“Situational Best”: What Does It Mean+Ending Toxic Self Comparison

Life gets tough. “To-do” lists get long, tragedies happen, life changes, you change. Our ability to deal with change changes. That’s okay. We often see the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” floating through Instagram and Pinterest boards. When we consider those words, we tend to think about them in the context of comparing ourselves to others. It serves as an important reminder to ground our mindset regarding where we feel we are in our lives compared to where others are in theirs. Personal success has an intimate definition that is unique to everyone, and focusing on what brings you love, and light, and joy will help you to manifest your dreams in a much more positive way than through spite or harnessing disappointment, because you don’t resemble someone else. The flip side to that quote, which is equally important to keep in mind, is to not compare your present abilities to those of your past or future self.

What do we mean by resisting the urge to compare your present abilities to your past and future self? You can only do the best to your abilities in this present moment with the resources, knowledge, and time you have to work with. Those key factors play a large role in the outcome of a situation. When reflecting on your past self, you might feel that you were able to accomplish more at a different part of your life. Maybe you were faster at reading, or juggled more activities, or read more books, or woke up earlier, or cooked from scratch everyday, or went out with your friends more, or were more involved in your community than you are now. If any of these, or whatever it is that you feel you did better in the past than you do now, is weighing down on you, let it go. Your life circumstances have also probably changed immensely since then. Have you had financial troubles? Personal traumas? Health issues? Changes in daily routines? Moved? Expanded your family? You are at a different place in your life, and because things are different now, does not make you less of a person, and does not make the work that you do accomplish any less worthy of celebration.

When you think of your future self in relation to your present self, approach it with a similar mindset. It can become overwhelming and discouraging to constantly stay in a mindset of escaping your present life for the dream of a new one. Thoughts like, “Once I get this promotion it will all be better,” “Once I finish this project I can finally be happy,” “Once I finish school everything will be okay,” “Once I move to this place I will finally be happy,” are all examples of extreme cases of comparing your present self to your future self. These types of thoughts place a heavy emphasis on your happiness relying on the outcome of a future external event. When your personal peace does not originate from an internal source, it becomes unstable. If things don’t work out or get prolonged, then the emotional consequences can be devastating. Overarching peace stems from within you, and from your ability to appreciate the wonderful love you have to share everyday. Thoughts that place your happiness largely on the outcome of how future events turn out, also limit your ability to appreciate what is good in your life right now.

This does not mean you shouldn’t plan for the future. Plan. Create goals. Dream big. Dream so big that the entire world can’t contain those dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. However, it is important to not put off working on those dreams, because you are waiting to get to where you want to be to start working on them. Start working on them today. Start with the resources you have. Do not think that your present self is incapable of greatness, and that your future self will be the one who will take you to your dream destination. Begin today. For more details on how to get started on that project that is burning in your heart, even if you don’t feel ready, check out our article “Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear.”

You have so many beautiful and wondrous thoughts and ideas every single day. Even if you feel that your thoughts don’t matter or won’t get you very far because you won’t be able to make extensive progress on your goals at this present time, that does not mean you shouldn’t start. Do what you can with what you have to work with. Then when you can do better, do. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not in the position you want to be yet. Don’t put off starting something altogether because you don’t have all the tools you need to execute it in the exact way you want yet. If you wait until you are ready, the ideas might slip, the right time might pass, or the window of opportunity might fade.

This brings us to the main point of the week. It is okay to work on somethings at your situational best. If you have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like, or how you want a specific project to turn out, it is okay to work on it, even if you can not make it look like the final image you are trying to achieve yet. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. Challenging self imposed perfectionism is an extremely difficult battle. What’s important to remember is that you are doing the best you can do given the resources at your disposal, the time frame you have to work with, and the knowledge you have about the situation at hand. Maybe your past self would have done something “better.” However, you can’t know that. Your past self hasn’t seen what you’ve seen or felt what you’ve felt. Your past self might have frozen in the face of some challenges your present self is dealing with. Maybe your future self would be able to handle this more efficiently. However, if your future self hadn’t learned how to be resourceful through making the best of tough situations, they wouldn’t know how to act so efficiently either.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You can only do what is possible in the now, but make the absolute best of your now. Learn from your mistakes. Forgive yourself for setbacks. Allow yourself time to rest. Enjoy the present. The present is your experience of life. It is your feelings, it is your thoughts, it is your place in the world. It is where you’re at. You are here, and what you are doing is wonderful, because it comes from inside you.

When Your Best Isn’t Enough

If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you- not even yourself.

Sometimes you try the best you can, you give your absolute all, and it’s just not enough. It’s crushing. Devastating. It’s the setback in life that hurts the most. How do you pick up and try to do better next time when you gave everything you had to give?

First of all, recognize that you did your best. You gave your all, and that is enough. Be proud of the work you did, because even if it was unsuccessful, or no one else saw it, or they did and it didn’t matter to them, you gave it everything you had. That is crucial. Reflect on everything you did right, not with resentment, but with a love for the work you did and a love for yourself. If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you, not even yourself.

Next, get upset. After the initial shock of failure, then processing it through the lens of recognizing your work, grieve the loss of the effort you put in. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to question why this happened, and to feel hurt by rejection, or dismissal, or ignorance. Process that pain, and feel it in its entirety. You put your whole heart out into your work, and you put your time, and energy, and your intellect out on display only to have it be turned away. It’s okay to get upset.

After you’ve processed that pain, it’s time to analyze. You’ve reflected on everything that you’ve done right, you’ve felt through the wrongness of the situation, and now your head and heart have a clear space to freely analyze the what happened. If you plan on trying again, what went wrong? Where can you make changes? Can you tweak the project? Does it need fundamental changes? Was it just a fluke? If the next step is to move forward to something new, analyze the specific reason for the downfall, and brainstorm a list of ideas as to how to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes in life we encounter roadblocks. But when we put out best foot forward and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t feel like a road block. It’s more like a bridge on our life path crumbled while we were crossing it. And sometimes it’s your fault for choosing an old, rickety bridge to cross, sometimes it’s the bridge builder’s fault for building it with cheap materials, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault at all. Sometimes things just happen. What matters is how we respond to them. Will you lie in the river and let the current take you away? Will you swim out, and climb back up to the top? Or will you find a new path at the edge of the river? It’s up to you how to proceed.

Always try your best, because when you do, no one can ask anymore of you- not even yourself. When you do your best and it doesn’t work out how you hoped it would, do not let it deter you from doing your best in the future. People will respect you for trying your hardest and failing, much more than they will for only doing half the work and sort of succeeding. You will respect yourself more for trying your best, than if you only put in the minimal effort. If things don’t work out, you will know in heart you gave everything you had, and will be able to move onto other endeavors without regrets about how you handled yourself. You can not control the actions of anyone else but yourself. When you put your best foot forward it will pay off. Consistency, hard work, passion. Let them flourish in you. Take the time you need to heal from a set back, and then forge your new path that will take you to heights you may have never imagined you’d see. No matter where your path has taken you, split off, diverged, or turned around, you will find your way. You can accomplish so much with the vision that is in your heart. You can do anything, right where you’re at.