6 Questions To Help You Identify Your “Best Self”

When Oprah tells me that I should be working towards my Best Life, I nod. As though I know what she’s talking about.

When a self-help book tells me that I should stretch beyond my comfort zone to be my Best Self, I dutifully highlight that passage.

But what does that even mean: “best self”? Your Best Self is different than my Best Self which is different than my neighbor’s Best Self. And if we’re not careful, it’s easy to inadvertently opt into society’s default Best Self. Keep reading for five questions that will help you figure out what, exactly, your Best Self is like. 

Not knowing what your Best Self looks like is like planning a trip without a destination. Share on X

6 questions to help you identify your Best Self (so you can be your Best Self more often)

How does your Best Self treat other people?

My Best Self actually listens when you’re talking; she’s not just waiting for a break in the conversation so she can drop in a hilarious story that makes her look good.

My Best Self intones “I am willing to see this person did their best” when someone holds up the checkout line for three minutes, digging in their bag for coupons.

My Best Self discusses different political ideologies calmly, respectfully. She doesn’t raise her voice, pound on the table, or get all red in the face and/or cry. (Uh, still working on this one.)

Is your Best Self inclusive? Patient? Assertive? Name and claim it, friends.

How does your Best Self treat you?

My Best Self can sit on a park bench and look at the river, the flowers, the smooshed-face dog walking by without checking her phone or making a list in her mind.

My Best Self doesn’t make unkind comments about her thighs or upper arms. She reminds herself how amazing her hair is and how lucky she is to be healthy.

My Best Self puts away the laptop and phone at 9 pm because she knows she needs to wind down if she wants to sleep through the night and not wake up at 3 am, yawning so aggressively she wakes up her husband.

What does your Best Self NOT do? 

My Best Self doesn’t RSVP ‘yes’ to events she doesn’t intend to go to and then flake out at the last minute. She doesn’t let people say low-key shitty things without (lovingly!) calling them on it.

My Best Self doesn’t put off the very important but boring activities she knows she needs to do: physicals, car maintenance, phone calls to the credit card company about a weird charge. Getting what we want + becoming who we want to be is often just as much about what we DON'T do. Share on X

Getting what we want + becoming who we want to be is often just as much about what we DON’T do.

How does your Best Self spend their time?

My Best Self fills her evenings with dinner parties, gardening, walks, home improvement projects, classes. She does not spend, say, three hours eating sour cream mixed with brown sugar watching music videos from 2001.

She spends a few minutes every day calling her senators, sending faxes, and reminding companies that, yes, we see that you’re still testing on animals. 

My Best Self notices what makes her happy and makes a conscious decision to fill her time accordingly.

Who helps you be your Best Self?

My very worst qualities are my propensity for judgement and my blood lust for gossip. Some days feel like a constant battle not to tell you the secrets of every human I’ve ever met and then discuss – in detail – why they shouldn’t have made the choices they did.

So if you joyfully jump down into this pit of judgement and gossip, maybe we shouldn’t be friends.

But humans who make me more compassionate? More patient? Who encourage me to slow down and put away the to-do list for a minute? These are people I should have in my life.

Sidenote: obviously, nobody else is responsible for making us our Best Selves. We’re the only ones who can do that. But if someone actively encourages your worst qualities, you might want to limit your exposure. It’s hard enough to control our less-good urges without someone egging us on.

RELATED: Why you should hang out with + date people you admire

What situations, experiences, or activities help you be your Best Self?

I am my Best Self when I’m teaching and coaching – supportive, creative, happy, engaged.

I am my Best Self after a good night’s sleep, some quiet time to myself, and a few chapters of whatever novel I’m reading.

I am my Best Self when exploring a new city or neighborhood. I’m present, easily amazed, excited. I become one of those people who makes friendly conversation with strangers. I want to spin around Sound Of Music style and yodel about how we are all part of the family of humanity.

As with anything in life, it’s hard to go after what we want if we can’t articulate or identify it. Your Best Self is probably waiting for you in a coffee shop right now, hoping you can pick them out of the crowd.

I want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments what your Best Self looks like. (I know that feels awkward. Do it anyway! Even if you have to write it anonymously!)

P.S. We talk about all sorts of stuff like this in my free, private Facebook group Money & Happy. Join us!


