As inherently sociable animals, most of us take at least some of our feelings of self-worth from how others feel about us. Being liked and accepted is something almost everyone seeks, whether they admit it or not, so in this article I’m going to focus on how we can make things a bit easier on ourselves; by accepting that it’s OK to be just good enough.
Many professions select the most academic candidates, subject them to years of training and examinations and then send them off into responsible jobs, working long hours, often in emotionally draining circumstances.
As a vet, the training taught me and my colleagues that in order to be the ‘best’ vet, we need to know huge amounts of detail about an enormous range of species and conditions. We’re not just treating a case; we’re working with real lives, personalities and much-loved family members. It’s no wonder we get stressed sometimes!
Of course, for many of us, these responsibilities are part of what it means to do our jobs, and we accept the reality when start work each day (even if we can’t always prepare for how it’s going to affect us). We have more influence over the shape of the rest of our life – all the other ‘stuff’ weighing in on the work-life balance. And this is where it’s perhaps most crucial to accept that nothing bad is going to happen if we’re just doing OK:
- Will your children remember you for doing the washing and cleaning, or for playing and spending time with them?
- Will your friends care that your house hasn’t been dusted when you’re catching up over a weekly coffee?
- Will your mates in the five-a-side team mind that you haven’t mown the lawn for almost three weeks?
- Does it really matter if you deal with all the household paperwork with a glass of wine on Sunday evening, leaving the letters to accumulate through the week rather than despatch them completed to the filing cabinet as soon as they come in? Same end result, less stress. Because every week you don’t get your mobile disconnected through non-payment counts as a small personal victory.
So how do we, as ambitious, high-performing people, set about accepting ‘good enough’ at home?
One approach is to draw a time boundary around a specific task – set aside fifteen minutes to give the kitchen a once-over at the end of each day for example. When the timer beeps, just walk away. It’s that simple! Or you could try imagining cleaning the kitchen done to perfection, and then clean it to 70% of that standard. Unless you live with a family of clean-freaks (in which case, assign the task to them!) it’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to judge you for your ‘only’ 70% clean kitchen – at best they’ll be glad that they haven’t had to do it, and most likely won’t notice the slight adjustment to your domestic deity status.
How we feel about any given situation depends on our perception of it, and quite often our perception is different to that of someone else viewing the same thing. So, to continue the kitchen analogy, you may feel stressed because your herbs aren’t stored in alphabetical order, but it’s likely that nobody else would even notice, let alone care or judge you because of your wanton placement of the cumin next to the thyme. (Some of you might even be feeling mildly irritated by my erroneous definition of cumin as a herb, but that simply proves my point again!)
One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a new parent was ‘choose your battles’, and this is a hugely helpful way to look at situations where you are struggling to cope with being brilliant at everything.
If you can find it within you to smile serenely when your colleague rips open a parcel that you would have carefully eased open along the flaps, not only will you save yourself the irritation, but you’ll also have their full attention when you do need to address something more important that may have far more serious consequences.
Apply this principle of active choice to your own internal battles too – when the devil on your shoulder is telling you that the kitchen really needs to be perfectly clean before you can even think about going to bed, choose to say no, actually it doesn’t.
Choose to be kind to yourself.
Because it really is OK to be ‘good enough’, just like everyone else.