Why You Should Avoid Being the ‘Best Version of Yourself’

Focus on God

Have you heard the catchy slogan—be the “best version of yourself”?

Author and motivational speaker Mathew Kelly was the one who came up with this motto and message. His upbeat focus has even penetrated the Christian mainstream—being encouraged in church services and between believers in the day-to-day. 

I also heard this mantra mentioned in the trailer for the award-winning movie, Lady Bird, with the mother saying to her daughter: “I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.” The daughter replied, “What if this is the best version?” 😦

It probably has been embraced by so many because it has the potential to be positive, encouraging and, even resolution-like in its ability to challenge us to do and be better in life and relationships.

I’m all about doing better, for sure. #recoveringmessy 😉

Focus on GodBut to me, this idea has a decidedly unhealthy side with a misguided focus.

Before I explain my reason for saying that, allow me to share my “one word” for this next year, and a little bit about why I chose it. Then I will tie it back to this commonly quoted phrase and my reason for taking issue with it.

Ironically, my one word for 2018 is “grace.” So I’m going to ask you to extend grace to me as I take a not-so-gracious look at this overly-used phrase.

I just think that sometimes the most gracious thing you and I can do is to point out the lie or unhealthy thinking behind a belief—in particular a popular and influential one.

As far as my one word—grace—is concerned, allow me to explain a bit about what grace is, what it isn’t, as well as why I’m choosing grace—or perhaps why grace has chosen me! 😉

1. Grace is . . .

Often defined as getting something we do not deserve, like God’s favor and salvation through Christ.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9

2. But grace is not mercy . . .

Since mercy is not getting what we deserveour just punishment for sin. But it is similar to mercy since it is often what God uses to fuel our forgiveness and mercy of others.   

3. Grace can also be . . . 

God-given strength, resolve, and the peace we need to persevere through difficulties in life.

God gave this type of grace to Paul when he requested that some unknown “thorn” be taken from his life . . .

“But he [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” ~2 Cor. 12:9

[bctt tweet=”I need both types of grace in HUGE amounts in order to bridge the gap in my heart and life! #1word #2expressions” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

4. My reason for choosing “grace” . . .

Is because the Lord desires for you and I to strike a balance between both truth and grace. Both are monumentally important, but can only be extended in perfect balance through and by God working in us.

By default, I lean toward the truth side of this continuum. I must continually work at being gracious since truth is so important to me. When I don’t strike this tension, I can come across as uncaring, at the very least, and as arrogant and hateful, at my worst. Ouch!

I know without a doubt that this is a weakness for me. Striking a balance between truth and grace is a skill that I need to stretch and grow in more deeply and widely with God’s help.

Circling back to my concern with that catchy phraseand, quite frankly, my “hook” for getting you to read this post!I unequivocally believe that I can NEVER grow deeper and wider in God’s grace without Him giving me His grace and power to be gracious.

Bottom Line: I want to be the best version reflection of Christ . . . and not of myself.

[bctt tweet=”I want my old way of living—my default wiring and sin nature—to die and be buried. #2018resolutionandbeyond” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

I hope you’ll join me next week when I will be continuing to share one difficulty that comes with demonstrating grace in marriage/life, and what you and I can do to deal with this challenge. 


What is one word you want to focus on and live out in 2018 and beyond?


Where do you tend to fall on the ‘truth and grace’ continuum?



Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayMoments of HopeLiterary Musing MondaysDream Together LinkupJennifer Dukes LeeGlimpses LinkupTune in TuesdayBreak Through Homeschooling LinkupCoffee for Your HeartSitting Among FriendsFaith and FriendsFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday


26 responses to “Why You Should Avoid Being the ‘Best Version of Yourself’”

  1. Hi Beth! I couldn’t narrow it to one! I’m going with Courage, Trust, and Peace! Blessings to you as you grasp amazing grace more deeply in 2018!


    1. Wow! You are ambitious, Amy! But I know what you mean. It’s always tough to narrow my focus down to one word. Sometimes I’d rather choose a phrase, but I like your idea of three important focuses. Each one is powerful and I’m sure will strengthen you in your faith. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me, my friend!


