Is My Best Always Good Enough? / by Michelle Cowan

What if your best isn't good enough? What if someone else's best isn't good enough? What if it is?

Sometimes, I try my hardest and best to do something, whether in advancing my career, writing music, being a friend, eating appropriately, resting enough, doing new things, etc., and I come up short. I disappoint myself or all my striving leaves me exhausted and frustrated. Sometimes, my efforts are thwarted by external events or unexpected turns in the day. I live each moment as well as I can, but oftentimes, the moment itself somewhat limits my choices. Although I might want to take care of myself or do something that needs doing, I am unable to because I cannot overcome the constraints of the situation. This frustrates me.

For instance, I might go to a place where I want to tell someone something, but I never get a chance to talk to him or her. Perhaps the person I want to talk to avoids me, or someone else shows up whose presence makes the conversation I desire inappropriate. As another example, say I am hungry and need to eat. I go out to dinner with friends, but whatever I order is not enough to satisfy me. Things happen, and I am trapped with them for a while doing other things, unable to get the needed nourishment despite my efforts to take care of myself. In the end, I go home tired and hungry, afraid I might binge and frustrated that I could not meet my needs in the way I wanted.

In such instances, I feel inadequate. Of course, it's unreasonable to expect that I could somehow transcend the bounds of circumstance all the time. I cannot be perfect and cannot control everything. Still, sometimes I feel like I could have worked harder to find a quiet place to chat with my friend or simply ordered something different at the restaurant. I forget that I did my best at the time because that best wasn't good enough.

Or was it?

This thought challenges me. Could my best, no matter how many times it doesn't seem to measure up, always be good enough?

Yes, it can. I can continue doing my best in the next moment and the next. Eventually, all those little bests, even if it seems like I didn't do much, add up to huge success. It just takes longer to see.

Disheartening events like these can also teach me how to be more comfortable in difficult situations. I tried one way of behaving, and I let myself down. Well, then, I can choose to try something different next time. If I want an alternate outcome, I must take steps other than the ones I took before, even if it's only changing subtle things.

Facing that initial disappointment can be a struggle, though, thinking, "If I had only done X, Y, and Z..." "Ugh, how did I mess up so badly?" However, those feelings and thoughts pass as I choose to do my best in THIS moment, which means forgiving myself and being gentle. I can go on and use all of my experiences to my advantage. I am constantly learning to love myself and laugh at the moments when I tried my best but still slipped a little. "Hey, girl," I say, "at least you gave it a shot. How about a hug?"

This brings me to a second point about which I've drawn far fewer conclusions. What about when others do their best and still let me down? I see people trying to love me, trying to be kind, but what they give or what they say helps not at all or even hurts. What if circumstances prevent well-intentioned people from coming through in the ways I need?

This stings. I love those people. I appreciate their attempts at love. But how close do I let them get? If they hurt me even when they truly have the best in mind for me, do I reach back out to them? Do I let them know me intimately?

People in my past have hurt me and then, much later, come to my rescue. Is it worth it to wait for people to figure out how to love me? Or should I simply work harder on myself, learning what I need and how to ask for it directly? I would like to be able to ask for the kind of love I truly need. Trouble is, I'm often still figuring out what that is, and sometimes I want people who will know what I need better than I. How much should I invest in the lives of those who will possibly never possess that skill?

In the absence of firm answers to these questions about the love of other people, I can turn the survey inward. What about when I repeatedly fail myself, despite the best of intentions? How do I continue to love myself even when I do things that harm me? Anyone who has struggled with addictive behaviors and other strongholds knows these concepts intimately.

Perhaps, like what I must learn to do when dealing with others who don't know how to love, I must learn what makes me feel loved and ask for it. I can ask myself to give the kind of love that helps instead of resorting to old behaviors that have proved themselves repeatedly unsatisfying. I can make new habits as I learn how much better they make me feel.

During this process, I gain a brighter picture of life. I always do my best, even though sometimes my best doesn't measure up to the standards I have in my head. In reality, those standards don't exist, only this moment and the opportunity to do the best with it I can. The past is gone and can be used as a learning tool for RIGHT NOW. This moment can be exactly what I wish it to be. I am always good enough.