There are days when I am not myself. I look like myself all right, but I just don’t feel like myself.
Perhaps I’ve had a tough time at work the day before. Maybe it was a challenging night’s sleep. Maybe I hadn’t exercised for a few days. Maybe my quiet time had not been too quiet.
There are any number of reasons we slip out of our Best Self and into this other, unknown and less desirable individual. Obviously, if that person stays around for a prolonged period of time, we have even more trouble on our hands.
What began as a challenging day now becomes a significant relational challenge. If this Worst Self visitor stays around even longer, our relationships suffer.
I received a call from a woman recently who shared the following story:
“I’ve been with my husband for many years. I was attracted to him for his vibrant personality. Lately, however, he has become glum about his work. His children and I don’t seem to bring him the satisfaction we have in the past. The darker side of his personality seems to becoming the main part, and that scares me.”
Now, I’m not suggesting we should somehow be on the top of our game all the time. We all have moments of discouragement, situations of anger and emotional pain, but somehow we must integrate those struggles into our personality and move forward, maintaining our Best Self. We dare not let conflict with others pull us down.
Jesus, in the Parable of the Sower, offers a stern warning: “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke out the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).
Here are some questions I’d like you to consider:
⦁ Do you allow work pressures to bring down your mood?
⦁ Do you allow people who dislike you to ruin your self-esteem?
⦁ Do you allow disappointments to derail your enthusiasm?
⦁ Have you lost sight of who you really want to be?
Let’s consider some strategies cultivating our Best Self:
One, take an inventory of who you are and what you are like to live with. I call this doing a Personal Relationship Inventory—what am I like to live with. What you believe to be an occasional ‘bad mood’ might be perceived by others as a more enduring character trait. A ‘small temper problem’ may be something others in your family run from. Be honest. You cannot change what you do not own. Fierce honesty is required. This is your starting point.
Two, identify key aspects of your personality that have been lost. Those troublesome character traits, your Worst Self, are not your Authentic Self. You are struggling to express pain in an indirect and unhealthy way. You have needs that are not being honored. Consider what is missing in your life. Allow yourself to daydream a bit, pondering on what you would like your life to be like and who you’d like to be.
Three, develop a clear plan to reclaim those lost parts. After identifying what is missing, the root cause of your pain and your dysfunctional ways of expressing that pain, develop a clear plan for reclaiming parts of your life that will bring joy back to your life. Write down your plan, even if it is small steps marking a beginning.
Four, create a clear vision of who you’d like to be. Write out who you’d like to be. Write it out in the first person, as if it was really happening. Here is a snippet of what I might write: “I spend twenty minutes every day quietly reading the Word and journaling. I then play the piano for twenty minutes. I then exercise and enjoy a wonderful morning breakfast with my wife, laughing and sharing together. I head off to the office to enjoy a fruitful day of work. Life is good.”
Finally, create a clear path for becoming that person. Habits of becoming my Best Self must be practiced, day in and day out for at least 21 days (some researchers think it takes at least 66 days to develop a new habit). You must have a clear vision of your Best Self—who you really want to be. You must have a clear plan and must work that plan. Whatever the length of time, stick with it.
Sit back and reflect on who you are on your best days. Who is that person your mate fell in love with? Can you picture him/ her? Work on this until you have clarity, as clarity and conviction will help you in your journey. What are the steps necessary to reclaim those lost parts of you? You can do it and the results will be incredible.