The Best Version of Ourselves, 2015

The post below was originally published in 2011, and it’s been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new things I’ve learned in the previous 12 months. For 2015, I remain committed to the philosophy it outlines, and I’m realizing I must stay focused on compassion—for myself and others—in the coming year. I still struggle to slow down, to cut myself some slack, to relax into the moment, and to remember that taking care of myself must be my number one priority if I want to accomplish any other cool, fun, adventurous things.

Thank you for all of your support, funny comments, and friendship over the years. Wishing you and yours a lovely 2015 during which you live as the best version of yourself—every day, every hour, every breath.

 

How to be the best version of yourself | meljoulwan.com

I’ve had a weight loss goal since I was 13 years old.

That’s more than 30 years of living with a number hanging over my head. From Weight Watchers summer camp to the rice diet to Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Plan to Weight Watchers to the Zone to Paleo… with aerobics videos and step aerobics and triathlons and boxing and Roller Derby and half marathons and CrossFit along the way.

My motivations have been many.

Fear of being fat. Health concerns. Peer pressure to conquer the 200-pound deadlift. A personal sense of pride. Unadulterated vanity.

Those motivations shaped my behavior. I ate “right” so I would reach my Weight Watchers goal weight. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I would some day see my name on the RX or PR board at my CrossFit gym. I was driven by a sometimes-debilitating fear that I would never be “better.”

Then a thought began to flicker in my subconscious. It started on holiday in Prague when I realized I liked exploring narrow, winding stairways. I was starting to loosen my grip on “destination” and reveling in “getting there.” That idea tickled me again when I was I was upside down during a handstand at the gym and during a fun, stopwatch-free run around the lake: What if I’ve been looking at this from the wrong direction?

My underlying motivation for all of it – the weight loss, the physical challenges, the healthy eating – has always been that I wanted to be the best version of myself. Happy, healthy, fit, strong, attractive. But that pure motivation was poorly translated into external measures that separated what I wanted from what I did.

So I got the notion to try something different. For the first time in more than three decades, what if I didn’t set a physical goal? No weight loss, no “leaning out,” no target time on the clock or weight on the bar.

Instead, what if I simply behaved like the best version of myself?

Then I would become her.

The best me eats clean and sleeps well and trains hard and smiles a lot. She’s free of worrying about what number might appear on a scale or a measuring tape. Instead of being intimidated or threatened by stronger, faster, leaner athletes at the gym, she delights in their capabilities. And she remembers to encourage the people around her to be their best versions.

Finally, the best version of me knows that she’s not required to eat clean or meditate or practice yoga or lift heavy or get solid sleep. There is no accounting ledger keeping track of exemplary behavior for a reward later. There is no opportunity to earn a metaphorical gold star.

The clean eating and training, meditation and lifting, the sound sleeping are the reward. They are the thing.

So I’ve banished my “concrete” fitness goals. I know that “Be the best version of me” doesn’t follow the traditional goal format. I don’t care. I’ve done it the conventional way; now I do it my way.

The best version of me refuses to be measured by some external yardstick.

The best version of me happily goes to bed early, wakes up refreshed, eats paleo, trains wisely, lifts heavy things, remembers to take a fun run and to play a little every day, spreads love, looks up, leads with the chin, makes up new recipes, and sings out loud.

Not because I must.

Because I want to. Because that’s me. The best me.

What’s the best version of you?

Not the one you think other people want to see, or the one the media tells you to be. The one you desire to be, deep down. Can you work toward being the best version of you? Without judgment? Without punishment? Without reward? Can you revel in being you?

 

Think About Something Else

The holiday season has officially kicked off, and that means we're not only bombarded with marketing messages about special holiday foods, but those tempting treats...

Read More

Come, Yet Again, Come

It can be very powerful to recognize the significant difference between "starting over" and "starting fresh." While browsing through some old yoga notes this weekend, I...

