FROM THE ARCHIVES: I first posted this in February 2015. Having just returned yesterday from a writer's retreat with five inspiring women, I am more convinced than ever that we all struggle with judging ourselves instead of appreciating ourselves and embracing our gifts as fully as we should. I'm re-posting in hopes it will encourage you to shake off self-doubt, identify your gifts and strengths, and put them in fuller service to God and the world. We need you!
I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Just because I'm in my mid-sixties doesn't mean I've figured it all out. To the contrary, the older I get, the more I'm torn between alluring choices, and the more I realize my best self is a moving target. Life is really a journey of becoming, not a journey of attainment, isn't it? But if I spend too much time contemplating all the choices, I can become paralyzed with indecision.
For years I thought it was essential to always aspire to be my best self. And yet…and yet…
I'm beginning to think this is not the right line of thinking. In our perfection-driven and self-judgmental culture, trying to be our “best self” all the time might sound good, but in reality, it's like trying to be Superwoman or Superman. We want it all, all at the same time, right now, so haven't we set ourselves up for failure before we even start?
Using that logic, depending on the internal vision I have of what my best self is, I can either have a good day or a bad day. Today, I may get to the gym, make healthy eating choices, and drink plenty of water, but I might have spent no time with my family or doing anything to better the world around me. Tomorrow I may eat like a pig, yet I might take the time to show compassion to a stranger or write a big chunk of my next book or indulge in some much-needed self-care.
Do we ever get it all right at the same time? Of course not. Does it really matter? Or are we wasting mental and emotional energy on an illusion?
Here's what I've decided (at least today; I might feel differently next month, in which case you'll hear more from me on the subject.) I'm not knocking goals or the importance of striving to be healthier, kinder, more informed, more generous, or more compassionate. But the rub seems to come when we try to do it all at the same time.
The truth is this: the only day we can count on is today. If I am living mindfully and deliberately—and I believe that is something we should all strive to do—it is only the choices I make right now that matter. There is nothing to be gained by regretting yesterday's choices: learn from them and let them go. Tomorrow's choices will come soon enough. But if I ask myself only “What is the best thing for me to be doing right now?” I am minimizing the number of choices and making it more likely I'll take action instead of becoming fragmented and unproductive. When we adopt a more mindful and intentional practice, taking action becomes almost inevitable, because we embrace the mindset “If not now, when?”
So let's stop putting ourselves under pressure to become our best self. We're pretty darned amazing the way we are! Instead, let's embrace this wonderful wisdom from ancient Sanskrit writings (see below) about living in the present, and becoming our best selves will occur naturally:
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day.