Self-acceptance and “being your best self” are two of the big buzz words on the internet at the moment. You can’t scroll for two seconds on Instagram without seeing one or other of these phrases, either in a caption or a hashtag. As someone preaching the self-acceptance line, this isn’t always a bad thing – but I’ve always thought the “be your best self” idea was actually at odds with the notion of self-acceptance. I mean, if you want to be “your best self”, does that mean you really, truly like the self you are right now, even if it isn’t necessarily at it’s “best”?
The thing is, recently, I’ve come to understand that you can accept yourself as you are AND be “your best self” at the same time. What if “being your best self” DIDN’T mean getting up at 5am every day, giving up coffee and wine, doing daily morning Yoga and travelling the world? What if it just meant liking yourself as you are right now, without changing a thing?
Look, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. It’s part of human nature to be ambitious, built into our psyche from the days of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest. But, for me, a huge part of happiness lies in also accepting and feeling grateful for what we ALREADY have – not what’s around the corner.
This whole idea can be applied to body image too. Perhaps controversially, I think it’s OK to want to change parts of your body and there should be no shame attached to not always loving every inch of yourself. BUT the danger comes when you let these body ambitions take over to the point where you lose sight of the amazing body you already have – the one that serves you every day, allowing you to live the life you have.
Body acceptance, self-acceptance and happiness are about feeling grateful and loving the little things about your body, self and life that are there right now. Just as you might appreciate a hot cup of tea in the morning or the way the sunlight dances in your kids’ hair as you push them on a swing in the sunshine, we all need to learn to see these little pockets of happiness in our own bodies too.
I used to think the “Be your best self” line was a motivator for us all to strive to do and be more. And like I said, there’s nothing wrong with ambition – as long as it doesn’t trample over the happiness that we already have and get in the way of living in the moment. Now though, I see the “Be your best self” line as being more about loving yourself and accepting yourself as fully as you can, so that you can be as happy as you can, and give out as much energy and love as you can. This, for me, is a form of “being your best self” that I can get on board with.
So next time you berate yourself for not “being your best self” or not “living your best life” or for somehow not being enough, stop. Tell yourself one kind thing about yourself, focus on what you HAVE done today (you may not have gone for a 10 mile run at 5am but maybe you battled a school run from hell or dealt with a toddler tantrum really well?) and give yourself a pat on the back.
Now go forward and live your best life and be your best self, because you’re already doing it, right now, every single day.