I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a topic that keeps coming up in my conversations… that being, the topic of ‘being 100%’. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you to either do something 1,000% or not at all, but that needs to come with a disclaimer.
The topic first arose in one of my English classes, when my students and I were talking about trying to be more green, environmentally conscious, and so on. Many of my students prefer to only buy locally-grown produce, since it doesn’t have to travel as far (thus using less fuel in the commute) to get to us. A lot of my students refuse to buy things that come in plastic containers, and instead opt for glass or recyclables like paper or eco/recycled plant plastic. I confessed to my students that I’m against animal testing. All of these things are ways in which we try to help the environment and each other, but they also tend to become labels.
“I’m against animal testing”. “I only buy fair trade”. “I only buy recycled packaging”.
Except for, you know, when we can’t. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I keep a list on my phone of companies I’ve researched, who Do and Do Not test their products and/or ingredients on animals. But you know what? I have to take a medicinal injection every day. And I think we all know what had to happen for that drug to be developed and approved. Animals were most likely used in the testing of my Copaxone. And I hate that. But I need my medication, and am not SO hardcore that I’d forego it to make my point or to be seen as ‘100%’. Does that make me a hypocrite? Depends on who you ask.
The same goes for my GFDF lifestyle. Yes, on a good day, I’m 100% gluten- and dairy-free. But there are other days when I have no chance, and it’s my own fault. Maybe I didn’t pack my lunch, and now I’m in town with only 15 minutes until my next class. And the only place around for me and the 3-Euros I’ve got on me is the bakery. And I’m starving. OF COURSE I’m going to eat the least-painful option and deal with it, or starve. Sometimes there’s no way around these things.
I’m writing about these things today to relate them to our fitness routines.
We are all really, really hard on ourselves. We make a new year’s resolution to get back in shape, or go to the gym more, or read more, and then after the second week, we’ve been SO hardcore about doing the thing that we need a break. And then we take a week off and feel like we’ve failed. It happens ALL THE TIME. We always want to be the best. We want to be able to tell people about how well we’ve done. We want to win.
And that’s fine. It’s ok to be competitive, although we should really never compete against anyone but ourselves.
I see this a lot in the Martial Art that I practice, among a lot of the men (since there are really only like 30 women in the whole organization, it’s easy to notice)… so many of them are SO concerned with showing you (or the others around them) HOW strong they are, HOW good at this or that technique they are, EXACTLY how low they can squat and still hold kamae (compared to you, and you are obviously NOT a real ninja, ARE YOU??), etc etc. It’s almost sickening to watch, and it’s frustrating when all you want to do is train.
I am pretty sure that WE ALL know at least one person who likes to make sure you’re aware of the fact that THEY knew all about that cool new thing you mentioned WAY before you did. Or the civil war. Or your favorite band. Being competitive is not sequestered only to sports, we run into it every day, in one way or another. Wherever it is, it’s frustrating to watch or encounter when you’re not in the mood for competition.
What I’m getting at is this: we’ve been programmed to want to be the best, to be perfect, and to be everything to everyone. And it’s hard to step back and realize that we can’t be these things, simply because we’re HUMAN. There will always be someone faster than you, or better at that technique than you, or who knows more than you about a given subject. There will always be someone who works out more than you, or can run for longer than you, or who is a ‘better parent’ than you. Always. Without fail, that person exists somewhere.
And the sooner we can admit these things to ourselves, and realize that maybe we can’t be 100% raw organic vegan locavore ALL THE TIME, the sooner we’ll be able to sit back and really enjoy our lives, and be able to appreciate the progress that we have made. We spend so much time (I am so guilty of this) getting down on ourselves for the things that we haven’t done, that we forget to pay attention to all of the things that we HAVE. We don’t even give ourselves credit for the accomplishments, because we’re so busy thinking about what we still need to do. And that’s terrible.
I know that I will never be the best in my MA. I know that I’ll never beat some of my friends in a race. I know I’ll never be THE BEST English teacher. I know that I have to NOT work out on the hot days, and that ruins my ‘every day workout’ plans. I know that I might not be able to only ever buy things that are local or were NOT tested on animals, and that sometimes, I have no way of even knowing…
And you know what? That’s fine. I don’t want to be the best. I want to be good at what I do, to see results, and to know that I’ve done the best that I could.
Everything past that is extra. The accolades, the recognition, the thanks? It’s not important. How I feel about myself is important, and I can tell you that even on the days when I can’t work out because it’s too hot, or I need a nap because I didn’t sleep well, that I still feel pretty damn good about myself and the results that I have seen so far.
I hope you can say the same.
Our lives are our own. And as long as you’re doing more or better than you’d normally do, then you’re doing more than enough. Remember that!