Are You Your Best Self?

At a workshop at the Woodruff Arts Center I got to work with the wonderful storyteller and teaching artist David Gonzalez.  He took us through a transformation exercise in which we became other people, but we started as our “best selves.”  This is the person that we can be when we are at our best, the person we would most like to present ourselves as to the world.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my “best self.”  I believe I am my “best self” most often when I am teaching one-on-one.  I love being that person, and feel most loved and valued in that state.

 

If I could, I’d be my best self all the time.  I am not always able to be when I teach large classes.  Nor am I my best self with my friends, though I want to be.

 

I am definitely not always my best self with my family.  This is among the most painful things in my life.  It’s especially sad because, while I think it’s most important to be my best self at home, it’s impossible.

 

My children and I have a relationship in which sometimes I am the hero, sometimes the villain, sometimes the fool, sometimes the wise man, sometimes nothing.  I believe that they need me to be all of these things, because they push me in these directions.  They like to mock me, defy me, argue with me, test me, infuriate me.

 

And so, even though I’d like to present my best self to them, I fail.  Time and time again, I am not only a flawed father, but a very poor human being.  I feel all the more wretched in these times because I feel so far from the best self I know I can be.

 

But perhaps this is the great miracle of parenting.  If we could, we’d all be our best selves all the time.  And then who would we be?

 

Presenters, self-fulfilling prophecies, convinced of our innate goodness with no challenge to the mirage of our perfection.  No, parenthood offers a very different gift.  Parents learn that you do not have to be your best self in order to be loved and loving.

 

My best self is important.  I pull him out when I can.  It is not my whole self.

 

This Father’s Day I am reminded, as I am every day, that I am flawed, in process, and expected to set an example for my children.  The example I set is not to be my best self.  It is to do my best work whatever self I happen to be at the time.

 

3 comments

  • Deborah Elizabeth Lotus

    Deborah Elizabeth Lotus

    Good Morning, Adam, You have struck a chord in my present examination of 'self' as I embark on a new project; tomorrow, I am opening my 'Movement Intelligence' clinic, "The Hip Joint". making availible Bones for Life "Individual Solutions" for those with 'movement dysfunctions'...This is the work of Ruthy Alon, who as a mentor, has always drawn from me both my 'best self', and at times, my 'worst self'...but why I love her work is it supports me to always be my 'real self', or so I imagine. I have not been a parent myself, but what you describe in your 'best self' ruminations about being a parent made me think that your children have been your teacher in how to be your best self. It also brings to mind Donald Winnecott's concept of the 'good enough' parent. "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure" (Winnicott, 1953) Under this defintiion, of course you are your 'best self' all the time--your best self encompasses ALL your self, as long as you are authentically yourself and not playing a role, and thus by example your are guiding your children, even when not your 'best self'! In my chosen life's work, "Feldenkrais" , I too feel I am my 'best self' when guiding with my brain's knowledge through my hands--"Functional Integration". For me, not being a parent, this is both an outlet for my nurturing instincts as well as the joy of 'teaching by handling'...But this bold venture of a 'movement clinic' is a new paradigm--can I get the same satisfaction for myself, and results for my students, as when I am giving 'hands on' lessons? Can my gentle, exploratory teaching style translate into verbal instructions as the same non-threatening, re-assuring 'developmental movements' --often leading out of pain and into self-confidence? I sense I am venturing into the unknown, and questioning my ability to remain my 'best self' while guiding others--especially when they 'push my buttons', just as children do with thier parents. This challenge to myself entails setting myself up as the movement "prescriptive/proscriptive' authority"-- a different paradigm from the classical Feldenkrais approach of 'exploration, experimentation, mutual investigation' of the client's 'problem'? So, I have been asking my 'self' "Do I know enough'? Can I be confident enough, persuasive enough to really help the person find thier optimal movement habit-patterns? So, first thing this morning, your blog jogged me into thinking how I don't have to be 'perfect' at this, I just need to be the 'good enough parent' for each individual. It is an apt comparison, as our work in a way is about 're-parenting'...helping the student through the developmental stages and milestones which may have been given short shrift in thier own maturation process...through 'learning', not 'treatment'. Thank you Adam, for helping me coalesce my own inchoate thoughts, and to realize that in this new (ad)venture, I can and will be my 'best self', and be able to help others discover thier own 'best selves' --and that is good enough! All the zest and love, Deborah

