What Does It Mean to Be the “Best Version” of Yourself? and How Can We Use That to Live More Authentically?

I once really puzzled someone by talking about being the best version of your true self. They wondered how there could be different versions of you. Aren’t you “yourself” all the time? What else could you be?

In some ways, this young man had an excellent point. For example, if you do something that hurts a friend and then say, “That wasn’t really me,” because it’s something your ideal self wouldn’t do that doesn’t make your friend feel better. That might not be how your idea self would act but you actually did the hurtful thing in real life.

Other people interact with each of us based on the assumption that what they see is the real version of you. They might also see your potential and encourage you toward it, but for them who you are right now is the only version of yourself that exists.

But there are also different roles we play based on context. And many of us struggle with feeling like there’s a true self we hide from the world and then a different self that we show other people. We might also think about an ideal self we don’t measure up to yet. So even though who you are right now is “yourself,” you might also feel like your true/best self isn’t who you’re living as right now.

What is a “best version” of you?

The idea that there’s a “best version” of you assumes there are several different versions. There’s the version of you that your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures wanted you to be. There’s the version of you that fits in with the people you want to call friends. There’s the version of you that you don’t like very much when you look at yourself. There’s the version of you that makes you feel whole and authentic. I’m sure you could come up with others as well.

But are those really different versions of the real you? Or are you simply “you” and all those other “versions” are masks you wear or roles you choose to play?

This might just sound like nit-picking word choice, but there’s a difference between believing there are many versions of you and believing that you’re already your real self. If we go with the latter, being the best “version” of yourself isn’t about picking one of many versions that you want to be but rather about living authentically as the self you already are. Read more

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It’s Okay to Ask for Help with Your Anxiety

Have you ever thought that maybe you’re going through something that you can’t handle on your own, but something held you back from asking for help?

That’s a feeling quite a large number of people who struggle with anxiety (and I’m sure other mental health issues as well) can relate to. Maybe you don’t think it’s “bad enough” to bother with therapy, or you’re concerned that therapy won’t do you any good. Or maybe you’re worried about what other people will think of you if you seek help. Perhaps it’s a financial concern, or pressure from someone in your life, or something else entirely that’s telling you not to ask for help.

The stigma against talking about mental health issues is lessening, but it hasn’t gone away completely. Admitting we need help with something that’s going on inside our own heads is rarely easy. But there’s nothing wrong or weak in seeking help. Rather, it’s a choice of strength and self-care to seek out the help you need when you’re struggling with anxiety.

Waiting 10 years for treatment

While some of the things I’m going to say in this post might apply to other mental health issues, I’m going to focus on anxiety (and to a lesser extent depression) because that’s what I have direct experience with.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.” And even though anxiety disorders in general are considered highly treatable, “only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.” Read more

Feelings Don’t Care About Your Facts: Here’s Why Its so Hard to Change Someone’s Mind

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with someone who quoted Ben Shapiro saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” The tension between facts and feelings is a topic that’s been coming up quite a bit in discussions recently for me, as I’ve talked with people who are frustrated by how many people today ignore scientific research related to several issues that I don’t want to get into right now. My reason for bringing this up is that listening to these comments prompted a related thought.

Feelings don’t care about your facts.

You can have all the research in the world to back you up but when feelings are involved people (as a whole) just don’t care. You can’t root out deeply help opinions by inundating people with logical reasoning. It’s like if you’ve ever spilled cooking oil on your clothes and then tried to scrub it out with water. The facts just run right off because they doesn’t mesh with what we already hold true.

“As a result of the well-documented confirmation bias, we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking.” — “Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does” by Ozan Varol

At its most simple, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true.” Once we get an idea in our heads, we tend to hold on tight to information that supports it and ignore or reject anything that would threaten this idea. These tightly-held ideas can be anything from a political view, to an understanding of how the world works, to a belief about yourself (“What Is Confirmation Bias?” by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.).

It’s Not Just “Them”

We tend to think that we’re right and other people who disagree with us are wrong. We can easily see confirmation bias at work in others, and many of us are more than happy to point that problem out and offer correction.

This isn’t just a problem with other people, though. It’s a problem with you and me too. We all have confirmation bias about the things we believe. We all filter-out opposing information and gravitate toward the things that agree with us. No matter how rational and fact based we think we are, we’re also influenced by confirmation bias. If we want to understand why it’s so hard to change people’s minds we need to recognize what’s happening in ourselves as well as in them. Read more

Taking Responsibility for Our Own Feelings and Learning to Talk about Complicated Issues in Today’s Society

I love getting into deep, complicated discussions with people. For example, what are the political and social implications of the fact that people who score high in the personality trait Conscientiousness tend to identify as conservative and those who score high in Openness tending to identify as liberal? Or what does it mean to “live your truth” and can one do that as a Christian while still accepting God’s truth as the absolute moral authority?

