From a young age, we are always told to do our best: whether it be at school or with tasks at home. Growing up, my parents always said, ‘it doesn’t matter what happens, as long as you try your best,’ and I wholeheartedly believe that.
At school, I gained a reputation for achieving high marks. I was told I was one of the best in the year (see, there’s that word again!) and that I was on track to achieve some of the best marks available. I was told that I could be counted upon to do well and be the best student to represent the school. I was often invited to meetings with management or was asked to attend open evenings to talk to prospective pupils and their parents.
I had set myself a standard that required me to be the best. If I fell below these expectations, then I would be really disappointed in myself. If I got a grade lower, it ruined my day. If a teacher didn’t think my essay was as good as it could have been, I went home and re-did it for the next morning. If I wasn’t up to the standard we knew I could reach, I wasn’t doing my best. I was being lazy. I was falling behind. I wasn’t good enough.
There are two things which I wish I knew three years ago that I know now, and I wanted to share them with you.
The first point is that there is a difference between what my parents told me, and what happened as a result of internal (my own beliefs) and external (the expectations of others) pressures. The external pressures heavily influenced my internal monologue and what my parents told me about ‘trying my best’ turned into trying to be the best. There is a difference between ‘my best’ and ‘the best.
‘The best’ is more of a reputation: it’s a podium you place yourself on based on results. Whether it be test results, a running time, or a swimming time - whatever it may be.
‘My best’ is a personal measurement of the effort you put in to get to that position.
My second point is that I didn’t realise that ‘my best’ can change. The best I can give each day can vary. Sometimes ‘my best’ might be getting up before 9am, having a shower, eating a healthy breakfast, doing my university work and going for a walk with a friend. Other days, ‘my best’ might be waking up around noon, having something to eat and watching TV. These are two different days with different activities, but both are just as valid and productive – even if you think it isn’t. If my best is getting out of bed at noon, then obviously my body needed the extra rest.
It isn’t shameful that what it means to ‘do our best’ each day, fluctuates. No person can ever stay on top form every day. That would be like asking someone to constantly smile from the second they wake up to when they fall asleep AND to stay smiling in their sleep! It isn’t possible! What it means to ‘do your best’ changes each day, but as long as you do that, you can’t ask for any more of yourself. Don’t compare ‘your best’ with anyone else’s and don’t confuse doing your best with being the best. They are two different concepts.
Doing your best is about meeting yourself where you are at each day, and that is more than enough.
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