In high school, I would literally cry when I got a “bad grade” in school. And just to clarify, I’m not talking bad grades as in D’s or F’s, oh no, I’m talking anything BUT an A+. (Yeah, I was that kind of student…) Looking back now, I can’t believe how hard I was on myself. Looking back I laugh at that silly sixteen-year-old crying that she wouldn’t get into college because she got a B in Algebra. Looking back on that girl, that girl I used to be, has made me realize how far I’ve come. It wasn’t easy and it most definitely didn’t happen overnight, but since my sophomore year of high school I’ve learned to be gentler with myself. I’ve learned to accept my failures as an opportunity for growth, to trust in His plan over mine, and to know that as long as I did the absolute BEST I could with what I had, that was enough.
Now let me reiterate: This WASN’T easy. Not. At. All. And I’m still doing a WHOLE lot of growing each and every day. Sometimes, I fall back into my old patterns. I start to criticize myself for not doing better, for not doing more, for not doing it all, even when I’ve done everything I could with what I had. But the point is, I’ve grown and along the way I’ve learned to stop being so hard on myself about every little thing. And my life is so much more fulfilling. So if I can, I want to help you to do just that too. It all starts with one simple question...
Did you do the BEST you could, with what you had?
When I start to feel myself falling back into the vicious cycle of self-criticism, this is the #1 question I ask. Did I do the best I could, with what I had? It can be so easy to criticize ourselves for what we don’t have. But if you don’t have the time, the resources, the gifts from God, or the mental stamina to do something, the truth is you have NOT failed. Not at all. The truth is, your best is completely different than the person next to you. God created us all unique, with different gifts and different lives, so this only makes sense. We gotta get our minds our of the comparison game if we want to learn to be kinder to ourselves. So, as long as you gave it your very best, as long as you utilized what you could in the time you had, with the gifts God gave you, you were successful no matter what success looks like for the person next door.
And I want to be really really clear about one part of this. We all have our bad days, we all have our struggles and many of us battle with mental illness at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes these struggles, these hardships, they can limit us in our abilities. And that’s okay. There have been times where my anxiety has gotten in the way. That’s not something I like to admit, but it’s true. Anxiety does not control me, but sometimes, on some days, it makes it significantly harder for me to achieve in the way I normally would. And like I said, that’s okay. In asking this one question we have to recognize that sometimes our limits aren’t just physical. Sometimes our limits are mental and they aren’t as widespread as they normally would be. Sometimes doing the BEST you can is affected by your mental state, and we have to learn to be okay with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t push through on the bad days and achieve greatness anyway. Because you most definitely should! If you can do it, do it! But what I’m saying is there might be times where doing the BEST you can means doing less than you normally would to keep yourself in a good place. And that is so okay, no matter what society may tell us.
So be gentle with yourself my friends, you can’t do it all. If you could, what would be the point of your neighbor?