Getting or giving 100 percent is associated with peak achievement in society. Giving 100 percent to a job or getting 100 percent on an exam equals being 100 percent successful. Worst of all, it equals perfection.
Perfection is a toxic idea designed to motivate humans, but the latest societal development of this idea has only driven them to madness. Being perfect would mean no learning, no growth and no standards. There would be nothing to strive for. Despite this fact, everyone wants to be perfect in today's world. Due to the fact that it is utterly impossible to actually be perfect, many settle for appearing perfect. This falsified appearance of perfection has caused a ripple effect leading to low self-esteem and unhealthy comparisons that are detrimental to the well-being of humanity.
It is easy to give into the struggle of wanting to get that perfect 100 percent, and far too often, we associate doing our best with being perfect. In reality, our best is just that: our best. The concept of "your best" is ever changing. For example, if you are sick, no one expects you to be fully functioning. No one expects you to write a novel or climb Mount Everest. They simply expect your best, which may very well be laying in bed until the illness passes. Eventually, as you heal, your best will regain meaning. Your best will mean going back to work or school and getting assignments done. It will mean exercising and eating. It means living to the best of your ability.
The acknowledgment of "your best" as a fluid concept is especially important to those who struggle with self-image. So often, self-image is thought to be concrete and idle which leads people to strive for something that may not even be possible. I believed this for so long. I thought that if I were to be successful, I MUST achieve 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. That is ridiculous and even dangerous, especially when taking mental illness into account.
Mental illness makes living feel like a chore. Striving for perfection when getting out of bed feels impossible has disastrous results. A depressive episode reduces my productivity at disturbing rates as I'm sure it does for many. So when I told my counselor that I felt as if I wasn't achieving anything this past semester, she gave me the advice that changed my entire perspective. "Your best isn't always 100 percent."
She asked me if I got up and made coffee that morning. I told her yes. She then proceeded to congratulate me on getting out of bed to make coffee. She asked if I went to class. I told her no and that I hadn't been all week because it just felt too hard. She then told me that she was proud of me for getting dressed and going to her office instead. She said that today, my best may only be 40 percent, but that 40 percent was better than zero. The next day, I did all my assignments, but still didn't go to class. My best was maybe 70 percent that day, and I was proud because I could at least see growth.
As more of these conversations and realizations happened, I began to praise myself for the little victories instead of belittling myself for the little defeats. If I didn't go to class, I could at least go to the gym. I told myself I would get coffee and do at least one assignment even though I was still wearing pajamas. Eventually, the victories grew bigger and bigger. Realizing to appreciate the percentage that I had done allowed me to appreciate the percentage that I gained each time even more. I stopped trying to be perfect and started trying to simply do my best. Because of this perspective, my percentage was averaging in the nineties by the end of the semester.
One of those days toward the end of the semester, I felt like my best was finally at 100 percent. My GPA was on the rise. Classes were going great. My friends were the kindest, most caring people on the planet. Life was everything I ever wanted, and I hadn't felt that way in a long time. I was on top of the world and it was a beautiful sight. I appreciated that day, but I didn't expect the next to be the same. It wasn't. In fact, I got so sick that I missed my very last day of school and took a zero on a quiz. That day, my best was only about 2 percent, but that 2 percent mattered as much as the 100 percent. Each percentage is a contribution to your day, and in turn, a contribution to your future.
Embrace your best, no matter what it is. Appreciate the little victories. Appreciate the small percentages because I believe wholeheartedly that the small percentages lead to the greatest growth.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash