I had a client share an age old piece of wisdom with me a couple months ago –
he said that he often asks himself the following question when evaluating his relationships:
“Do I Like myself when I am with this person?”
“do I like who I am when I am with this person?”
this can also be twisted around to be more strength-based or positive:
“With whom am I my best self… with whom am I the self that I enjoy most?”
I enjoyed how good of an evaluative tool this is for setting boundaries with people in your life and for identifying areas of personal growth and development.
Take all the people in your life that you allocate a reasonably significant amount of time with and ask your self the above question… you may find it interesting how many different selves you actually have (this is totally normal).
“Who are you with certain people… is that the person you want to be?”
Often times when we engage in this exercise we find that we spend a significant amount of time with people who do not enable us to present the self we enjoy most. The follow up question to be reflected upon for person growth is: WHY?
‘Why’ will often lead us to a core schema such as “you should feel guilty for not joining people in their unhappiness” or “If I am too different than I will make that person uncomfortable (which is ‘bad’) – so I should present a self which is most similar to the other person’s presented self.”
the Next question is “what do you want?” often a core schema will come and hijack this question with the automatic thought and resulting emotion (guilt or shame) that the question is selfish…
What boundaries do you have in place to ensure that you spend most of your time with the people who elicit your best self?
What relationships could handle your best self if you were brave enough to break the homeostasis and present your self differently?
What meaning do you take from the reality that some relationships will not be able to handle your best self? What actions do you want to take in response to this realization?
wow – doesn’t it feel relieving to imagine a life in which you spend the majority of your time with people who bring out the best you?
can you give yourself permission to have that life?
And again we land at a personal growth question… Why? or Why not?
This exercise begs for a connection with topic of authenticity. Authenticity is clearly a component, but upon reflection I believe that this is as much about being fulfilled and ‘happy’ with a presented identity than it is about being authentic. They are not necessarily, but can be, exclusive – for example if we changed the question to: “with whom are you most authentic?” you may arrive at a relationship which is honest and vulnerable, yet not totally enjoyable or fulfilling. Suffering and joy are both authentic, and relationships tend to have a resting baseline somewhere on the continuum between these two poles. If a relationship tends to have a baseline in the suffering territory, then you are likely presenting a self which is highlighting aptitudes, experiences, thoughts and emotions which are in synchrony with an energy of suffering.
This exercise is also not totally about fun or happiness either – as there are some people with whom we experience significant gratification in the moment only to feel shame upon reflection when we find that, though there was a sense of joy, the joy may have come at the expense of congruence. For example, the joy could have come at the expense of staying in-line with your own morals, beliefs or values.
So then a best self is both fulfilled, happy, and authentic. – Who are you imaging right now when you read this definition?