Good, better, best. Never let them rest. Till your good is better and your better best.
Dad made us recite this whenever he thought that we were giving less than our best effort. Like the time I came home with a 96% in OAC Relations and Functions. If I could get 96, I could get a hundred; I just wasn’t trying hard enough.
The message I heard was that if wasn’t the best, I wasn’t good enough. I told myself that there was no point in trying, but under it all, I just wanted his approval. Of course, I couldn’t be the best, so I learned to act like I was better by putting others down. As a young woman, I was constantly angry and intolerant of stupidity or lack of common sense. I had no patience for weakness, and though I hate to admit it, I found fault with anyone who I thought was better than me.
Lucky for me, I learned the importance of humility. Not all at once, but over a progression of events.
The idea of humility was first introduced to me by my Religious Studies teacher, in university. He said the humble man was the happiest man, because he could just be and appreciate life. I didn’t quite understand, but the idea intrigued me.
My second child added to the learning. Baby number one was a calm and very manageable baby: a testimony, I thought, to my excellent parenting skills. Other people clearly didn’t know how to parent, I told myself when I would see a screaming child. Then Ester came along, and shattered that illusion, humbling me in the process.
Perhaps the greatest lesson came at the age of thirty-one, when my mind snapped. A mother of three, I was working full-time to support the family, taking courses at the university to improve my qualifications, caring for my dying sister, and trying to find time to work out and diet so I would be more appealing to my husband. I thought I could do it all. I couldn’t it. The walls of my carefully constructed existence came tumbling down, and I was lost in a black abyss of nothingness, unable to function.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Clawing my way out of the pit of despair, I came upon this quote (author unknown):
I turned to God when my foundation was shaking, only to find that God was shaking my foundation.
“Get off your high horse, and come down to earth where you can be more useful!” Not God’s words, but my interpretation.
Do you know what I discovered? Letting go of having to be the best meant I could start to celebrate the successes of others rather than try to bring them down – a much more rewarding use of my energy.
Oh, and I let go of the fear of not being good enough.
In fact, I decided that I am good enough.
No, scratch that. I am good.
Wait, even that is overstated.