Your “best self.” How many times have you heard that phrase?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when we all started learning about this person — this “best version of ourselves.” I imagine a perfect version of me out there somewhere in the future, having her shit together and enjoying her 11-line abs.
Maybe she doesn’t feel pressured to keep improving her body, her skin, her life… but I bet even she feels that.
Because, here’s the thing: I can’t remember the last time that I reached a goal and felt like it was enough. If I was working out and eating healthy, I was improving part of my life… but was I at my best? Could I really say that? Surely not.
Why “be your best self” isn’t always the best advice
To be fair, I do think that the culture around the idea that we should all want to be the best versions of ourselves developed from a collective place of genuine care and a desire for healthy lifestyles.
However, the flip side of this mindset is that it has also created a culture in which nothing is ever enough because, as the old saying goes, “There’s always room for improvement.”
In trying to be our best selves, what we end up doing is beating ourselves down with expectations of perfection that, quite honestly, we can never reach.
No one is perfect. Even the most perfect-looking YouTube influencers and Instagram models have their own problems and troubles and bad habits. It’s part of being human.
Which is why it’s so exhausting to constantly be trying to be your best self. To always be trying to improve. To always be cutting out one “bad” habit or adding in one “good” one.
The real kicker is, you don’t need to try. You’re already there.
You, as you are right now, in this very moment, you are your best self. You are your best self because you are trying. We all are.
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We’re all trying
No one wakes up and says, “You know what, I think I want to live a subpar life today. I could do this really great thing for myself, but I think I’ll do something worse instead.”
We don’t do that.
Sure, we make less-than ideal-choices sometimes, but those choices are made because there is more involved in personal happiness than hard and dry logic. For example, I know it would be healthier to not drink alcohol, but my innate human need to connect with others might make me decide to have a drink with friends after work.
I think everyone naturally tries their best in life. Some people’s bests look different than others, but most of us wake up and try to live the day in a way that will be good for us and those we care about, whatever that means for each of us.
My point is that there is more to life than green smoothies and HIIT workouts (both of which I absolutely love, by the way.) There’s also late night snacks with your boyfriend when you’re watching horror movies, skipping your workout to go drink boba in the park, and getting doughnuts delivered to your apartment when it’s that time of the month and all you want IN THE WORLD is something sweet.
That is your best self. The person who is present with others and lives life the moment. It’s not the person who says no to plans so that she can work out, or who can’t focus on dinner conversations because she’s tracking calories in an app. I should know. I was that person. I still am that person. I’m both of these people right now.
Changing the “best self” mindset is hard
I’ve been trying to learn how to love myself for so long. For over a decade now, I’ve mistakenly placed my hopes of self-love in the belief that if I could just be “my best self” — if I could just lose weight, cut out sugar, meditate more, sleep better, strength train, etc. etc. — then I could finally be my best self, and finally love the person I am.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this. So, while this is all deeply personal for me, I want to share it.
I want you to know that it’s okay to not try so hard. You don’t need to count your calories and make lists of foods you can’t eat and tell yourself that what you are right now isn’t enough. It is.
You are your best self just the way you are. Anything you do to improve yourself from here on out is just a bonus. You are an A+ right now. If you want extra credit, go for it. But don’t let it dictate your life. It’s extra credit for God’s sake.
And so, I am giving you permission. If you aren’t yet in a place where you can give yourself permission, then take mine: You can stop trying to be your best self. Enjoy who you are. Life is too short and the world is too chaotic not to.
What does it mean to be your best self?
In the sense that we’ve been led to believe it, our best selves are meant to be the versions of us that live a healthy life, look great, and have next to no stress in our daily lives.
What it actually means to be your best self — I think — is to accept and love yourself just the way you are. You don’t need to change to be your best. You’ve already woken up every day of your life trying to do your best. What more does anyone else have the right to ask of you?
You are your best, and that deserves to be celebrated.