Sometimes Your Best Is Not Good Enough

I’m doing my best, I’m doing my best, I’m doing my best. Sometimes those words reverberate through my head. I have to remind myself because my perfectionistic little brain doesn’t see any of the good things I feel or do. Instead I consistenly focus on what I didn’t get finished, what I’m not feeling or what I didn’t even get started. I drive myself crazy. Imagine, Melissa, driving herself crazy.

I know that I’m my own biggest obstacle. I know that if I can step away from perfectionism I’d probably be a lot happier. I would have a new level of peace. A quieter brain could actually accomplish a lot more. And it’s not like I don’t try. This brain has meditated, been medicated, been through therapy, been through support groups. I’ve tried. I really have. And when I’m really really honest with myself, I remember that I don’t do half bad.

My brain is okay. For me. I sleep through the night, think through my decisions, don’t indulge in too much denial, can think my way through a crossword puzzle, am not overly judgmental, am nice, am smart, can be charming, read a lot, know when not to think too much. I’m doing okay. But as we all do, I still criticize myself. I don’t even think I criticize more than most of us, but I do recognize that sometimes the level of criticism is not what I want to have the life that I want.

So I work on it. A lot.

But recently I had a completely different experience with that phrase. And because of that experience I’ve noticed how much people use that phrase as an excuse. I’m doing my best is not supposed to justify dropping the ball. I’m doing my best is not an excuse. If you’re saying I’m doing my best to get off the hook there’s a problem.

I had a friend, we’ll call her Tara, who would tell me she’d be at dinner with the group, not call, not show and apologize lamely. Never really apologizing.  She’d say she’d show up  at 10, but not really be there till 11:30, with no explanation and looking like she just rolled out of bed. Unfortunately, our friendship turned into a professional relationship. And I know, that was my biggest mistake. But I erroneously assumed that her personal issues wouldn’t leak into her professional life. Because she’s a business owner too and I trusted that she would have professional integrity. 

And we finally talked about it and I told her I wasn’t comfortable doing business with her anymore, she tearfully told me she was doing her best. And I thought, that’s nice, but it doesn’t really matter. Now, I didn’t say that, but I wanted to. I wanted to say you’re best isn’t acceptable. At least not to me.

It sounds harsh and I’ve avoided saying things like that most of my life, but the reality is sometimes your best is not good enough. And in this particular circumstance I felt that I’d waited around for her long enough, made enough excuses for her and been disappointed enough. When she would apologize I’d assume it meant that the behavior wouldn’t repeat itself so I said it was okay. I’d say we all have tough days. Or I understand. Because I do. I understand how hard life can be at times and she seemed to have it very hard. But she apologized and repeated the behaviors over and over and I just had to step away from it.

Rather than acepting that she’d behaved badly, understanding that she’d been hurtful and neglectful of our relationship, she got angry. She attacked and told me all the things that I’d done wrong. And I didn’t deny any of them. I accepted my part and waited for her to accept her part, But she didn’t. She just said I’m doing my best.  And she said it over and over. As if saying it enough would make me change my mind.  As if doing her best made it okay.

It doesn’t. Doing your best doesn’t make it okay. Sometimes I have to recogize that my best isn’t enough. I have to accept that I need new skills or better tools to make my best acceptable. Sometimes it’s just more time. I’m not ready for a new challenge. And so I work on myself. A lot.

I don’t expect other people to do the work I do. I don’t expect other people to be like me. I don’t even judge. I don’t make assessments of who people are based on my experience. I know about my experience and that’s all I know. But I also know that based on my experience I don’t have to accept bad behavior because it’s someone’s best. And I don’t expect other people to accept my best when it’s not up to par.

One of the toughest things I’ve done in life is accept myself the way I am. I struggle with it and work on it all the time. The second toughest thing is accepting other people the way they are. And the third is recognizing that while I accept who they are, I don’t have to accept them in my life.

Cause I’m doing my best, and that’s hard enough by itself.

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