Thursday, March 31, 2016
Why I Don't Do My Best at Everything
I've long since thought that our society has a bit of a superhero complex---not only are superhero movies bigger and more popular than ever, but I've noticed that even for us "regular humans," we're often expected to be "superheroes" in the sense that we put this pressure on ourselves to do everything (and do it amazingly well), to go above and beyond the call of duty (by "rescuing" or helping out everyone in distress that we come across), and to look like it's all effortless.
Humans are not meant to be superheroes. In fact, until science gifts us with the ability of superhuman cyborg strength and mind-reading powers, we basically face the cold, hard truth that we CAN'T be superheroes.
This pressure on ourselves to overperform on everything is not new---women especially have felt the pressure for decades of taking care of house and family, serving in the community, often holding down a full- or part-time job, and feeling the pressure to look and feel beautiful, fit, and youthful. I am not the first to point this out, nor will I be the last.
On the one hand, it is GOOD to strive for things---it's good to give our best effort, to work hard and push our limits, to continually try to serve others and strive for self-improvement. But no man (or woman) ever achieved this state of perfection in a day (or a year, or a lifetime), so we can't beat ourselves up if we don't, either.
We've often heard that we should give our "best" on what we're working on. In fact, many times throughout the school year (perhaps hundreds), I encourage my students to put in their best efforts on assignments. I encourage them to see the job through until the end and to carefully check their work when they think they're already finished. I try and teach them that nothing great was ever accomplished by putting in a minimum of work, and I try and teach them the importance of paying attention to detail. I believe this is a Good Thing.
So why the title of the post?
Well, after almost 30 years in this planet, I've finally realized that I *truly* cannot have it all, do it all, or be it all---at least not in this lifetime. I think this realization hit me the most strongly when I calculated how many books were left on my recommended reading lists (that I was determined to get all the way through) and realized that in order to be reading every single one, I'd have to read about 70 books a year, and I could never choose to read anything else that wasn't on the list. That's when it hit me--it's a Good Thing to strive to read excellent literature, but it's a crazy, unrealistic, frustrating thing to expect myself to finish every single book on every single one of those lists.
Once I realized that?
My zest for reading increased a hundredfold because I no longer felt pressured to read certain books by certain times or beat myself up if I hadn't read a certain number of classics or award winners within the year.
Eventually, this realization extended to other areas of my life. I'd been putting a lot of pressure/guilt on myself because I wasn't cooking dinner every night like I used to, and my house is far from the state of tidiness I'd like it to be (and don't even get me started on my lack of decoration scheme). Yesterday at my doctor's appointment, I let some of my frustration fly that I've been consistently working out and eating around 1600-1700 calories every day and haven't lost any weight for two months. And then I realized I was doing it again---trying to expect myself to do everything, be everything, know everything, and look perfect while doing it.
And I know better than that.
So, for some examples, here are some things I have chosen not to do my "best" at (at least not at this point in my life):
* Doing all the dishes every day
* Keeping my house at the high level of tidiness/minimalism I'd like
* Reading all the award winners and classics on my lists
* Cooking every night
* Leaving extensive feedback on every one of my students' assignments
* Cutting out sugar/caffeine
* Actively developing my musical/photography/artsy talents
Now, that's not to say that I ignore all of these things completely--after all, we only have so many dishes, so sooner or later we do HAVE to clean them--but they're just not priorities. I know that if I were TRULY giving my "best" on these, it would mean staying up later to clean and tidy before bed (and getting even less sleep than I already do), cutting out any hope of full-on relaxation time, and causing more stress than I'm willing to pay right now. Would I love to be better at these things? Absolutely. Am I willing to give up other things in order to do that right now? Nope.
And maybe that's all this post really is about, anyway--what my priorities ARE versus what they are NOT.
What I AM trying to do my best at right now:
* Spending quality time with Raven every day (especially since I'm only around her for about 3 waking hours on weekdays due to my job and her sleep schedule)
* Increasing my physical fitness so that I can start training for a half marathon starting in a week or two
* Reading my scriptures every day
* Focusing more on my spiritual health overall, including making time to do family history, serve others, index names, and go to the temple
* Finishing the school year as strong as possible (having spring break all next week will hopefully bring me back from the near-burnout I'm at right now)
* Working on my new year's resolutions (which is more than enough to keep me fully busy!)
* Letting myself relax more every day (and not feel guilty about it)
Life as a working mom is a necessary balancing act, and it's a bit of a relief to not give 100% to everything, all the time.
In summation -
If you're giving your best to everything, you're really giving your best to nothing.
What do you think? What are your choosing to give your best to, and what are you choosing to let slide a bit?
Related Posts/Other Notes:
*The Bare Necessities
*Why It's Okay if Your Mornings Aren't "Ideal"
*No More Trying to Be Superwoman
*If you like this topic, you'd love the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown (which is all about this exact concept---that you will actually benefit most from NOT giving 100% to everything)