By Susan Winter Fledderus
I had a chance to go to an outdoor, limited size, socially-distanced wedding shower last month. It was lovely to be together and celebrate with family and friends, many that I haven’t seen for far too long.
I brought my camera—usually used for amateur nature pictures while hiking—and tried to capture some of the celebration for the bride to remember. Because of the distancing rules, group interactions were hard to capture well, and so I ended up trying to take shots of individuals that captures a moment of laughter, the sparkle in their eyes, or the beauty of their presence.
I didn’t put words to it at the time, but as I was selecting the photos to share, I realized that I was enjoying trying to capture each person’s best self. And then I realized that isn’t much different than what we also try to do as parents, teachers, therapists or friends.
Seeing someone as their best self—inviting them to interact as or make choices as their best self—is a powerful thing.
We all know someone who seems to bring out the worst in us, who makes us irritable, puts us on the defensive or on the offense. These can be co-workers, siblings, the irritating bank teller, or even our own kids at times. And sometimes, we are that person who rubs someone else the wrong way.
But someone who brings out the best in us—those people are precious. They might be new acquaintances—a server, teller or cashier who greats us personally and offers great service, the kind that makes us want to pay it forward to others.
It might be a good friend or sibling who is wise and thoughtful as we talk about a looming life choice, and we leave knowing ourselves better and feeling more confident about taking the next best step for ourselves.
It might be a parent or partner who has our back, loves us unconditionally, and creates the safety we need to grow, stretch and develop into our best selves.
It might be a mentor, spiritual leader or therapist who helps us work through traumas that could leave us bitter and disillusioned, but help us instead to mend and heal in resilient ways, supporting our post-traumatic growth.
While I won’t quit my job to become a portrait photographer, I am holding onto this new awareness of the power we each have, no matter what our roles, to interact in ways that invite others to be their best selves.
Ironically, that power often emerges when we are living out of our best selves as well, creating a positive ripple effect in and around us. And don’t we all need that more than ever these days!
Susan Winter Fledderus is a Clinical Therapist with Shalem Mental Health Network