    Good Morning, Adam,
    You have struck a chord in my present examination of 'self' as I embark on a new project; tomorrow, I am opening my 'Movement Intelligence' clinic, "The Hip Joint". making availible Bones for Life "Individual Solutions" for those with 'movement dysfunctions'...This is the work of Ruthy Alon, who as a mentor, has always drawn from me both my 'best self', and at times, my 'worst self'...but why I love her work is it supports me to always be my 'real self', or so I imagine.
    I have not been a parent myself, but what you describe in your 'best self' ruminations about being a parent made me think that your children have been your teacher in how to be your best self.
    It also brings to mind Donald Winnecott's concept of the 'good enough' parent. "The good-enough mother...starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure" (Winnicott, 1953) Under this defintiion, of course you are your 'best self' all the time--your best self encompasses ALL your self, as long as you are authentically yourself and not playing a role, and thus by example your are guiding your children, even when not your 'best self'!
    In my chosen life's work, "Feldenkrais" , I too feel I am my 'best self' when guiding with my brain's knowledge through my hands--"Functional Integration". For me, not being a parent, this is both an outlet for my nurturing instincts as well as the joy of 'teaching by handling'...But this bold venture of a 'movement clinic' is a new paradigm--can I get the same satisfaction for myself, and results for my students, as when I am giving 'hands on' lessons? Can my gentle, exploratory teaching style translate into verbal instructions as the same non-threatening, re-assuring 'developmental movements' --often leading out of pain and into self-confidence? I sense I am venturing into the unknown, and questioning my ability to remain my 'best self' while guiding others--especially when they 'push my buttons', just as children do with thier parents.
    This challenge to myself entails setting myself up as the movement "prescriptive/proscriptive' authority"-- a different paradigm from the classical Feldenkrais approach of 'exploration, experimentation, mutual investigation' of the client's 'problem'? So, I have been asking my 'self' "Do I know enough'? Can I be confident enough, persuasive enough to really help the person find thier optimal movement habit-patterns?
    So, first thing this morning, your blog jogged me into thinking how I don't have to be 'perfect' at this, I just need to be the 'good enough parent' for each individual. It is an apt comparison, as our work in a way is about 're-parenting'...helping the student through the developmental stages and milestones which may have been given short shrift in thier own maturation process...through 'learning', not 'treatment'.
    Thank you Adam, for helping me coalesce my own inchoate thoughts, and to realize that in this new (ad)venture, I can and will be my 'best self', and be able to help others discover thier own 'best selves' --and that is good enough!
    All the zest and love,
    Deborah

  • Adam Cole

    Adam Cole

    Thank you, Deborah! I understand and wish you the best of luck with your endeavor. Adam

    Thank you, Deborah! I understand and wish you the best of luck with your endeavor.

    Adam

  • Darcy

    Darcy

    I have to echo Deborah's point here. I had to stop reading O Magazine (Oprah's rag) because it was compulsory self-improvement at its most aggressive. Just when I started to build some confidence about some area of my life, I'd read an article in it about how I was doing it wrong and should be doing it better. As an atheist Buddhist it has helped me to let go of the Judeo-Christian original sin/we are all sinners ideology and move more toward the concept of Buddha nature: we are all inherently good; it just gets buried under life's dirty laundry sometimes. ;) Good luck being you, Adam - I love you, and you are your best self all the time! Hugs! :)

    I have to echo Deborah's point here. I had to stop reading O Magazine (Oprah's rag) because it was compulsory self-improvement at its most aggressive. Just when I started to build some confidence about some area of my life, I'd read an article in it about how I was doing it wrong and should be doing it better. As an atheist Buddhist it has helped me to let go of the Judeo-Christian original sin/we are all sinners ideology and move more toward the concept of Buddha nature: we are all inherently good; it just gets buried under life's dirty laundry sometimes. wink Good luck being you, Adam - I love you, and you are your best self all the time! Hugs! smile

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