Yesterday I had a small tantrum about a photo taken earlier in the day. Before we continue, let me say that I am painfully aware of how ridiculous that is and how I need to just fucking get a life and think about actual problems. Stick with me though, because it’s just an example of my messed-up thinking which is the real point of this post. ‘I just want to get better!’ I whined, screwing up my face like a small child, ‘I’m supposed to be improving! I just want to be able to do my best!’
I had the same tantrum last week about a blog post I’d written (this blog post), which ‘wasn’t my best’ either. It wasn’t, I know that, but it’s hardly tantrum-worthy.
Needless to say, I am a stickler for the ‘doing your best’ thing, but not in the wholesome way it sounds. I’ve written before about my perfectionist’s view of ‘if it’s not perfect, it’s terrible’, and in much the same vein I carry this impressively nuanced thinking into ‘if it’s not my best, it’s not worth doing’ too.
Obviously, this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s great to take pride in what you’re doing, and placing the importance on trying as hard as you can is a good way of lessening the pressure of things that are daunting or difficult. I’m sure that especially growing up we all heard the phrase ‘just do your best’, and the sentiment is a positive one; you don’t have to win the race, or get an A, or beat everyone else, you just need to try as well as you can.
And I think it’s reasonable, too to want to be constantly improving a little. The problem lies when you become quite hellbent on some weird idea of ‘beating’ yourself each and every time you do anything, and so fixated on the pressure of ‘doing your best’ that you forget other things. Many years ago when I realised that I was plainly mediocre and never going to ‘beat’ other people to come out in first place in any particular thing, I made myself the previous version of me the person to beat instead. It was a good idea; it stopped me from focusing on what others were doing and look to improve my own performance in something instead.
My ever-warping brain has managed to warp even this harmless and well-meaning approach now though. ‘Do your best’ has come to mean ‘you need each thing you do to become your new best thing’. This post, for example, was received really well by you lovely people (thank you, to anyone who left a comment or shared it, I appreciate it so much). Stupidly, I became so worried about ‘topping’ it and making sure that I write something to ‘beat’ it, that I’ve had a really tough time writing anything since, opting instead to stew over the fact that I don’t have anything profound to share which must mean I’m rubbish. If a campaign is successful at work, it really bothers me for the next to be less so. If I run 5km in a certain time, I get hugely frustrated if the next time I try, it’s no faster.
The last week has really demonstrated to me that as ever, I need to loosen up. Sometimes, you don’t need to do your ‘best’ – you just need to do it (or not at all – fuck it, have a snooze instead). If I did my very best email writing at work all day? People would get some really well written emails, but they probably wouldn’t make a difference to the actual result, because actually, my average email writing is perfectly acceptable. If I did my very best blog post writing each time? I’d be going to bed even later than I am already and I’d barely post. It would be ridiculous to assume that someone is going to do every single thing better than their previous attempt every single time, because believe it or not there’s more than just ‘how hard you’re trying’ behind each success or disappointment.
Which brings me on to the real point I’m trying to remember; life happens, and things still need to be done, and you and I are probably trying very hard already. It’s easy to forget that some days, your best will be different to what it is on other days; improvements and development are a winding road, a journey where you might take several steps forward and back, not a ladder to be climbed rung by rung. Some days trying your best will mean achieving things you didn’t think you could, or surpassing previous accomplishments – and some days, you’ll be firefighting all the shit that life throws at you and your best will just be to emerge at the end of it unscathed or get out of bed to face the world.
So I know this sounds like the same thing, but it’s honestly not; I’m trying to stop thinking about doing my ‘best’ and just do my best instead.
Jumper – H&M | Coat – New Look | Trousers – Topshop | Socks – New Look | Bag – Zara | Trainers – Carvela
Photography: Rob Poor
14 thoughts on “A note on doing your best”
Awww but the photos turned out well. But i do feel you when i beat myself bc im not improving or becoming better what i try to do is I detach myself from the subject for some time and when my tantrums is done I’d go back at it and continue where I left off.
I love this look, it’s so fun and stylish! Let’s follow each other, darling! Love from lensembledujour.wordpress.com
This post is just so so relatable! I think when you have a competitive nature it also makes it so hard to relax a little and stop being so hard on yourself! I know the feeling of always trying to outdo yourself (especially beating previous 5K times, I know this all too well) and I think this definitely comes into play with my blogging too! It’s all about finding that balance between wanting to do your best without working yourself up into a crazy wreck over being the best! So many good points in this post lovely, I really enjoyed reading it and I think your photos are fabulous! So many great angles and you look gorgeous! xxx
Tash | natashatodd.co.uk
Gorgeous pictures as always!! Completely agree with you. It can be sooo tiring trying to be the best!!
I really love the tone and topics of your blog posts recently 🙂 It’s so personal yet SO relatable. Keep at it girl – you’re doing amazing. Plus these photos of you are gorgeous!
Fatima x http://www.fatimawrites.co.uk
I totally agree with you. Not everything is perfect, and we as humans have to accept that. I also love your outfit. It is so adorable.
This is such a great post and so relatable at the moment!
Yasss I love this – I’ve been training on something new at work and because I’m not doing it perfectly I feel like I’m not doing my best – but actually I am doing my best, it’s just not perfect and I hate that it’s not perfect even thought I’m just learning. If any of that made sense I’m basically saying I relate massively and a big yes to this post gal.
I know exactly what you mean! I think when you get older it’s something you do learn to manage a bit better though. I know I can’t top everything and make everything my best thing and I’ve chilled out a fair bit over the last couple of years.
I can totally relate to this post, Sophie. I used to be a big time perfectionist, but luckily my mum always taught me to relax, to let things go and to accept that not everything in life can be perfect (in fact, almost nothing really is), so as you said, sometimes our mediocre skills are actually pretty fricking good if compared to others’, but as we compare them to ourselves and don’t see immediate progress, tangible results, we get frustrated… At least you are good at introspection and hey, it’s never too late to change the things that don’t make us happy 😉 You look gorgs btw :*
Saida | She talks Glam
I could really relate with this, and ive definitley forgotten the meaning of doing my best than reaching for ‘perfection’. Lovely read dear
This post is brilliant. “Do your best has come to mean you need each thing you do to become your new best thing” it’s amazing how much this sentence resonated with me. I beat myself up all the time about not having a good day or doing my best each day.
Wonderful post, and one I wish I’d read last night, on my third batch of macarons after the first two just weren’t good enough!! They all bloody taste the same (luckily, delicious) but I wouldn’t stop until they were perfect and was up until nearly midnight! Alice xxx
Firstly, I love this look — loving the tassle earring trend.
Secondly, this was such an interesting post to read. I always want to do my best, be perfect, be right as well, but sometimes it holds me back from doing anything. If I am not going to be immediately perfect at something I just won’t start doing it, even if it is something I *know* I really want to do.
Loved reading this! x