often search for the assurance or validation that will quell those insecurities in people, places and things that are outside of ourselves. And so we find our lives, motivations, and desires being directed and guided by a compass not of our own creation.
The reason why your best self cannot be created by looking at the world around you is that your best self is by definition, unique. You are embarking on a mission to become your best self; how can people, places and things that are not intimately connected to the essence of your uniqueness as a human being tell you what your best you looks like?
Understanding the futility of seeking external validation for who we are and should be is arguably the most important step in becoming your best self. It not only opens us up to the possibility of encountering the beauty of our own uniqueness but also unburdens us from the virtually impossible task of doing right by the many varying external motivations we often find ourselves drawn towards.
Once committed to the task, the pursuit of encountering oneself can take on many forms. And in all honesty, I cannot claim to know the exact best way for anyone to find oneself. For me, it has consisted of a combination of trial and error, self-reflection, introspection, meditation, and prayer in a number of forms and settings. For others, it may involve some, all or none of these things. What matters most is that you begin the undertaking; you will likely find that the process becomes easier after you start and as you continue along.
Regardless of what form your process takes, there are a few outputs that should surface as you continue to go deeper in encountering yourself. These outputs, once discovered, are able to serve as the skeleton for what guides the development of your best self. I would argue that the most important outputs are an intimate understanding and acceptance of your strengths, your passions and your fertile spaces. Equally important corollaries to these outputs are an honest assessment of their opposites: your weaknesses, your intense disinterests, and your cemeteries. Together, these three sets of outputs can help to provide a deep understanding of who you are, the things that fuel you, and the environments that enable you to fully come alive and to bloom.
One final but equally important element of becoming your best self is recognizing and accepting that it is a journey and not a destination. This can be hard for many of us who identify as having type-A personality traits and are used to setting specific goals with very tangible and objective outcomes, and then tracking very closely to those outcomes. But as human beings, we are dynamic, fluid and ever-growing and changing. Who we are at age 5 is very different than who we are at age 15, 25, 35, 45, and so on. We continue to gather inputs about ourselves and use them for our good. We encounter people, places and spaces and are continually shaped and influenced by them. In fact, as we continue on our journeys, the very strengths and passions that guide us may even change!
And so, I would argue that becoming your best self is much more about committing to the process of continual growth in a particular direction than it is about committing to a particular outcome of the growth. It is about the honest work and effort you put in during your today that creates the possibility of future todays that result in an ever better you.
It is my hope that this helps someone in that state of not knowing what’s next or how to reach for that undefined state of becoming their best self. While there is much difficulty in the undertaking, there is also much personal joy and growth in the journey. It also has so much potential to provide endless benefit to the world around you!
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Washington Thurman
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