What is your “true self”? If you don’t know exactly, how do you find out?

And then, once you understand, how do you apply it?

There are a zillion self-help books out there to help those who are searching. There might be twice as many websites with guidelines to aid in the discovery.

Many of these sources, I’m sure, are offered by well-educated, well-trained and well-meaning professionals. Others, maybe not so much.

Let me assert here that I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or any other kind of specialist in these matters of the mind, body and psyche. However, I do tend to ponder a lot.

Recently the theme of true self has come up several times in conversation and in reading materials, so I turned to the services of the internet.

In a nutshell, I have learned that finding one’s true self is a process of mindfulness, recognizing patterns in your behavior and thinking, and using your discovery to live your best life, as only you can do.

It occurs to me that for some – for example, anyone who intentionally harms another living creature out of malice – the true self might not be such a good thing. However, believing as I do in the innate goodness of most humans, when I consider the true self, I mean it in a positive, beneficial way.

I refer to that deep down, unselfish, loving, giving, compassionate, good part of ourselves that we have a feeling is there, but we just might not know how to release it.

Perhaps it is closely related to “best self,” a concept that might be easier to grasp. The best self might be hidden away for a time, or it might be always at the forefront.

In the past week, I have recognized three circumstances in which someone’s amazing best self has shined a light in our community.

  • A grieving mom offered extraordinary love and consolation to the driver of the car that struck and killed her young daughter, expressing publicly that “I need him to be okay,” acknowledging that her daughter’s death was “a horrific tragedy for us all but here we are … in this together.”

Compassion in the midst of tragedy usually is directed to those who suffered the loss directly. This amazing mom went above and beyond and gave it back.

  • A retired Marine, disappointed that his community hasn’t done enough to honor young veterans, especially those returning from war scenes with limbs missing, challenged himself to do something about it and started planning a festival for them. Non-stop for two weeks, he has found a time, a place, a support committee and received offers of help from strangers.
  • A local friend flew to Texas to undergo transplant surgery because her healthy kidney is a perfect match for her childhood best friend who needs a new one.

I’ve been trying to figure out what these three and others like them have in common. All are selfless. Compassionate. Generous. And they each found their best self.

What a world it would if more people – me, you, our families and friends, strangers – found and lived our best self.