Looking For Your Best Self? You've Already Arrived
As a self-help nerd, I’m constantly putting in the daily work at the “spiritual gym.” But in my quest to improve myself, it can sometimes feel like I’m putting out an ad on Craigslist: “Hi, have you seen my best self? I’ve been looking for her for a while. She’s super fun, genuine, go-with-the-flow, empowered, not to mention has her act together, is on time for everything, and is a multi-millionaire who selflessly gives her time and money to charity. I heard she’s a real thing, so if you see her I’d love to finally join forces. Thanks.”
I’ve never actually had this literal conversation, but I might as well have. I've heard searching for my “best self” can help me keep growing, but, a lot of times, it feels like I’m chasing a mystical character—Loch Ness? Big Foot? Best Self?
And searching for my Oprah-level self keeps me so focused on finding the “perfect me” that I often miss the whole point: the journey. I get so caught up in finding the next, best me, that I don’t savor what I’m learning or the me that is learning right here, right now. I forget that who I am today is enough.
Our “best self” is an illusion.
When I find myself fixated on finding my best self, I have to step back and remind myself of this: Our “best self” is an illusion. We’re never going to “arrive” and be all, “Well, that’s that. I’ve done all the growing I can do. I am my best self. Everything is now perfect. Check please.”
We’re already the us that is going to grow, conquer our dreams, find happiness, and excel far beyond what we could even image. We’ve already arrived—we just need to stop waiting, stop searching, and simply look within.
Here, some of my favorite ways to resist the “best self” treasure map and start growing now:
Let Go of “Once I Have This..” Syndrome
It’s very easy to fall prey to the “as soon as I get/have/am this thing, I’ll be so much happier.” We think as soon as we book the job, have the money, find the perfect apartment, the pieces will fall into place for our “best self” to appear. But it’s an unfulfilling mindset, one I’ve experienced firsthand.
Searching for happiness on the outside—whether it’s from our careers, our possessions, other people, and more—is like trying to put a bandaid over a gaping wound. It’s a neverending feat.
We have to stop waiting and start asking ourselves why.
Why are those things you want the key to your best self? When you have that thing, how will you feel?
We have to stop waiting and start asking ourselves 'why'.
Maybe getting that promotion will give you more confidence in your abilities. Maybe having that house will make you feel more secure. It’s usually the feeling behind the thing we want that makes the most impact—not the thing itself. And once we recognize the feeling, we can take little steps to get there. We can stop waiting for something or someone else to bring us that feeling and start growing that feeling from within.
Hop on the Gratitude Train
Gratitude is the express train to “Yeah, actually, I got this” town. Start to take note of the things you appreciate in the now. Each day, I try to write down five things I’m grateful for in my life and why. I know this can sometimes feel like looking at life through cheesy rose-colored glasses, but what you focus on you attract. When you appreciate what you have, you open yourself up to receive more.
Gratitude will also help you strike a balance between striving for more and appreciating what you have now.
“It’s an affirmation of goodness,” Robert Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, explained in an essay for the Greater Good Science Center. “We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.”
Feel What You’re Feeling
A lot of times, the self-help and spiritual world can feel hokey, like it’s full of people vibrating on a “higher frequency,” literally floating in the air. It makes our “best self” seem like the key to 24/7 inner peace. But here’s the truth: Even people who feel like they’ve achieved their “best self” still have a range of emotions—they just accept them.
Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.
Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Get mad. Beat your couch. Scream into your pillows. Cry your face off. Whatever you’re feeling, let it out. This isn’t an invitation to wallow, but owning your feelings is one of the quickest ways to get in touch with your true self.
Pump Yourself Up On Paper
When I’m feeling like I’m not as far in my career as I should be or miles away from my “best self,” reviewing my accomplishments is a great pick-me-up. Sure, it might sound a bit kindergarten-ish, but looking at my resume helps me realize I’ve actually accomplished more than I give myself credit.
I’m still a work in progress—and I want to crush a lot more. But I have so much to celebrate right now, too. I find writing a cover letter, making a checklist, or even reviewing your LinkedIn page is an easy way to look at your journey and take a moment to love the you that is you.
Our best self can feel like a future us—a better us—but we’re already there. Celebrate yourself and your journey, and know it doesn't stop you from growing forward.
Trust you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in this moment—because you are. And know that you’re already your best self, just by being you.