If there is one thing that bothers me about the self-help industry, it is the idea that there is such a thing as ‘the best version of yourself’. I find it a scary idea that there’s an entire sector built on convincing you that there’s something wrong with you, that any discomfort you feel is a fatal flaw that needs fixing. It diminishes the complex experience of being a human. It leaves no room for the messiness that comes with being human.

Every version of ourselves matters

Truth be told that I have fallen for the ‘Become your best self’ message more than once. Constantly looking for ways to fix parts of myself to become this ‘better’ version of myself.

One of my greatest insights from the past years of self-development is that I learned that I don’t need any fixing and that there is no one best version of ourselves.

We have many possible, equal but different, versions. No one is better than the other. They are just different versions. Versions of myself that may not have had the knowledge, insights and experience that I do have now, but that does not degrade their value in any way, shape or form.

Self-improvement and self-acceptance should go hand in hand

Our need to constantly grow and develop might be wired in our human nature but that does not mean that different versions of ourselves that come to existence as we evolve, can be judged in terms of value. 

Each version of ourselves is equally valuable, including the version we are now, the version we’ve been and the versions that we are becoming. Each part of our story matters and all parts of yourself deserve a seat at the table.

So, if you are on the path of self-improvement, know that you can honor who you are in this very moment, even if it isn’t who you wish you were or who you are about to become.

This is not another: “Fix yourself” message

Note that this is not another ‘Fix yourself’ message.

As I am reading a lot about self-acceptance, I notice that most articles are focusing on what we as individuals can do to change about ourselves and our own ways of thinking to cultivate more self-acceptance. And even though I am all for taking responsibility for those things that are in our sphere of influence, I also think that we should not overlook the influence of our systems and the cultures that we live in.

So to prevent this message from becoming another: “Fix yourself” message, it is important to also ask ourselves: Where does the idea that there is such a thing as a ‘best self’ come from? What systems are the soil for this message?

Why do we feel the constant need to become ‘our best selves’?

I think for one because society tells us that there is such a thing as your ‘best self’, both in explicit and implicit ways.

Implicitly this message is interwoven in our education system which is built around the idea that every additional degree you get, improves your ‘value’ on the labor market and perhaps in life in general as well. 

And more explicitly, the self-help industry constantly encourages us to throw away parts of ourselves that may just be the parts that make us unique.  Only so we can be sold courses, training and books to fix all flaws that are ‘keeping us away’ from the so-called ‘best version of yourself’.

Finding this balance between self-improvement and self-acceptance is not just an individual endeavor. Changing this paradigm involves both changing our own ways of thinking as well as building systems that cultivate an environment that holds space for human beings as they are. Including the messy parts, that we now may feel we need to hide or fix. Because being human sometimes means being messy. Our humanity includes our messiness.

How do I do that?

A question I often get is: “How do I do that?” and even though I wish I could give you a specific, practical answer, the truth is, I don’t have a list with simple steps, 1-2-3 paths, or a quick fix to help you to get there.

My hope is that if you read this article, you can embrace the thought that you are good enough, just as you are and maybe let it linger for a while, and then ask yourself how you can implement this insight into your own life. What would it look like for you, when you would let all versions of yourself have a seat at the table?