Discover how you can intentionally craft your ideal self for a happier, more meaningful life
Almost a decade ago, I dated a guy who was ten years older than me. Our relationship started quickly and without warning. Because I looked up to him in a number of ways and desperately sought after his approval, he was able to make decisions for me – on the people I should keep in my life, the conversations I should be having, and the things I was or was not supposed to wear. I was pretty lost in my own world and trying to figure life out and here was this older guy who was “lovingly” showing me the way. Pivotal people in my world were abruptly forced out without any explanation from me; I was told I needed to rip the bandaid off and not respond to any of their efforts to communicate.
The void my old friends left behind was large. And a few months into our relationship, after my then-boyfriend told me that my love for performing arts meant that I had (what he described as) “hoe-like tendencies”, I broke up with him and fell into the arms of someone who understood the real me. Of course, I spent a full 10-hours sobbing my eyes out to my confidant, secretly hoping I could make things work with the older guy who had me on a leash. So when my boyfriend/ex-boyfriend asked me to talk things over, I jumped at the opportunity and we excitedly rekindled things. It was a mess. I was a mess.
I decided I couldn’t tell him the truth about where I was the night before. I felt like the truth would have sounded awful even though all I did was mourn the loss of my toxic relationship. So instead of being honest, I lied through my teeth and told him that I had spent the night at my best friend’s house.
That lie lasted all of about two days before my boyfriend went through my text messages, found out the truth, and then spent the next several months reminding me that I wasn’t worth loving because my lie had hurt him so deeply. But I wasn’t ready to let go. I felt like he didn’t fully understand the situation so I tried EVERYTHING in my power to gain his trust back: I let him have access to my phone records and all of my passwords, he put a GPS tracker on my electronics, I stopped seeing my friends, and I felt the need to confess my terrible sin to everyone who would talk to me just so they could see me for the awful person he had made me feel like I was.
To be honest, I was still truly figuring life out. In hindsight, I see things much more clearly: we were both wounded in our own ways, and me being so much younger with mountains of inexperience primed me to make mistakes that only experience could offer me.
Instead of recognizing that we should go our separate ways, we both dug our teeth in a little deeper. Adult me sees the error in my ways in many directions, but all-in-all, there is not a single fiber in my being that regrets making those mistakes in exactly the way I did.
Because up until that point, I was eager to comply with other people’s expectations of who I should be. I hadn’t defined who I was and what I stood for. I hadn’t decided that honesty would be a staple of my being, nor had I decided that I’d be loyal to myself above all else. I was so desperate for his approval that I’d compromised my own happiness, my life, my friendships, my everything, to give him the security he said he needed.
With this terrible relationship in the distant past and many more years of self-love, experience, and wisdom under my belt, I am now someone who regularly reflects on my own character. I realize that my morals define my character and my character defines my reality. When I’m unsure, I reflect back to who I know I am. Instead of choosing temporary satisfaction, I choose MYSELF.
While this may be easier said than done, choosing yourself is actually easier than you think. You simply need to know what you stand for and then integrate those values into your world. Not sure what I mean? Keep reading.
Brainstorm your ideal “YOU”
The best way to be intentional about WHO you are is by first spending time brainstorming your ideal YOU. You can hand-select the qualities that you’d like to embody and uncover a version of you that you’re happy to go to bed with every night.
Who do you want to be? What qualities do you want to possess? Now, this is NOT the time to bash yourself, and when I’m referring to who you want to be, keep in mind that we’re referring to character qualities that are not dependent on lifestyle or appearance.
This doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to have a fancy car. But what will that fancy car give you? Will it fuel your soul? Will it bring you joy every time you see it, serving as a reminder of your accomplishments and your greatest hobby? Will you feel gratitude regularly? If it doesn’t help you to get closer to the person you want to be, ask yourself if there is a need for this in your life. Otherwise, consider what you could be putting that money, effort, or energy toward that would help you to feel closer to the you that you want to be.
A few values that my “ideal me” embodies:
- Being loyal to myself and my needs above all else
- Being present and appreciating the moment
- Owning my truths and practicing forgiveness for past mistakes
- Practicing compassion for people and situations I do not understand
- Recognizing the energy that I contribute to my environment and making it safe for people to be themselves in my presence
- Leading by example
- Giving love to others regularly through my actions and words
Even if you think that some of your values are intuitive and obvious, you might be surprised at how writing them down requires you to fine-tune your language. This practice of being intentional about your values will bring awareness to values that are truly important to your being.
You might notice that a lot of the items on my list are “practices” – as with anything in this world, there is no such thing as perfection. Choosing to see myself as a constant work-in-progress is part of the graceful and self-loving environment that I create for myself. I can continuously fine-tune my craft of being me and not expect myself to be a machine that perfectly embodies every value 100% of the time.
Own your values and practice choosing yourself.
As with anything, words on a piece of paper won’t mean anything unless you give them life. Keep your values list in plain sight. Modify it and update it regularly if you’d like. When situations arise that tug at you in a number of directions, consult your list and ask yourself: “what would my ideal me do?”
I’ve found that the areas that cause the most internal (and external) conflict arise when you are not respecting your own core values. When emotions run high, you may not be able to decipher why you feel upset or what is causing your internal agitation. Rereading your list may help you uncover the standards you set for yourself so you can re-calibrate and adjust your behavior as necessary.
Now I ask you, what are your values? Share them in the comments below!