Be your best self.
Do the best you can.
Put your best foot forward.
We repeat these mantras over and over again: in our heads, in the mirror and to each other.
While these sayings come from a good place to motivate and inspire, this message is heard loud and clear without our own voices adding to the conversation. Because let's face it: We get the point.
We constantly think it's great to be the best.
Self-improvement is a noble thing to work on. Setting goals, making lists and challenging yourself is productive and healthy.
But chasing perfection is a draining game to play, and it's a game with open admission. It's nearly impossible to do anything without getting slammed with the pressure to look better, act better and be better.
Even in the comfort of our own bedrooms, our phones are constantly reminding us to be on our A game.
I find myself enjoying a bowl of ice cream or a slice of pizza after a 12-hour day at my cubicle. Then, I make the mistake to look at my phone and see Gigi Hadid or some yogi model's Instagram.
The self-critical thoughts come flying in: "I shouldn't be doing this. I should be doing a juice cleanse. I should be going for a run. I should be doing anything besides what I'm doing right now."
It doesn't help we have an audience at our fingertips: Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Bumble… the list goes on and on. And these apps are just getting more and more critical with time.
Remember the days when you would post a Facebook album with 200 photos? You could see red eye and finger blurs, and the title would be something obvious like “Summer 2007.”
Now, you pick one picture – the best one with perfect lighting and a witty caption – and that's your shot for approval.
Or go back to the days before dating apps, when we lived in a “what you see is what you get” type of world. Now, we post carefully-selected pictures – one beauty shot, one funny picture, one outdoorsy photo and one picture with friends – to put together the BEST portfolio. All of this, just for a swipe right from a stranger.
The problem with always trying to be the best is we will never be satisfied.
We can't be the best versions of ourselves every single day. We all have days when we aren't feeling “all that.”
We all get fed up. We all say things we don't mean. We all make choices we know aren't the best, like having the extra drink that takes us from tipsy to trashy, or making a mistake at work we already made once before.
These moments of perceived failure may not play on the highlight reel of your life, but they ARE the moments that make up your real life. They're the moments you look back on and laugh at or learn from. Or maybe you simply forget about them... because they didn't matter in the long run.
We don't give ourselves nearly enough credit. Beating ourselves up for overreacting and under-delivering takes time away from appreciating our wonderful, silly, quirky and clumsy qualities. These are what make us who we are.
Our ability to smile at a stranger, lift up a piece of heavy furniture, lend an ear to a friend going through a hard time or even listen to our own heartbeat should be admired. We are all incredible humans.
We always want what we don't have. But if we stop and look at what we do have, we may be beautifully surprised.
Because being your best self is simply being you.