Screw Your ‘Best Self’
At Target, I saw a bunch of T-shirts in the kids’ department with these inspirational sayings:
Work Hard. Shine Bright.
Find Your Power
Be Your BEST SELF.
And I kinda wanted to gag.
I know, I know. I can hear you saying it: “But Rachel, you say those kinds of things yourself all the time!”
I do. I believe we all have great potential, greater than we can imagine. And I believe my job is to help people see it in themselves and live up to it.
But seeing those bright, cheerful slogans on kids’ clothes, I felt rather oppressed. IF ONLY all it took were sparkly T-shirts to feel and be successful, empowered, and happy!
In reality, shining bright means you’ve overcome some darkness. In reality, “beautiful” and “strong” are not reliable constants. And if you find your power, that means you’ve misplaced it (maybe more than once!) along the way.
In our culture of toxic positivity, we’d rather ignore that reality. Stuff it in a shoe box! Sweep it under the rug! Drown that negativity in positive thinking.
However, it doesn’t always work.
Some days you don’t shine. And you don’t feel like shining. THEN what? I can attest to the fact that even if you consistently do All The Things, you can still have days where you feel pretty sucky. I’m a routine-oriented person. Every day, I exercise, pray, say positive affirmations, and write out things I’m grateful for—all things that elevate your mood and get you focused on the positive … and still, some days my “Best Self” is MIA and I feel like I’m just slogging through the muck like everyone else.
And it’s okay. It’s okay to NOT shine bright some days.
Not only is it okay, it’s GONNA HAPPEN. Instead of faking, do these things instead:
Accept how you feel. I’ve found that the sooner I name the feeling, the quicker it loses its hold. The more I deny it, the deeper I fall into the vortex. I usually feel ashamed and guilty when I’m unhappy, so I pretend all is well. Maybe you do this, too? It only makes things worse. On those not-beautiful days, face the truth.
Manage Your Thoughts.
Practice self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff says, “Self-compassion … requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.” As James Clear puts it, “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend.” Be kind.
Make sure your physical body has what it needs. Notice what rejuvenates you. For me, I find there are three things that help the most:
- Rest. It could be getting sleep. It could be taking a break. The hardest part is giving myself permission to STOP when I need to. Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Yep. But you still need rest.
- Water. Your body is mostly water. Getting enough helps your mood and your energy levels. But beyond that, the sound of water and the sight of water can be healing, too. A few years ago, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a beautiful post called, “Go to the water” that stuck with me. Try it!
- Move. This is the last thing you want to do when you feel gloomy and ugly on the inside. I loved what John Gorman wrote about this: “Have you ever seen sadness? What does sadness look like? It looks motionless.” Make yourself move.
Talk to someone. Your friend, your neighbor, the grocery clerk. Send a text. Write a note. Get words out of your head and into the world.
The point is not to get back to your “best self” as fast as possible, as if that’s the only acceptable version of you. Screw your “best self.” The point is to face reality and nurture the real you.
Life is not always peaches and cream. Sometimes, it’s a mess. Frankly, sometimes so are you. And me, too. The messy times will pass. In the meantime, be you, in whatever state you’re in.