You’ll learn how to thrive when you learn how to give thanks to all of them.
We live in the age of the “best self”. Content creators, Instagram life coaches, and the basic mom next door bombard us with all the nitty-gritty details of their personal transformations. Inspirational coffee posts. Sunrises. Legs at the beach. Green smoothies. We all know what to expect now when we hear someone say they are living their “best life” or being their “best self”.
A lot of these frantic self-improvement posts miss the reality of the best self, however. They imagine it to be some grand future vision, an imaginary person who they can color into life. The truth is that each of us has been, are in this moment, and will continue to be the best possible versions of ourselves.
Your best self exists right here. They don’t need a magic formula or some sort of magical finish line. You’ve always been the version of yourself that is doing the best they can. And that future self will change, change, and change again…
The “best self” honeypot.
Much of the “best self” ideology comes from the self-improvement world. Motivational content creators, Instagram influencers, and disingenuous coaches use it to sell books, t-shirts, masterclasses, and more — all stamped with the promise that they will help you manifest a mystical and pain-free version of yourself in a certain amount of time.
It’s a honeypot. We eat it up, hook-line-and-sinker. It’s too tempting. Humans love a shortcut, and we especially love the idea of shifting blame. If we don’t like where our lives are at, it’s tempting to create a better self. It’s like starting over. This person is bad, but a new one can be made.
Humans aren’t butterflies. You will not wrap yourself up in a cocoon and come out a completely unfamiliar creature, separated from the pain of life. Your best self isn’t someone you have to work up to every single day. A version of your “best self” has already been in play, moving your life forward. There are so many versions of your best self, and they all deserve to be honored.
The many versions of your best self.
The idea of one best self is absurd. To be static, as a human, is to be miserable. We’re all supposed to grow up, to be better. And the whole time, we are. We’re always trying to make the best possible decisions for ourselves, even when they aren’t the right decisions. It’s important to acknowledge every facet of every “best self” you’ve ever been, so you can hold space for a new future-you to bloom.
The old self
Your best self didn’t start in this moment. It didn’t start when some Instagram guru caught your eye with a hashtag. Even if you don’t like to acknowledge them, your best self started a long, long time before then. It’s the reason you’re sitting here right now, reading this, seeking to find a more peaceful life for yourself.
This original best self was the struggling you. It was the version of you who was doing the best they could. They were doing their best, even though they were hurting, they were broke, and they didn’t know anything about their minds or what mattered to them.
They were the person who made all the mistakes, who learned all the lessons. Without them, you wouldn’t be here. Without that broken person who was seeking some kind of resolution, you wouldn’t have found yourself in the present moment, ready to become an even better version of yourself.
The present self
We can’t afford to dwell too much on the past self, nor can we spend too much time living in the land of future fantasy. The present moment is, after all, the only moment which you have control over. This is the moment in which the next version of you is born. This is where the “rubber meets the road”.
Your present self is the best self you are creating right now. It’s the person you’re actively becoming while you read this. It’s the person you are becoming when you go home tonight and write in your journal, or take a few minutes to meditate.
The present self is the superhero self. It’s the person who can take a stand and change things in any direction they will it. They can change their relationships, they can change their career paths, their families, their friends. The present self is the best self because they can fast track your happiness.
The future self
Your future self is the person you are becoming from this present moment. They are an amalgamation of the choices you make now and the vision you have for yourself. Aligned with self-esteem and clarity, they can become any vision of peace you could imagine.
It’s important to remember that your future self is a different self. It is someone who won’t want the same things that you want now. They may not even value the same things you value in life, careers, relationships, or anything else that’s important.
The future self shouldn’t be stressed. We should embrace it. We should give ourselves space to create happiness in any way we choose (and need). Let loose the reins and give yourself the freedom to be wild.
The adjusted self
They say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and that’s certainly true. No matter how many selves we plan to become, or how many iterations there have been so far, there is always more to come.
That’s especially important to remember when you experience trauma, upset, or heartbreak in your life and relationships. The person you become in these moments of pain is an important person, and they deserve more credit than we give them.
Take this opportunity to honor the person you had to become to survive. Hold space now for the re-emergence of that person in moments of future trauma. That’s who you’ve always been. You were a hurt person doing that the best you could after challenges you could neither expect nor understand.
Embracing the best in you right now…
You will not flip a switch and become a new person in the blink of an eye. The clock will not turn over on January 1st and magically whisk you away into some magical alternative universe. Life doesn’t work that way. Nature doesn’t work that way.
Improvement is constantly happening to you. Growth is always creeping in at the edges of your life, in every shade of change that happens in your relationships, in your family, and even at work. Subconsciously, you’re always trying to make it better for yourself. For that reason alone, we have to acknowledge who we’ve been and who we are now to create any “better” we possibly imagine.
There’s no point in waiting for some erroneous finish line to fall in love with yourself. You can embrace the best in yourself and your life right now by celebrating yourself, holding space for your emotions, and making the best possible choices you can (from intentions aimed only at you and your true wellbeing).
Don’t fall for the best self honeypot. Don’t let another internet guru virtue signal you into the idea that you have to be fixed. There’s nothing to fix. Sure, you can feel better. You can do better. You can improve your life and make it look totally different from the way it looks now.
There is not a magical tap dance you have to do, though. You’re good enough, right now as you are, to celebrate — to be worthy of a good life. Your best self isn’t waiting around a corner. They’re sitting in the chair with you, right this very second, and they’re waiting for you to stop holding your breath. Hold space for the person who got them here, instead: you.
© E.B. Johnson 2023