Seek "whole self" rather than "best self"

In this brief article, I am proposing a thought-provoking golden nugget to help us self-reflect on our inner conflicts and have clearer directions in 2023.


When researching online about coaching and especially leadership coaching, I find "be your best self" as one of the most trending expressions. I find that such an expression, despite how well it sounds, implies the existence of a “worst self” hence making us all stand somewhere on that – worst to best self – scale.

As a senior coach and leader, I prefer to associate best and worst – if necessary –  with behaviours rather than defining oneself.

Inspired by the Gestalt approach in coaching, I focus on the idea that everyone is doing their best in the “here and now”, which shifts the perspective from a “best self” to a “whole self” and opens a new dimension for self-awareness.

The whole is ‘other’ than the sum of its parts.

- Kurt Koffka

When coaching clients, I always rely on examples and visualisation as strong catalysts for reflection, hence I invite you to visualise when reading the following example.

Think of a vase that holds a precious emotional value to you. On a day, while running late to work, you bumped into it and broke one small piece on the edge. Your quick fix – the best choice in that “here and now” moment – was to turn the vase so that the broken edge faces the wall, and move the vase to the highest shelf to avoid any other incident while waiting to fix it when you have time.

With the weeks passing, you became comfortable with the new scene of that vase on the shelf (the power of habit), hence delaying further your project of fixing it which started to fade away.

Bringing back the desire to fix the vase – a symbol of the inner conflict within you – will happen if:

  • You clean that shelf on a regular basis –a symbol for adopting regular self-reflection – hence spotting the broken edge and remembering your project, or
  • An unexpected event occurs – a symbol for a critical situation – where the vase suffers from more damage and loses another piece which allows you to notice the first broken piece and remember your DIY project.

The "fixing the vase" project represents you working on your whole self and reaching a state of congruence between your ideal self, self-image, and current self-esteem (Rogers, 1995).

Like many of my coachees, I can recall a previous situation where despite adopting the same effective approach, I was not the best leader that I could be which led me to better understand my broken edge and work on being whole rather than best.

By looking inward and adopting a regular self-reflection and coaching approach, my self-awareness expanded where I gained a much clearer insight into my inner conflict and started mastering my inner game to feel whole again.

The best advice I can give you in the here and now is to reflect on your state of congruence and thrive in being whole rather than best. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Derby, Derbyshire, DE1
Written by Dr Tarek Jomaa, EMCC EIA Accredited SP Coach and Mentor, SFHEA, FInstLM, PhD
Derby, Derbyshire, DE1

Tarek Jomaa is an EMCC-accredited coach and mentor at senior practitioner level and senior fellow of Advance HE (SFHEA) who helps leaders, across the higher education and engineering sector, to master their inner game and lead with impact.

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