  2. Dear Beth

    Spot on! I have always disliked these “be true to yourself” slogans. With my secular hat on I would say they assume an a priori essential individual and this is untenable. I think it leads to narcissism, identity politics and all those bad things. With my new Christian hat on: this slogan could only be rescued by saying something like the best version of myself is Christ – in which case your idea is better anyway.

    I am excited about my theme for this year (“Born Again”), and living it out is precisely what I want to do.

    I am a lot more “gracious” than I used to be. Hardest is showing grace (and mercy! Nice subtle distinction) to myself.



    1. Yes, it does smack of humanism and, in my opinion, a secular mindset rather than a spiritual or “Christian” one. And I would agree with your additional thoughts as they express some of the concerns I did not go into here. It does lead to a me-focus rather than a God-focus. That’s my biggest complaint with it–along with the idea that somehow I can make myself better. God is the only One who can do that, as I seek to do my best for and through Him.

      I agree that there are many who view this as a way of being a better Christian. That’s what many pastors and churches who say these things are intending, I’m sure. It’s so subtle that people feel like concerns like mine are “splitting hairs.” But if it is even that big (or small) of a divergence from relying totally on God, in my opinion, that’s wrong and something to avoid. 😉

      I’m excited about your theme too! I may have missed this latest post at your blog and will go to read it straightaway! I can see your graciousness growing in the things you’ve shared. And yes, I see you being way too hard on yourself as well. I hope that will ease in this new year as you focus on who you are in Christ! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, David!


  3. I enjoyed this post as it sort of was in line with what I shared today. We need to be the best we can be – by and through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And you are right, not a version but a reflection of Christ. I am glad I stopped here this morning! Blessings on the New Year!


    1. Yes, it was, Joanne (very similar to yours)! I totally agree that this is so important to keep before us–we cannot do any good apart from God doing it in and through us. I’ve already been told it sounds like I am splitting hairs (in a private forum), but I am ready to sound the alarm. Like a small trajectory divergence will eventually take you way off course, I believe this mindset can do the same thing. I think it is naive to see it otherwise. But then, I’m erring too far to the “truth” side of this equation again! ha! Need to have compassion and understanding for those who disagree or simply don’t see the problem. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me, Joanne!


  4. You make a great point, Beth! The other problem with the phrase is that it leaves the judging of ‘the best’ up to the person–what if God envisions so much more for us! I don’t have a word yet for the year. Still thinking about it.


    1. So true, Anita! It is human-focused in many ways and though it is subtle, I see huge problems associated with it. Agreed! God does envision so much for us. I sure don’t want to be in charge of figuring out what is best for me, when He can and does have so much more in mind.

      I hope you you figure out your one word and find inspiration as the year marches forward. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, my friend!


  5. Very good post, Beth!

    Yes, my best version of myself is filthy rags…but my best reflection of Christ is indeed wondrous through His righteousness and grace! 🙂

    I’ve never done the One Word annual focus, before. However, this year I’ve felt led to focus on learning to LISTEN. http://josephjpote.com/2017/12/listen/

    Blessings to you and your family during this New Year! 🙂


    1. Good point, Joe! That’s a great way to put it in perspective–biblical perspective. I just don’t like the way this phrase comes across. I know it’s about giving our whole selves to whatever we do–and that’s a good idea. I just don’t like the implications that come from the word choices and focuses it directs us toward.

      I read your post and found it very inspiring! I hope we hear more about how listening impacts your 2018. I’ll be sure to “listen!” 😉 Happy New Year to you and yours, Joe!


      1. 🙂


  6. Hey Beth, I miss your linkup!!! Diligent/Steadfast/Truth…those are mine – all three.


    1. Aww, aren’t you sweet, Susan! Yes! I miss all those who would gather here too, but put that money towards another platform building tool instead. I like your three words. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow it down to just one word. Amy Jung below in the comments is doing the same thing. Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation! Always great to see your smiling face in the comments!


  7. Can you read my mind girlfriend? 🙂 I love this post. I have been a girl who struggled with the truth side of things so much and often forgot the grace too. I love how you remind us it’s a perfect balance and that perfection can only be found when we seek after Jesus. Happy New Year. It’s been so long since I’ve left a message here, it warms my heart that it was on this particular post for so many reasons. xoxo


    1. Um, well, apparently! ha! I’m so glad you love it and it doesn’t surprise me. It seems we are often of the same mindset on things, Nicki. And, though I didn’t know that you are a “truth” gal by default, I’m glad to know I’m in such good company! You’ve always been so gracious to me and in your way of relating to others too. I guess you’re doing a pretty good job of balancing truth and grace then! I’m so glad you stopped by and encouraged me–because you did just that, my friend! Hugs and prayers!


