The Power of Joy
There is always light
Shortly after my father passed away earlier this month, I slipped out of the hospital room to get my mom a cup of water. As soon as I stood outside the door, two people came right up asking what I needed. It was then that I noticed someone from the hospice team had slipped a plastic lighted candle over the top of the door. It hung on one of those hooks you might use to put out a Christmas wreath. No wonder I got so much attention. It was a signal that behind that door was a sacred space of grief and transition and acceptance.
I loved the symbolism of that candle. I was thinking a light went out, but it was saying a light had actually gone on as my dad moved from this world to the next. It was a light of hope and love and moments that never leave us.
Even though we knew it was coming, his passing was somehow so shocking and hard to believe. It had been about an hour and I had cried so much I could have filled that cup of water with tears. As the aide handed me the water and I turned back toward the door, I thought about more than myself, or even about my dad. I thought about my mom, my sister, my two daughters, and my niece who waited beyond that door. I thought, “Who do I want to be right now? What kind of daughter, sister, mother and aunt? What impact can I have on them in this moment that will be something I can be proud of?”
I realized I was asking myself how I could be my BEST self. How could my light shine on them in a way that was productive, loving, and supportive? It had been an ordeal and maybe I wondered, more than my 19-year-old should have been witness to.
So, I took a moment to focus on this light and how I could make it brighter and brighter for all of us. This was what the lovely folks from hospice had done. They tried to be their best selves so we could have the most comfortable experience possible despite the challenges, despite what we faced. It seemed like an impossible task for them, but they found a way to show us that even in the darkest time, there is always light, if we chose to see it.
Now in this moment, I wasn’t seeing a heck of a lot. I had my first eye surgery five days earlier and while my right eye was a vision of perfection, my left eye saw nothing but color, so as we staggered our way down those hospital hallways, I needed someone on my left holding my arm so I wouldn’t crash into something. It was a time when I had every right to be my absolute worst self. But I wanted to try not to be.
I tried to focus on the love, on the light, and the wonderful support we had all been given. Setting my sights on being my best self set a different tone. It’s like a row of dominos and effortlessly falls from one person to the next. It made me feel better and seemed to connect me in a stronger way to everyone around me. There is magic and power in being our best selves. We just need to take a moment to see it.
The Power of Why
Becoming your best self
Positive psychology encourages people to realize their full potential and be their very best. They coined the term “best self.” Being our best selves involves a process of self-discovery. It requires us to recognize and use our strengths, and to also acknowledge and understand the areas in which we could use some improvement. This process forms our self-perception.
Research shows that our self-perception affects how we feel about the person we think we are, and impacts whether we are competent and/or have self-worth. Our self-perception is rooted in our self-concept.
Many experts have conducted research studies and formed theories about our self-concept. Self-concept is simply defined as “the image we have of ourselves.” It embodies the answer to the question “who am I?” It’s how we perceive our behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics. This image is influenced by many factors, including our early childhood experiences and our interaction with important people in our lives.
Humanist psychologist Carol Rogers believed that self-concept is made up of three different parts:
- Ideal self: The ideal self is the person you want to be. This person has the attributes or qualities you are either working toward or want to possess. It's who you envision yourself to be if you were exactly as you wanted.
- Self-image: Self-image refers to how you see yourself at this moment in time. Attributes like physical characteristics, personality traits, and social roles all play a role in your self-image.
- Self-esteem: How much you like, accept, and value yourself all contribute to your self-concept. Self-esteem can be affected by a number of factors—including how others see you, how you think you compare to others, and your role in society.
Experts state that if there is a mismatch between how you see yourself (your self-image) and who you wish you were (your ideal self), your self-concept is considered incongruent. This incongruence can negatively affect self-esteem. However, self-concept is not static, meaning that it can change.
One way to change your self-concept and become your best self is by using the ”best possible self" positive psychology intervention, or BPS. The BPS intervention has been scientifically shown to improve your mood and your outlook on the future.
The best possible self intervention is a brief writing exercise in which you imagine your best possible self using your strengths, talents and unique characteristics to their fullest potential in a future setting where everything has gone right. You begin by taking a few minutes to visualize that life, and then write a description, in as much detail as you can, of how that life would look and feel.
The researchers found that the BPS exercise improved positive affect and positive expectations, and also reduced goal ambivalence.
We encourage you to give the Best Possible Self intervention a try, and be sure to let us know how it worked for you!