When Your Best Isnt Good Enough

Written IN 2015

The atmosphere flooding the room transforms as tension replaces light-hearted laughter. Lunch time chats disperse as individuals log on to retrieve results from last semester. Formal education for me has been a disjointed journey, but the anticipated wait for exam grades hasn’t lost its intensity and a persistent desire to excel is certainly deeply embedded within our culture. Surrounded by a world that promotes striving to achieve, it’s no surprise that we all want to do our best…but what about when our best STILL isn’t good enough? What about the voice inside you screaming that you could have tried harder, or the one that snidely whispers to remind you that your peers did better than you and aiming higher next time is a necessity. I’m not referring to healthy ambition but life draining perfectionism. Something many of us struggle with but perhaps fail to recognise or if we do, we may not fully understand its poignant self-destructive nature.

The little six-year-old girl whose world is crashing down around her isn’t equipped with a manual on how to survive it. Instead, the automatic response is to grasp control of anything obtainable. Teenage years easily lend themselves to obsessive calorie counting and finding brief contentment feeling ribs protrude under that top you HAVE to have. Satisfaction that lasts? Of course not. It lasts as long as the relationship that you built your life around or the happiness you felt when you finally received an A* in your third-year algebra homework. Can you remember that moment? Most definitely not! The horror of refusing to accept any standard less than “perfect” is that you continuously move the goal posts and begin to live life with your heart beating in your mouth and your mind a million miles away from reality. The victorious feeling that accompanies each goal achieved is disposed of as quickly as those daily to do lists that you frantically stick everywhere.

Drowning in University emails offering opportunities to enhance your CV can easily trigger a mindset that you always need to be doing more…and more…and when you have done that why not even do some more. “Don’t wish for it, work for it,” we can all rattle off endless quotes that tell us to do just that. It’s all well and good and I firmly believe that working hard is a crucial ingredient but fighting vigorously until you burn out and have nothing left to give is entirely different. That is exactly what happened to me a while back and if it all sounds very familiar then maybe there is a message here for you too:

Less striving, more surrender

How can you fully enjoy each day when the unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself consume the beautiful view? Take out the extra boulders you have added to your rucksack along the way because you do not need the extra weight! What I’m trying to say is that I’m learning to be thankful for those exam results that don’t quite mirror what I was aiming for. Not so they can motivate me to try harder, but so they can instil in me something that I hope to radiate as a teacher and therapist forever:

Your best IS good enough!