We’ve all been in situations where we’re not the best versions of ourselves. (If you haven’t, please tell me your secret!)
Maybe it’s when stress after stress piles up and then the one last thing tips you over the edge, like getting a flat tire or your grocery bag ripping when you’re trying to carry things home. Maybe it’s during a tough spot in a relationship, where you each want different things and aren’t sure how to move forward. Or when a relationship ends.
Whatever the reason, not being our best selves happens. It’s part of life. But it’s a part you might not usually think about. After all, how often do you want to dwell on times when you’re not behaving the way you’d like?
Hard as it is, though, recognizing these times is important, because if you can understand what triggers you to behave a certain way, you can work on changing it.
This includes times when you might reach for food when you’re not actually hungry, or instances when you eat more than you might like. It’s why one of the most helpful things to do after one of those situations is to sit down and try to reconstruct what happened, and why you acted the way you did.
I’ve been thinking about this because a facilitator for a meeting I’m going to asked us to reflect on: “What is happening at those times when I find myself struggling to be my best self?”
I found it an interesting question, and answering it was illuminating. In case it helps you think about the question for yourself, here’s a little of what I found for myself.
My first thoughts were about physical issues, like being tired… too hungry… uncomfortably full… in pain… boiling hot… or freezing cold.
This came up first because I’d been exhausted the day before (which happens when your cats wake you up in the middle of the night for a few nights in a row), and I’d overeaten in an effort to stay awake.
On the plus side, after being tired all day, I slept soundly that night. Maybe not quite like I did as a baby, but close. (Yes, this is me as a baby.)
We’ve also been having some warm days and nights here in Maine, so the physical side was definitely front and center.
Lack of self-care
Then another category came up, which are things related to not taking care of myself.
Eating too many fatty foods or super sweet treats… not getting outside… being around people too much… not writing… not leaving space for reflection… keeping my emotions bottled up.
These all make me cranky and not inclined to be my best self. And interestingly enough, in the past they were more likely to make me eat when I wasn’t actually hungry.
Some of the other things that surfaced were more about interacting with other people.
I definitely struggle with being my best self if I don’t feel valued by the people I’m with, or that I’m taken for granted. I find it challenging being around people who are very dramatic and emotional, or extremely impulsive.
It also drives me nuts when I’m asked to change something for what seems to be an arbitrary reason, or worse, when the change has a negative impact. (This mostly comes up at work.)
And I find it both infuriating and hurtful when someone acts like something is drastically wrong with me, that I’m broken in some way, because I don’t meet their expectations of “normal” behavior. (Whatever that is.) That hasn’t happened for a while, but it surfaced sometimes when going on dates.
Finally, my old nemesis, judging myself. If I make a mistake, I can definitely be my own worst critic and feel bad about it.
Ironically, this includes if I’m not being my best self and as a result, I react badly to something someone has said or done. Then I feel even worse, and I’m even further away from my best self, which makes for a vicious cycle.
This gets even worse if I’m around someone more emotional. They might get frustrated with my apparent lack of emotion, while I’m upset by their display of intense feelings, and then I question myself for not being able to relate to their emotion. Ugh. (And to clarify, it’s not that I don’t have emotions – I’m just more private about them.)
Knowledge is power
So – what do I take from all this?
First, I find it useful information to have. Knowledge is valuable, and self-knowledge especially so. Since I know that these types of situations can be difficult for me, I can work on being more aware of my responses during those times.
Recognizing that this is part of who I am also helps me be more forgiving of myself in situations where if I don’t react as well. This doesn’t mean I want to behave in ways I’ll regret, but I can better recognize them as learning opportunities, rather than failures.
This also helps me in relating to other people. Even though your answers to the question might be different than mine, remembering that all of us have bad days can help me respond more gently in those circumstances.
What about you? Do you know what situations might keep you from being the best version of yourself? If so, do you find that knowledge helpful?
Or if this isn’t something you’ve thought much about, I hope this has been useful and perhaps a prompt to consider it. And next week, I plan to talk about the opposite, of the situations that help bring out the best in us.