Last week I started to tackle the question “How do you know when to take a break and when to push yourself?“ As you may remember, so far I’ve come to the conclusion that we want to work and act at a level that is our best all the time. But, of course, it isn’t actually possible to be the best (even our best) all the time, and if we strive for “best” all the time, we’ll either drive ourselves into the ground, convince ourselves that we are not good enough (or are doing it wrong), stop trying because it is too difficult, or some combination of these.
So, we’re right back where we left off: what can we do about it?
To avoid driving ourselves into the deep end, I think step one might be accepting that being our best means there’s a certain amount of time that we need to devote to just ourselves, to our own self-care. We might have to accept that being our best is being our own caretakers. Being our best is saying no sometimes. Being our best is not being our mom’s best or our friend’s best or our boss’s best. Being our best is being OUR BEST without comparing. And being our best is not doing everything right all of the time.
I think we also have to accept that our best will almost certainly disappoint someone – maybe us, maybe someone we care about. (And I don’t know about you, but I HATE disappointing myself and others!) But that’s just true – our best will almost certainly disappoint someone. And that won’t change the fact that it is our best. We’ll have to figure out how to deal with that.
It would be easy for us to take this information and decide we’re not good enough, right? If our best isn’t good enough then we aren’t good enough, duh! But, the thing is, I don’t think that’s true. I think I do a lot of great things, but can’t do everything. Sometimes, even when I do my best, it just isn’t enough. Just because I can’t do everything doesn’t mean everything I do is not good enough. Most definitely not. Same for you – I bet you do a lot of great things, but can’t do everything. Why would I expect you to? Do you expect me to do everything right? No? Then why would you expect you to do everything right? (How many minds are currently saying “Well, yeah, but I’m different…”?)
Here’s the sad truth. You aren’t going to be perfect. If you try, you’re just going to demoralize yourself. No matter how good you are, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to disappoint people. And you are going to struggle to define what “best” is. Because if “best” isn’t perfect, well, what else could it be?
Actually, that’s a good question! How can we measure “best”? Even if we accept we can’t be perfect (again, who is saying “Well, yeah, but…”?), we still want to be as close to perfect as possible, right? That’s precisely the problem. We’re counting all the ways we’re not perfect – that’s how we’re measuring how far from “best” we are! And that’s inevitably just going to upset us – we need a better way. But how else can we measure? We do want a way to measure. We want to KNOW if our best is the best. We want to KNOW if we’re doing it right.
I hate to say it, but after much thought, there is no external answer. You aren’t going to know, at least not through someone else’s eyes. No one else can answer the question of “right” or “best” for you. And that means no one else can tell you if you need to take a break or should push yourself. Others will be happy to weigh in, but they won’t actually know.
BUT I can tell myself, through years of trial and error, what I know about me. I know what my best looks like. I know what right for me looks like. I know that, for me, there is such a thing as going too hard. I know that I do eventually wear out and that if I do get to that point of wearing out, it takes longer to get back to productivity. I know that I’m most efficient when I actually take breaks when I think I need them. And I’m the one who has the best data on how to judge when I need a break.
I know this isn’t the answer you want (It isn’t the answer I want either!), but the truth is I just have to trust myself. Imperfect, fallible me! Trusting me is scary! Because, you know what? I’m not going to know if I’m right. And I’m not going to get it right every time. It isn’t going to feel like “best”, but it will be my best at that time. I’m going to have to learn to accept the uncertainty – accept my choice and make it the right choice for me. And I’ll have to defend my choice from all the gremlins in my head who tell me I’m doing it wrong. Yup, that’s scary!
And, because it is scary, I’m going to give it a name – make it formal. Somehow that makes it less scary for me (Is it just me? Would that help you?). I am hereby deciding to call this a “Me Check” – that’s when I check in with me, see how I’m doing, and believe me. Now, a Me Check does have to contain a safety – a judgement call on whether I’m just having trouble getting started. I learned this one from long-distance running – my long-distance running Me Check goes like this: “Legs, are you the problem? Tired but ok? Lungs, is it you? No, you’re ok? Brain, sorry, but this one’s on you – rest of the body is on board, so get with the program, we’re gonna keep going!” (It is definitely possible that I’m just having trouble starting, but that’s for another blog post…) But once I check in with me and decide what I need, well, then it is done. It is time to believe me. I won’t be good at it right away, but I’ll get better. Especially through more years of trial and error.
You can learn (and almost certainly are learning!) how to believe yourself too. If you’d like a partner in helping you develop your own Me Check, deal with perfectionism, talk back to the gremlins in your own head, or just get to know yourself, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378. Our Orlando counselors are here to work with you through individual counseling, marriage counseling, or family counseling.
Now, go celebrate you and your imperfect best! ~Krista Bringley