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  1. Erin

    I agree but tell me more about “sour cream & brown sugar.” This is a treat?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      It’s sort of like cream cheese frosting … but way easier!

    • Cassie

      I was thinking the same thing !!! This post is awesome but that one line wayy distracted me and got me sidetracked, Thinking “is that a thing ??”

  2. Carmen

    Thank you for sharing, vulnerably, about your struggle with discussing different political ideologies in a respectful way. That was courageous to admit you don’t always handle it gracefully! Neither do I.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      #workinprogress 😉

  3. Maureen

    I’m my best self when I plan and prepare things ahead of time. I eat healthier breakfasts when my smoothie is prepped and HB eggs are in the fridge. The gym is easier to schlep to when my pajamas are workout clothes. My morning work practically does itself if I have cleaned off my desk the night before.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      That clean desk works wonders, doesn’t it?!

  4. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I like the self-directed questions. I don’t think I question my actions enough, which I really should, because fault often comes from ourselves but we are ignorant or are in denial to it!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  5. Sharon

    I feel like this is something I could do with putting some thought into! I think I will need to be my clear on what is ‘Best Self’ versus what is unrealistic notions I get about myself. I’ve already found the Money+Happy bootcamp helpful for that, but it’s not a matter of deciding once. It’s an ongoing conversation with myself.

    Off the top of my head though, I know I am closer to my best self when I sleep well. And that means going to bed early and not letting another episode of QI load on Netflix (not that that happened last night or anything!)

    I’ve also recently found that I am closer to my best self when I live alone. It’s nearly a year since I came out of a 7-year relationship and even though I didn’t want that to happen, it’s shown me that I am more content when I have lots of alone time to mooch around without anyone itching around the edges of my consciousness. It actually helps me be more sociable and get out of the house more.

    I had genuinely forgotten how much I love being single, and although people like to tell me I will ‘find someone else’, I’m strongly considering actively avoiding a new relationship. I just don’t think it’s for me.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Good for you for knowing that! I love being married but I’m not sure I could swing a live-in relationship if I didn’t work from home ALONE all day long!

  6. Claire

    My ‘Best Self’? I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it before, let alone have someone ask me. (Thanks for the nudge 😉 )
    I think I’m my Best Self when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
    When I have some time alone – to read, go for a walk, to just think,to have a bath, to NOT think…anything really. I like company but I need time on my own. It’s like hitting a ‘reset’ button for me.
    When I enjoy my work – this is a tough one for me at the moment, but I’m really trying to love what I do, as opposed to searching for something to do that I love. I’m working on it…
    There’s still loads I can do to be an even better version of my ‘Best Self’, but hey, life’s a learning process, I guess 🙂 …

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Examining it is the first step, right? <3

  7. Anonymous

    Sarah, I just want to tell you that I love this blog SO MUCH because everything you post makes me think about how I can be better, do better, and feel better, and I always come away feeling inspired and hopeful. Thank you so much!! You are great!!!!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      <3 <3 <3

  8. Rachel King

    “She does not spend, say, three hours eating sour cream mixed with brown sugar watching music videos from 2001.” I know that’s not your best self, but she doesn’t sound so bad. Also appreciating the phrase “bloodlust for gossip”.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I swear to god, it’s a daily battle.

  9. Rachael

    I’m my best self when my house and desk ate clean and I’m well rested. My best self is a friend who listens more than she speaks, and thinks before she speaks. My best self encourages the people around me to be their best selves, and is patient but persistent in striving to make the world a better place, starting with myself, my friends, and my nephews. My best self does work that makes a difference, but gives herself time to be creative without pressure.

    This was a difficult exercise! I feel like it’d be a good thing to do regularly.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Your Best Self sounds so awesome!

  10. Jeanne

    My best song? I guess I’m still working on that. I’d like to think of my best self when I have treated myself well, whether that’s eating healthy for my body, Turning off electronics, being outside in nature, not comparing myself to people on Instagram, and doing something nice for someone else. I may not be my best self every moment of every day, but this was a great reminder to do these things as much as possible. Thanks so much for all you do. 🙂

  11. ChristaLouWho

    I love this! I used a similar exercise in leading some professional development last week (I’m a high school teacher). Now I’m going to use this as a journal prompt for my senior class next week!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, fun! What a great exercise for high school kids!

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