Talking about those sorts of things (or even just listening) makes me come alive. This is one reason I love podcasts that deep-dive into complicated topics. Two of the most recent were “The Heart of the Abortion Debate” from Crossway Podcast and “Radical Self-Discovery with Jator Pierre” from the Awaken With JP Sears Show. On this latter one, they opened with talking about “this interesting, tight-knitted, hyper-constricted PC culture” and the question, “Why the hell do you think we’re so PC here in 2019?”

This latter question went in a curious direction that I’ve been pondering for more than a week now. Because PC topics are so emotionally charged, “many of us become emotionally blinded and we don’t bring in a lot of logic,” to quote Jator Pierre. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most of us don’t know how to take responsibility for how we feel or how to effectively communicate and share in a back-and-forth dialogue.

Taking Away Voices

Wikipedia says the term political correctness “is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” It sounds good in theory, but in practice it has turned into a culture where certain people try to silence any ideas or words that offed them without caring how that might affect others outside the PC-protected groups. Instead of seeing words as vehicles to communicate different viewpoints and facilitate dialogue, they see words as violent and react defensively.

“Not many of us are taught how to communicate, how to share, how to dialogue, how to hear, how to reflect, and how to notice when we’re emotionally charged to be able to take maybe a step back for a second or two to feel what’s coming up, to notice what’s coming up, and then to continue on with a dialogue. Most of us go into a defended posture, in my experience, and then go on the attack.” — Jator Pierre

It also has the side-effect of encouraging the offended person blame others for how they feel. We’re heading toward a culture where people think they have a right to avoid being offended by someone else. What they don’t realize or care about is that their refusal to hear offensive things leads to them hurting and/or shutting down others who don’t agree with them. Instead of bringing people together the PC movement creates further polarization and enmity. Read more

How to “Be Yourself” as a Christian (and Figure out Who “Yourself” Really Is)

Today’s post is inspired by two comments I saw/heard last week. The first was a quote shared in a Christian group on Facebook. The quote is from Dale Partridge and it goes like this: “The motto ‘be yourself’ has become Satan’s counterfeit to God’s ‘be holy as I am holy’.”

Since the tagline for my blog is “Finding our true selves in the people God created us to be,” I don’t think it will surprise any of you that I have a different take on the advice to be yourself. Before we dive into that, though, I want to tell you about the other thing that prompted this post.

I listened to episode 45 of the Awaken With JP Sears Show, titled “Radical Self-Discovery with Jator Pierre.” In this episode, one of the key topics they discussed is the importance of being able to speak “your truth” and the dangers that PC culture poses to that idea. “Your truth” is part of who you are and what you have to offer the world. It’s neither healthy nor socially desirable to have people silence that.

While I loved the discussion, the idea of “your truth” is a bit problematic for Christians because it implies multiple versions of truth whereas God is very clear that He is the only source of truth. But when someone talks about the idea of having “your truth” as part of being an authentic weirdo is that really something followers of Jesus Christ should freak out about? Perhaps there is a way to be yourself and be an authentic Christian as well. Read more

Cultivating Patience For Spiritual and Personal Growth

Patience isn’t something many of us want to take seriously. We joke about how impatient we are. We fume when stuck behind a driver going even a few miles per hour below the speed limit. We abandon time-consuming projects for something faster and more interesting. We gobble up as much instant gratification as we possibly can.

Impatience is easy. Patience takes work. And, as with many things, the option that requires some hard work is by far the most rewarding. Cultivating patience can improve our health and our relationships. It’s also an important tool for personal and spiritual growth, which is the context today’s post is going to focus on.

Defining Patience

If you research the word “patience,” you’ll find that it comes from the Latin word patientia, which literally refers to the “quality of suffering.” In modern usage, we define it as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Related words include forbearance, tolerance, self-restraint, resignation, stoicism, fortitude, and endurance.

I’m no linguist, but one of the languages I have studied a little is Biblical Greek and in doing so I discovered something about patience that I find fascinating. In the Greek New Testament, there are two words for patience. “Hupomone (5281) is exercised toward things and circumstances, while makrothumia is exercised toward people” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, entry 3116). Both are key to experiencing growth and cultivating a more patient lifestyle. Read more