One lesson I’ve come to learn since turning 30 (actually, since having Kennedy) is that we as humans tend to make things harder on ourselves by envisioning scenarios in ways that cause us to feel doubt and insecurity. Tim Hoch explained it best here, but assuming we always know a person’s intentions, drawing up situations and reasons for why someone didn’t call or text us back, why we didn’t get the job, or the house, etc. only makes us unnecessarily rack our brains for answers to questions we don’t even need to be asking. At the root of this problem is the curse of perfection that many of us tend to thrust onto ourselves. We expect to be the person our friends can turn to in all times, we expect to always have great days at work, we believe our children will see us as heroes and nothing less, we assume our significant others are, and will always be, infatuated with all of us. These things aren’t true. In fact, if 50% of this can come true at any given time, you’re doing well.
The truth is, there are days when work will be overwhelming, there are times when we need space from our friends, we may not always come through as super heroes for our children, and we shouldn’t idealize our significant others, nor should they do that to us. Life isn’t a perfect picture. It’s a running film of change, adjustment, and capitalizing on the resources at your disposal. Some of us are better at that last part than others, which I think explains why we can’t all be rock stars, or Nobel Peace Prize winners, or zillionaires. At 30 years old, I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to fall short of perfection. As long as I’m doing the best that I can, that’s acceptable.
“The best you can” is one of those phrases like “I love you,” or “I hate you,” which has different meaning for everyone, and carries less weight with overuse. “Can” implies ability, and “best” implies excellence. Therefore, if I work to deliver the highest level of excellence that’s within my abilities for a given task at a given time, then I’m doing all right. Some days, my best looks damn fine. Other days, my best gets the job done, but it’s not worthy of a gold medal. I used to sweat the days I didn’t earn gold medals. Truthfully, this is a lot of what thrust me into postpartum depression in the weeks after I gave birth to Kennedy. I believe it’s what gives a lot of people anxiety about things they want to do, but know they won’t be great at in the beginning. It’s unfair and unnecessary.
Because we are humans, we are subject to imperfection, and remaining mindful of this is what defines life as a joy to live versus a burden to move through. There will be times when we struggle. Not all of our efforts will reap large benefits. We may not be super mom or dad or auntie or uncle, but as long as we are working to provide the best we can for the little girls and boys who look up to us, we are doing well. We can’t all be perfect 4.0 students, but a 3.5 is great, too. You may not get that promotion you were gunning for, but at least you’re employed, and there’s probably something better waiting for you at a later time. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and work to avoid them in the future. Don’t strive for failure, but give yourself permission to fall short a time or two. Being the best at everything is impractical.
As I set my sights on 2015, I’m prefacing my lofty goal list with this defining truth.