I Hate the Phrase 'Just Do the Best You Can'
For the past six weeks I have taken up the daily practice of Bikram yoga. It is hard, I suck, I may always suck, but I suck less now than I did 6 weeks ago, so that’s progress! The Bikram room is heated to 40 c so just staying in the room can be a challenge. In fact, that’s the challenge the instructor presents at the beginning of class, especially for the newbies. “All you have to do today is stay in the room.” And believe me, it used to be tough.
So, there’s the baseline, the agreement I have made with myself for the next 6 months. Come to yoga daily and just stay in the room. That’s it! There are days when I lie on my back for most of the class, telling my internal 10 year old we just have to stay, I won’t make her exercise.
The other thing the instructors say from time to time during class is, “See if you can go a little further. If it doesn’t work, don’t worry. Just go back to what you were doing.” Lots of times I ignore this suggestion but once in a while, I do try and go a little further. And sometimes I surprise myself with increased flexibility or balance or strength.
The way the class is presented and the agreement I have made with myself are allowing me to feel safe while trying something new, while stretching my boundaries. I know I will keep coming for 6 months and beyond because there’s nothing scary here. I just get to be me today.
Contrasting this experience with pretty much EVERY physical activity ever in my life, I recognize that they were all distressing and discouraging because the well-meaning experts trying to get me to participate would inevitably say, “Just do the best you can.” JUST, like the best I can do is a casual thing, taking no effort. And how do I know I’ve done THE BEST. The only way I’ve ever been able to tell is if I don’t have an ounce of anything more to give. Then I know I gave it everything. If I’m not spent at the end of this activity, do I suck because I didn’t try hard enough?
And if you’ve ever had a parent say to you, “Just do the best you can,” don’t you kinda hear them actually saying I can’t or won’t help you? “Mom, I can’t do this math homework.” “Just do the best you can.” She is not leaving those dishes to come and help.
So here’s what I think. Whatever the struggle or new activity, let’s erase ”Just do the best you can” and replace it with “You only have to ___________.” In an amazing number of cases, this could be, “You only have to show up.”
Let your frightened 10 year old feel safe in the new environment and, eventually, she’ll get curious and try new things!
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