  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth, and I think a lot of people – like me – did not see the potential harm in the idea of ‘being the best version of yourself’.

    It’s easy to be ‘seen’ as trying to be your best version when you’re not. A lot of people think that when I say I am OK with my situation, and that I appreciate the blessings without resentment of the pain, that I’m posturing…and they’ll look for evidence that I’m angry and bitter.

    But I don’t resent it, and while it’s sometimes appalling and makes me cry out or use bad language in reaction to specific pain episodes, it’s really just life, and what matters is the choices that one can still make.

    My word was going to be a phrase, “The good die young, but badass is forever”. Recent physical setbacks have knocked the bravado out of me, and my word seems to be ‘deguello’.

    It’s an old Spanish bugle carr, adopted from the Moors, and it literally means ‘to cut the throat’; it was played when no quarter was to be given (most famously at The Alamo).

    Today I am choking on each breath, and can’t stand or walk straight from the pain. I know that what’s coming will be horrible, and that there is no escape. I’m surrounded, and shall shortly be killed, but I intend to give a good accounting of myself, and to die as a gentleman must, with poise and humour.

    This comment took several hours to write, and with it most of my energy for the day, but it was worth it, as you’ve once again made me think.



    1. Yes, Andrew, if you simply view it from the perspective of trying your best, then it seems innocuous and worthy of pursuing. I just feel like it can take us in a very subtle and slightly off-course direction away from reliance on Christ, given time. It might not happen right away, but like a plane that is slightly off course, it will take you very far away from direction and destination you intended. At least that’s my perspective.

      I am so sorry that you continue to face setbacks with your health. But it seems as if your body thrives on being in adrenalin pumping mode! I’m praying that the pneumonia is lessening and that your lungs are healing. I know that’s probably a miracle kind of prayer, at this point. But miracles do happen–you’re still with us, as case in point! 😉

      I’m grateful you took the time and endured the pain to respond here. As usual, I don’t expect it but am very thankful for your continued kindness toward me, Andrew! You are a very determined man with the kindest heart ever! Hugs and prayers!


  9. This is really great, Beth. Thank you for these reflections that encourage us to be the best reflection of Christ! Blessings!


    1. Thank you, Trudy! It’s nice to have you visit! That’s really my heartbeat–encouraging people to be reflections of Christ instead of better versions of themselves.


  10. No One Word around here, but an expectancy, a peace in moving ahead. I’m forever learning to hold all plans and purposes in wide open hands and allow God to do His thing. A hard task for one inclined to want to control, fix, manuver!


    But grace, grace. I love that word.

    Weekend blessings to you and Gary …


  11. So true. I am so limited in how good I can be, but God isn’t!


  12. You tied everything together so well in this post by leaving us with the desire to be the best reflection of Jesus. That is my desire too.

    The definition of grace which is God-given strength, resolve and peace to persevere through difficulties is the one I come back to over and over. I tell myself often His grace will see me through and I say the same thing to others. Who I am is nothing without God and life teaches me that daily.

    I am looking forward to your grace journey this year. Oh what a ride it will be!


  13. Hi, thanks for sharing. Your post was the most clicked again on the #LMMLinkup.. As always, your writing hits home. I need grace daily and the peace that it brings.


  14. […] Beth Steffaniak at Messy Marriage looks at how the idea of trying to be the best version of yourself develops.Then she argues why this is not such a great goal. She points out that working toward becoming the best versions of ourselves can have an unhealthy side and misguided focus to it. Read why here. […]


  15. […] Why You Should Avoid Being the ‘Best Version of Yourself’ […]


  16. The very best version of me
    is not really all that great,
    because it always seeks to be
    the lord and master of its fate,
    to turn away from God in pride,
    to feebly light its own life-path,
    but I find it cannot hide
    from the Almighty’s gentle laugh.
    And laugh He does, smiling, amused
    at the antics of His child
    so puffed up and so confused
    by the hot blood running wild
    that leads so boastfully astray,
    an infant caught in silly play!


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