“Do your best.” We’ve all heard this message in some form or another. Seemingly cliche, but it’s also super meaningful if you think about it.
Of course, we should not take “do your best” literally. That’s only possible a small percentage of the time. The law of averages says that we are statistically most likely to do our average.
For me, the real meaning is to give reasonable, consistent effort. Try to get better. Show up. Get to work.
I have thought a lot about cliches like this. There is a reason that “do your best” is a common piece of cross-cultural wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors preach it all the time. The challenge is that we have to learn to de-cliche the cliche, which means that we have to think about what this phrase is really telling us and how we can begin to incorporate it in our life.
Let’s break down “do your best” a little further. The truth is that slacking off is always an option. It gives us an excuse (“I wasn’t really trying”), and it makes us more likely to indulge in momentous pleasures, while forgetting about the long-term challenges and delayed gratification associated with progress. Progress requires effort. Depending on the level of progress you’re after, a ton of effort could be needed. For other endeavors, not so much. It’s up to you what you want to put in.
Another operative word in this cliche is YOUR. I like that. You own “best.” It’s YOUR best. You get to decide what that looks like. As I mentioned, best isn’t literal. Perhaps it can be viewed as a symbolic aim. Something that keeps you going, keeps you hungry, keeps you growing.
The whole point of this ramble is that when someone says to you, “do your best,” take them seriously. Don’t look at the person like, “get out of here with that cliche nonsense.” Think about those words of wisdom. Use it as an opportunity to ponder your effort, your potential, whether you’re being too damn hard on yourself, or whether you are comparing yourself to others too much. Remember, you make the meaning. Do your best.
I’ve been thinking a lot about whether insecurity can be helpful, and my conclusion is that it can be. We don’t have to let our insecurities erode our well-being and psychological stability. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The problem is we are led to believe there is something “wrong” with us when we feel insecure. As a result, our instinct is to try to rescue ourselves with forced confidence, and if that doesn’t work, we run and hide. These aren’t long-term solutions, just temporary band aids that will eventually fall off and leave the wound exposed. So, what else can we do? My suggestion is making your insecurities your friends.
First of all, we have to realize that our minds are hardwired to be sensitive to perceived threats. It’s how we evolved to identify and solve problems quickly. However, we are unfortunately operating with mental machinery that is hundreds of thousands of years old. So often times, the primitive areas in our brains are activated when we begin feeling insecure about modern day threats (speaking in public, starting a new job, going on a date, etc.). The problem is that the primitive brain can be unnecessarily dramatic–for all it knows you are about to get eaten by a bear.
Think of one of your drama king or queen friends. God love em, but man, can they be dramatic sometimes. Still, they serve a purpose and are a part of your team, even though you can’t take EVERYTHING they say too seriously. This is the type of internal friend your insecurities can be. People who are prone to being dramatic are usually quite interesting and are always a work in progress, and if you think about it, that’s kind of what your insecurities are like too– quite interesting and a signal that something about you is a work in progress. That’s really it. Not so threatening after all, right?
So, here’s an idea on how to approach your next moment of insecurity. Instead of indulging in the accompanying thoughts and feelings, maybe you simply and kindly say to yourself, “thank you, brain friend, for the interesting feedback. I appreciate you letting me know that I have areas of improvement (AKA you’re human!).” And then, remind yourself that the very nature of this internal friend is to be a little over the top, so you don’t get overwhelmed. In other words, the strategy here is to extract what’s important, and throw the rest away.
To wrap this post up, we are all insecure to some extent, but how we relate to those insecurities is what matters most. If forcing yourself to feel confident or hiding from your insecurities works for you, stick with that. If not, I hope you find some of these ideas useful.
Depression sucks. Some people are more vocal about what they are going through, while others suffer in silence. There is risk to keeping quiet because there’s not much worse than suffering alone. But at the same time, there is also risk in speaking up because you might feel like people are mistaking your depression for weak-mindedness.
So what the hell is a depressed person to do? Just take it out on someone? That doesn’t sound quite right. Drink it away? Drugs? Sex? A high would be nice, but that will eventually fade and lead to feeling worse. Listen to some music, exercise, eat a healthy meal, talk to a professional, chill outside? Those are better options– healthier and less destructive. But we’ll come back to them later.
Now here’s another approach. Just sit with the depression for ten minutes. Sit in a chair with your back straight. Focus on the breath and the rise and fall of the chest. Just be aware of the depression and how it feels in the body and mind. If ten minutes is too long or if it’s too intense, shorten the time. You can handle a minute or 30 seconds. You’re strong enough. The point here is that you got to go through the depression to get to the other side.
Depression is tall and wide. There is no way around or over it; only a way through it. And if you just ignore it, you stay stuck psychologically, and it will continue to stare you right in the eyes. You may look away, kind of like a child does to an authority figure. But now it’s time to grow up. It’s time to acknowledge that, yes, depression is tough, but so are you. Sit still, breathe, and stare back.
That is what the technique described above allows you to do. It reminds me of when boxers stare at each other face-to-face before a fight. They are signalling that confrontation is inevitable. Depression is similar. By sitting with it, you are engaging in the stare down. A sense of courage will eventually build through repeated stare downs, and you will be able to chart a clear course of action with time.
This brings me back to the healthy strategies. Eventually the stare down must lead to direct confrontation, and confrontation involves action. Indeed, depression is mental, but it’s also behavioral. In other words, as much as you think depressing thoughts and feel depressing feelings, you also do depressing doings. I recommend changing behavior first. It’s not the only method, but I have found it to be a nice place to start.
Here’s why. The change is concrete. Thoughts and feelings are abstract, which can overwhelm a depressed mind. Behavior is more simply understood, and the great thing about this approach is that behavioral change often leads to changes in thought and mood patterns.
So, start by taking a five minute walk everyday. Schedule it in your day and COMMIT. I like starting off with walking because it gives you the sensation that you are going somewhere because you are. Exercise of this sort is a natural antidepressant. The research is darn-near conclusive.
There. Now you’re off and walking. You’re moving in the right direction, which is the point of life. Of course, it usually takes more than one round to defeat depression, and sometimes depression may come back for a re-match. But my hope is that maybe the sentences herein can get you into the ring.
Well, I have decided to do this blog thing. Let’s see where it goes. The goal here is to offer ideas on counseling, mental health, philosophy, wellness… those kinds of things.
The title of this entry doesn’t just reflect that this is my first post. It also is a reflection of how many human projects start in general. This project is no exception. Very rarely are people sure where to begin, which isn’t a bad place to be. I think it’s more important to just begin. Do something. Take a step.
Once a step is taken, you have more information. Usually it’s like, “oh boy, I’m outside of my comfort zone!” That’s good, though. You’ve started. Phase one of discomfort, out of the way. Now you’re a little bit smarter. This isn’t to say that phase two is all of a sudden going to be a breeze. It’s most-likely going to be a struggle too. But hey, at least you’re off and running.
This blog is now off and running. Phase one complete. I’m looking forward to phase two, whatever that may be.