In recent years, the concept of becoming your best self or the best version of yourself has gotten very popular. It sounds nice and all. But what does it mean?

It doesn’t take much work to inquire into the idea and find nothing of substance. People get forced into vague statements of being happier or better at something. A general idea of self improvement is implicit here along with a sense of striving.

Improving one’s abilities is an important thing. There are a lot of skills to have in this world. It’s a big, big world! But improved abilities to communicate or climb a rock face or live in a van are not inherently making you better. They are just skill sets that you now have.

Maybe you have realized this. You may find that all this work in becoming your best self hasn’t really changed the most fundamental parts of your life.

Has any of it been worth it?

What Is the Self?

Let’s break apart the idea of the Self on the spiritual path and the individual ego that wants improvement.

The Self can also be broken apart into two things:

Your individual awareness

The great consciousness that is everything

Those two are not separate, but we often identify with the tiny little droplet of water that is the individual awareness. When we come back to awareness in our regular spiritual practice, we experience a sense of individuality as we watch our thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

But that little awareness is also part of the greater ocean of awareness/consciousness. That is the Self. Undividable. Eternal. Unchanged.

As such, we can never improve it, and we can’t improve our little spiritual droplet. They simply Are.

When you realize that deeply, a profound sense of relaxation may wash over you. There’s no where to go. You Are.

The Path to Nowhere

Who Are These Other Selves?

This leads to an important question: Who are these other selves?

Who is the higher self?

Who is the true self?

Who is the best self?

As far as I can tell, the higher and true self are really just deeper parts of the subconscious ego.

We yearn for clarity amidst the confusion of our lives. Wouldn’t be wonderful if we had this thing that gave us all the answers?

We often give the concept of an intuition, gut feeling, or something just feeling “true” to the higher and true selves.

Go further in your inquiry. Look deeper into your subconscious. There’s a lot down there.

Discovering Unconscious Associations and Feelings

And what of the best self?

I think that is our hope to be some version of ourselves that gets the most approval from the world around it.

Inherent in all of these selves is a hope to be safe, happy, and healthy. Which is always alluring to us.

But none of these things are freedom.

Less Is More, Seriously

We are deeply identified with our ego–the beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and bodies that we think are us. Without some initiative, we simply repeat the patterns that are known to us.

It’s what human animals do.

I said “human animals” because we must respect the deep patterns that are part of the human body. The human animal moves slowly in terms of change, and for our deepest attachments (like the attachment to the body), we will need to be dedicated and diligent.

The Animal Within: Retraining the Primal Instinctual Body

With that said, inner work is less about improvement and more about less. 🙂

We’re removing attachments and beliefs to be with what Is. We have less attachments.

But modern day ideas of improvement are about having more.

Richer.

Prettier.

Faster.

Stronger.

Smarter.

More special–legions of people on YouTube truly are there just to be seen and to feel special.

This is an endless trap because there is no end point.

Letting Go of Safety

Trying to Change Your External Circumstances

While many people try to fix their internal experiences, others try to change the external world around them. That looks like:

A better romantic relationship,

Improved working situation,

More enjoyable lifestyle or living situation,

Preferable community, or something else.

They’re trying to make their best version of life by changing the outer world. Many people succeed here as well as in changing the internal world, but then that sense of still needing to improve often remains.

Or the external world changes.

And what you had achieved gets taken from you.

Life doesn’t play fair.

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

Giving Up the Chase for the Best

To truly be on the spiritual path, we discover there is only the Self, who is no one.

We become interested in realizing that we’re no one.

From that space, we also realize that we truly can be anyone. There is no better or best.

There are just different choices.

You can be a surgeon living near the Alps. You can be a single mom working in customer service. You can be homeless living by the river. To the Self, it makes no difference.

To the ego, it absolutely does matter. And the somebody you have to be is defined by whatever rules you have been taught.

When you read the above examples, did you have a preference as to which you’d want above the others? If so, that’s ego.

How to Let Go of Your Ego

But How Do I Live, Jim?!

I have gotten the above question so many times, but all that is the ego’s fear being revealed.

The people who spiritually progress never ask me that question.

Instead, they’ve realized that life is simple and practical. Without the ego getting in the way, the necessities of proper nutrition, rest, and activity move to the forefront. The self improvement ideology changes and becomes one that is used in service to reality.

For example, if you realize that you aren’t eating right, you take classes to learn how to eat right. Your knowledge is improved to benefit the reality of your body. You’re not a a “best version of yourself” for doing this, but you do feel healthier.

Again and again, the answer to how to live is to strip away the ego to see the reality of what is actually needed. Then self improvement–or should I say conscious ego improvement–is put in its proper place.

You Are the Self

Along the way, the more you realize that you are the big and little Self, the less you care about what kind of “version” you are, much less a “best” version.

Best doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world. It only exists in the world of the ego.

The Self exists everywhere, and the great thing is that you never fail at being the Self. You are already inherently a success.

You just have to realize it.

Author

I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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