You are doing your best

How do you balance working toward goals with being kind to oneself?

In college, especially, I was working at a breakneck pace to graduate, and I constantly felt underwhelmed by my efforts. I never thought I was studying, or researching, or writing enough — or well enough.

My goal of graduating in three years was everything to me, and I loved a lot of my time at school, but I often felt like I was falling short.

Looking back, I see that I was doing my best. My expectations were ridiculously high, and my self-care was abysmal. Those two parts warred against each other and left me feeling depleted. But, I still did my best. And I am now. And I’m going to venture to say that you’re doing your best too.

Sometimes my best exasperates me because I want to do more. But file that day away, Devin, and start again tomorrow.

The best one can do isn’t a benchmark determined by an institution or another person (or yourself.) It’s a lot more humble than that because it’s merely what you do, given the circumstances and your willpower (and probably 9 million other things unique to each person.)

One’s best is what we all do every day assuming we try hard most of the time (which most of us do.)

It reminds me of the Standardized Achievement Test. Originally, the SAT was just a test that young people took to see how well they knew that particular material. Now, it’s a bit of a racket. Before the SAT there’s the practice SAT. And before and after the PSAT there’s SAT books and tutoring and classes. Then if a student’s best isn’t good enough, she takes the SAT again (and possibly again.)

I took the SAT twice because if everyone else got to make their best better, I wanted to as well. I think that’s fair. It’s just a far jump from the original purpose and design of the test.

Looking at my three-year-old son, it’s clear that he’s doing his best every day — and that he’s content in that knowledge. He can’t say strawberry perfectly (it’s more like “straw-she-she”) but at the moment, straw-she-she is his best, and he says the word with delight.

So I try to give myself that same space to do my best and not judge myself if it isn’t as good as I might want.

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