Read More

Comments

  • Wendy says:

    Hurrah! and Huzzah! and any other kind of cheer you can think of. I had a similar shift recently. I’m much older than you and have spent many more years attempting to reach the unreachable and berating myself for it, mentally, physically and spiritually. The shift occurred when I realized I was grateful for my strong, healthy body, grateful that it had carried me so long, without serious complications. The gratitude has stayed with me, and I see my actions as thanks to my body, I eat well because my body likes it, I exercise because my body likes it. It’s very nice to not be at constant war and looking outward for validation. It’s like I have a new best friend. Thanks for sharing your story, your best version of yourself. We all get there together, even though there’s no there there.

  • kelly says:

    Your post just reaffirmed what my goals are for 2015. Maybe its come with age but my own goals have transitioned from the end result to just being the best me i can be. Great post and thank you!

  • Robin says:

    This is EXACTLY what I needed today. I have been struggling with my weight and relationship with food most of my life. Dabbled in paleo (did a whole30) last year but never fully committed to it. Now I know why – I was thinking too hard about the number on the scale. I seriously need to throw my scale away! Not kidding. I am doing it tonight! THANK YOU for your continued inspiration, great recipes, sense of humor and awesome style!!

  • Kim says:

    This is amazing. It SO rings true with me and reminds me to re-evaluate my goals for the coming year. I know that 2015 will be the best year yet. Thank you for your simple but powerful post.

  • Diana says:

    I still have gym goals (most of which hearken back to my gymnast roots, of working on “getting” skills) but the “metrics” thing totally resonates with me. This is the first year I’m not giving myself a weight or inch goal, of some kind of food based goal/ultimatum. Hooray for healthy mental patterns!

  • Ashley says:

    Wow! This has been on my mind all week. I am a very frustrated perfectionist, in almost every aspect of my life I feel like I have been failing or falling short. I have been really thinking about changing the focus and my expectations.

    Thank you.

  • Julie says:

    I strongly agree with you 🙂
    I’ve finally come to the place in my life where I’m exercising because I want to and I want to because it feels good. Same thing with the way I eat and sleep. Great post! Thanks!

  • Karina says:

    Thanks for your post and your fabulous website and cookbooks! After 35 or so…..) years of “dieting” and counting calories, I found the Whole30 and your website and books. In 2 months, I’ve achieved weight loss and inch loss I never thought possible. I’m in better shape and health at 50 than I was at 35! The best part is I don’t ever ever count stinking calories!!! I eat–a lot–and finally have a non-dis functional relationship with food! I look forward to a healthy 2015 and I strongly endorse your website and books to anyone who loves to eat, cook and feel great about themselves

  • Rose says:

    beautiful piece.

  • chrissy j says:

    I’m getting to this post well after New Year. I’m not even quite sure how I stumbled across it; I was just looking at different recipes. But OMG. All the yes. I have had a bit of breaking point, get my shit together epiphany, this past week or two. I generally have healthy skin. I generally have a healthy and resilient GI system. I generally can eat an 80/20 paleo diet (ok ok sometimes more like 60/40) and I maintain my weight with good solid workouts. I generally sleep really well. But for the last couple months… all of that has gone to hell. And I don’t want to go back to seeking a number on the scale, weighing myself too much, logging my food (ugh, awful). So I sat down and came up with less “metric” like goals. Simply… I want to sleep better… I want to feel less aches and pains and inflammation…. I want my skin to look lovely without makeup …. and then I wrote (like with pen and paper) my action plan for things I can implement (or re-implement). The improvement in body composition will come along with making these changes but it’s not the goal. The goals are the little things and the plan is just doing things I love (meal prepping, cooking, reading, working out, foam rolling, etc). Essentially… if I do the things that made me feel good before, I will get there again, and it doesn’t require obsessing over my weight or measurements. I just need to have “best version of me goals” and get back to the basics and (hopefully) everything will fall into place. Thank for your post.