Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I didn’t feel like saying good morning. I didn’t feel like working. I didn’t feel like doing anything.
“Sometimes it’s just a bad day,” I said to myself, trying to be compassionate.
Compassion was beyond what my Worst Self could manage. “Just be happy I’m getting in the shower,” my Worst Self snapped back. “You know what you can do with your compassion?”
I don’t mean to be mean by calling her my “Worst Self.” She’d be the first one to use that term. It’s accurate and authentic. She doesn’t have patience. She’s not peaceful or happy. She is insecure and lacking in curiosity, vitality and compassion. She is the worst of me and she’s ready to admit it.
I also have a Best Self. She possesses the things I value and like: she’s kind, patient and wise. She’s full of both energy and calm. And she’s not reactive or prickly.
People are moody — it is a fact of being human. Whether we feel depressed, anxious, angry, or like we want to hide from the world, we sense we are somehow compromised. Thankfully, bad moods are usually transient states when access to our Best Selves seems lost.
Here’s an example of how petty my Worst Self can get. On this day, my adult stepdaughter, whom I love dearly, asked me for a stamp. My Worst Self couldn’t spare it. My Worst Self was outraged and overwhelmed at the thought of having to get more stamps at the post office. “The long lines and slow clerks!”
Luckily for my stepdaughter, my Best Self jumped in with “Stay calm, Hil. You can always order stamps online. Just fake being kind and generous for now.”
My Worst Self wasn’t convinced but she complied. She didn’t know why she felt like hoarding her stuff, she just did. Generosity, like compassion, is not in my Worst Self’s repertoire.
I am comforted by the recognition that I have a Worst Self part and a Best Self part. Just naming them and recognizing which one is front and center helps me connect with a third part of me: my aware self.
I’m soothed by the universality of this experience. We all have best and worst aspects of ourselves. If you’re not sure, just ask your loved ones. They’ll be happy to tell you!
I find it useful to recognize, even welcome, my Worst Self for three reasons:
- I can warn others to stay away. Sometimes my Worst Self likes to “sit in the dark and suffer alone.”
- I can ask for sympathy, compassion, or a hug. (Though sometimes, my Worst Self is too prickly to accept a hug.)
- I can talk with my Worst Self and help her make room for my Best Self.
Miraculously, I got through today somehow managing to do many of the things I was supposed to. My Worst Self didn’t insult anyone. Neither did she pinch pedestrians walking down the busy New York City streets who came just a bit too close to her. My Worst Self generally needs space.
My Best Self has compassion for my Worst Self, but it is not reciprocated. My Worst Self pretty much dislikes herself and everyone on the planet. Mostly she’s scared. So I’ve learned to allow my Best Self to do some reassuring: “That’s OK, Hil. Hang in there. Tomorrow will probably be better.”
I don’t find it useful to criticize my Worst Self. It only keeps her around longer. I do find it helpful to ask her if she knows why she is visiting? If she doesn’t know, I try to tell her, “It’s ok. Sometimes it’s just a bad day.” That we can agree on.
Thoughtful woman photo available from Shutterstock