So it should come as no surprise that sistah auntie queen Oprah (insert a million crown emojis) is a huge idol of mine. In addition to having such a warm and charismatic persona, Oprah has always had this gift of being able to reach, understand, and represent people in a way that naturally brought out their best selves. So it should also come as no shocker that one of her most quotable brand mantras became "live your best life."
Now, no disrespect to sistah auntie queen Oprah (like for real, for real, none in the slightest), but I think my biggest question over the years has always been, "how?
Yes, I can say that I want to live my best life. I can watch and listen to all of the specialists, life coaches, and gurus that Oprah introduces to us that are meant to guide us towards living that life. But I still always had this burning question of how (especially for the people who were having a rough time just living a regular life).
I believe that part of my desire to say how came from the lack of functional integration in the every day person's life of some of the resources presented. For instance, incorporating mindfulness techniques like meditation into your daily wellness routine would be hella dope, but for the single mom of two young kids, that works 12 hour shifts, and has an aging parent with a lot of health problems, the only reasonable response I can hear coming out of her mouth is "how Sway (or Oprah in this case)?"
So what does it really mean then for the average person to be living in their best life? What does that even look like? Is it the same for every person? But more importantly, how do you know when you've finally gotten there?
Because I am a huge psych nerd, and I love making connections, I couldn't help but think of this magical, ethereal "best life" as what Abraham Maslow describes as being self-actualization within his hierarchy of needs theory.
Maslow and his hierarchy of needs theory changed the game in the world of motivational psychology. He developed a five-stage psychological theory identifying what he believed were key human needs for a boss-ass life. He then categorized the five stages into 3 groups (basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs). He believed that people were only motivated to go up a level once they satisfied their lower level needs, with the ultimate goal being to reach a state of self-actualization.
Maslow believed that self-actualization, which is living your life to its fullest potential, was the top motivator for human progression. However, he also noted that the rise and attainment of self-actualization was not stable. A grand or even slight change in a person's environment (divorce, bullying, domestic violence, etc) could knock one down a level until the needs of that deficient level were met. So the good-ish news is that everyone, regardless of their class, race, social status, etc, will experience what it’s like to go up and down through the levels as we progress through life. So you should take comfort in knowing that it’s never weird or abnormal to be down a level, or to be on a level that is lower than the people around you.
Maslow's theory resonated so strongly with me because of my innate passion to motivate others to want to become the best versions of themselves. But as I really started to examine the different needs, I couldn't help but notice that needing to fulfill many of the lower level stages (like physical safety, high self-esteem, and strong relationships) often left women at a constant disadvantage when attempting to achieve their best life. Given that our society has created a culture that constantly inhibits women from getting adequate access to the basic and psychological needs outlined in Maslow's theory, women have never had the same opportunity towards achieving self-actualization.
While finding the time to become your best self is ideal, and seems so necessary in theory, in real life however, women are often too bogged down with both pressing concerns (like trying to preserve reproductive rights) and bullshit-ass concerns (like worrying about being married at an arbitrary age) in order to devote any real time or energy towards becoming the person that they've always wanted to be.
Many women have never had an equal opportunity to reach self-actualization, and my solution to this problem is the 4 Queen Commandments. I packaged together four guiding principles that were rooted in the “live your best life” wisdom that I gained from listening to sistah auntie queen Oprah all these years, but that also helped to give women a more grounded, step-by-step approach on how to access a better, more self-actualized life each day.
Part of how I imagined motivating the average person to get one step closer towards self-actualization is by using the 4 Queen Commandments to redefine one's purpose in a way that gives their goals a greater sense of understanding, urgency, importance and tangibility. I believe that honing in on these ideals will give people the unwavering confidence to stick to and make time for the choices that will most fulfill them.
In my mind, at the core of self-actualization, and living a better life is one's ability to make clear, controlled, confident, choices that leave them with nothing to feel sorry about or question. It is about being able to live a life free of self-doubt and second-guesses, and doing something for your life because it feels 100% right by you. To me, that is the greatest example of living life to its fullest potential. I believe that in 2018 and beyond, there is much more of a push for women to embrace a life filled with unapologetic choices. But as I'm sure you're all wondering, how exactly do we get to a place where we can live a more self-actualized life each day, and make more unapologetic choices?