This past weekend I had the pleasure of giving the keynote address at the Women’s Wellness Retreat at Camp Arroyo, a YMCA camp operated by the YMCA of the East Bay. 90 women from all walks of life were in attendance taking the weekend as an opportunity relax, rejuvenate, pay extra care to themselves, connect, and take on challenges.
Arriving at camp, I felt intimidated.
I haven’t been having the smoothest couple of months. It’s a time I would have described as “not being at my best.” For reasons related to parenting, work, and life in general I’ve been pushed past my limits and out of my comfort zones. And I’ve reacted by stress eating, raising my voice, shutting down and worst of all: not writing.
As I started to get to know the ladies at the retreat, and not let them know who I was as often as possible, my old friend doubt joined the party.
“What do you have to offer any of them?” she chimed in. “You can here to talk about authentic self care after months of putting yourself last… They’re already here, they already know everything you have to say.”
“Gee, thanks for your encouragement there, friend” I had the sense to respond. “Your feedback isn’t welcomed right now, be on your way.” And she kept her voice quiet but showed up in my body in other ways (a stress dream about speaking after not having oreoared at all, anxiety in my stomach, chest, throat, shoulders, neck, and head…). I continued to make it known that while I knew she was trying to help, I wasn’t interested in hearing from her by sharing my nervousness with a few new friends. And when Saturday night came I stood up in front of the room and did what I had promised. And as it turned out, there were women there that needed to hear from me.
And reflecting about doubt’s contribution to the weekend got me thinking about what it really meanest to be at our “best.”
I think of my “best self” as the one who is compassionate, patient, kind, intelligent, creative, mindful, and committed. And under stress, my capacity for all of those things is limited… in some cases I seem to lose touch with those qualities completely. I become judgmental, angry, rude, short sighted, limited, mindless, and want to give up and walk away.
Here’s the thing… those things I described above, are not traits, they are feelings. That best self FEELS compassionate where her opposite FEELS judgmental. They are not me, and they don’t come and go… they remain static. All that changes is my sense of connection to them. I am always my best self because I am always doing my best (and so are you).
Best is as good as it gets in the circumstances. And how you and I show up in any room at any moment is our best. It’s easy to look back and evaluate behavior and choices and say what we could have done differently… if we were truly able to, we would have. Sometimes we do! Sometimes we stop ourselves mid nag and change our language or tone. Sometimes we change course when we’ve headed to dessert table for another helping and refill our water glass instead. Sometimes we delete the text message we just typed instead of pushing send because we know sending it wouldn’t be helpful.
We do our best with what we have in the moment.
We are always at our best.