Last week I talked about what happens when we’re not our best selves, and this week I was going to write about the opposite, of how to be our best selves.
Until last night, when I was reminded of something you need to be able to do before you can recognize your best self. It’s also something you need to be able to do from a mindful eating perspective.
You need to go deep.
You have to be willing to delve into your inner thoughts and feelings. Recognize how you’re acting and reacting. Explore why you’re responding in that way. Accept who you are – and accept that you might want to change things.
Not everyone is up for this. That’s okay – I’m not trying to force anyone. But if you want to understand how to be the best version of you, and to recognize times when you’re not, exploration is required.
I’m not saying it will be comfortable. In fact, not being comfortable is the point. As Darrnell Moore said in a recent OnBeing podcast about Self-Reflection and Social Evolution:
“[We] resist the uncomfortable conversations…. I do understand how we resist discomfort, but what I do know is that we can only get to ‘light’ if we are willing to work so hard to travel through the darkness.”
How, then, do you go into those depths? Here are a few suggestions.
It takes time to explore how you feel about something, or let yourself think through all the implications of an action or decision. You need to make some space for this in your schedule, preferably a time when you don’t have hard constraints.
Depending on how you process, you also need physical space. This isn’t something you want to do in a crowded room, or even with another person in the room. Ideally you should have a room to yourself, where you can sit in some quiet and let yourself reflect.
Alternately, if you need to talk through things, see if you can find someone you trust who’s willing to listen.
Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable
Part of what makes going deep so difficult is that it requires you to be vulnerable. Even if you’re alone, this isn’t always to do, but if you really want to figure out what’s going on, it’s necessary.
One of the challenges with this is that if you’re used to keeping your guard up, or if you’re not in touch with your emotions, it’s very hard to lower those barriers. If you find that’s the case, give yourself permission to take things slow. You won’t necessarily get to the bottom of the issue right away, but hopefully you can at least make progress.
Find an Outlet
Another key is to find a way to express whatever you find.
If you’re someone who processes by talking, you could record what you’re saying (you can do this with a smartphone), and then listen back to help you figure things out.
You could also write, draw, paint, or find some other outlet that works for you.
After you’ve had some time to reflect, be gentle with yourself. Do something lighter, that helps lift you out of the hard work you’ve done and lets you relax.
This could be listening to a song, watching a video, going for a walk, taking a bath, or whatever might nourish and sooth you.
To give you an example, a friend of mine recently commented how much of life is sheer maintenance: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. All those things we need to do just to keep ourselves up and running.
The comment made me sad, and at first I couldn’t figure out why. Then I remembered.
It was something my aunt used to talk about, my aunt who died thirteen years ago in June.
I remember her complaining about it when I was in college, which means she would have been in her early 30’s. I didn’t completely understand it then, since even though I did some cooking and cleaning, I wasn’t in full adult mode.
Now, though, I get it, and it saddens me to know I’ll never get to commiserate with her about it. But I couldn’t fully recognize or acknowledge that sadness until I sat down to write about it, because writing is how I process.
Once I understood that, and went through a couple of tissues, I transitioned out of that sadness by playing with the cats a little. Although that, too, is somewhat bittersweet, since my aunt adored cats – she had 9 at the time she died.
Still, even though it’s sad, it’s helpful to understand what’s going on. Otherwise, I might act badly because of suppressed sorrow and not know why.
What Have You Found?
But what about you? Have you ever allowed yourself to go deep, and if so, did you find anything unexpected?
Or if you haven’t done this much, would you be willing to try? I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
And next week, for real this time, I’ll talk about how this relates to being your best self.