The Sabotage of Superlatives: How to Free Yourself from Being *The Best*
May 2, 2018
I used to wear my be the best mindset like a badge of honor.
I’d push myself in every area of my life—work, friends, family, relationships—to give all I could, every single day. But I learned the hard way that it’s not sustainable.
Rushing through my day trying to crush everything began to give me major anxiety. I started feeling so overwhelmed and depleted that I couldn’t even enjoy the activities and relationships I’d invested so much of my energy into.
I know I’m not alone in this—studies show that now, more than ever, we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect in all areas of our lives. A study conducted by Psychological Bulletin found that millennials have higher expectations for themselves and attach more importance to being perfect than previous generations. Why: We want to prove our worth.
But that pressure to be the best can often turn into a sense of overwhelm—how do I be the best at home and at work and when I’m out with my friends and when I’m trying to optimize my free time?
Today, I’ve accepted that I can’t be the best at everything, every day. As well-intended as it is, expecting myself to give 110 percent in every moment can only hold me back. I can only do my best without the pressure to be the best.
I can only do my best without the pressure to be the best.
Now, I approach each day knowing I can do a few things well, and maybe one thing the best, but I can’t crush it all 24/7. I’ve learned It’s OK to show up a little less here and there if it means you can show up for yourself.
If you feel like you’re overextended and overwhelmed, join me in giving ourselves permission to not be the best at everything every day of the week.
It’s OK to show up a little less here and there if it means you can show up for yourself.
And when you need a reminder, here’s a list of things you don’t have to be “the best” at all the time. No, this isn't your free pass to ride the mediocre train 24/7—it's just to show that when you need to do a little less on an especially overwhelming day, you can:
1. Most Thoughtful Friend on the Planet
If striving to be the best at friendship means making yourself too available and overwhelmed, it might be time to just be a “good” friend.
In an article in Psychology Today, Frederic Neumann, M.D., says that in order to maintain a lasting friendship, it’s important to set limits and respect limits. “Friendships should not be abandoned just because they are not everything someone would want in a friend,” Neumann explains.
Not fulfilling everyone else’s needs doesn’t make you a bad friend—it makes you human. Recently, someone summed up friendship for me in a spot-on way: The basics of maintaining a friendship in today’s busy world are that you text each other occasionally and see each other sometimes.
If trying to be the “best” friend is making you feel anxious or leaving you emotionally exhausted, find a minimum that makes you feel good and set expectations for your relationships. Text a bit, see your friend at some point, but give yourself a break. If a person is truly your friend, then she or he will understand that you sometimes need time and space to take care of yourself.
2. Best Insta-Facebook-Twitter-er
Social media can feel like a mindless game of sharing what’s going on in your day-to-day—but it takes your energy, too.
If the anxiety of social feedback is making you anxious, give yourself permission to sign off. Taking care of yourself IRL will always be more important than having the best Instagram grid or story in the game.
3. Most Pop Culturally Woke
Streaming the latest Netflix or podcast series can truly be an act of self-care, especially on those days when you’re rewarding yourself for a job well done or taking some time to relax and lose yourself in another world.
But if being the best binge-watcher is making you overwhelmed due to loss of productivity or leaving you exhausted, it’s OK to not be up on the latest plot twists in Riverdale.
I found myself needing to take a binge-watching break after watching the entire series of The Handmaid’s Tale. The series just felt so intense. Now, people are shocked when I tell then I’m not "pumped" for the second season, but I’m happy to put it off to preserve my emotional stability. #BlessedBeMyFeels
4. Best Supporting Role in a Romantic Comedy
Of course we want to give the best of ourselves to our partnerships—to be the best boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife—but giving too much can create imbalance and eventually lead to negative impacts on your relationship and energy.
Give yourself permission to not be everything your partner needs all the time. Being the best partner isn’t about being everything—it’s about knowing how you and your partner complement each other and lovingly meet each other’s needs.
5. Most Politically Woke
Yes, it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and how it affects you—but if being exposed to the media is making you feel worse, take a break from the Twitter feed. You can stay informed and protect yourself.
The headlines and convos on the latest #breaking story—it’ll all still be there when you decide to come back.
6. Most On-Top-of-It Employee
While being a reliable employee is important, trying to be the best at work can actually inhibit your productivity.
You might accept tasks that you’re actually too busy to complete, stay later than you should in order to get more done, or make yourself too available to your boss, which can leave you feeling taken for granted.
Acknowledge your limits and perhaps take on less so you can do those tasks really well instead of spreading yourself thin, which makes it easier for things to fall through the cracks.
Bottom line: It’s out to lean off the gas pedal every once in a while—it’s OK to not be the best all the time.
What matters most is that you’re doing your best on a given day with your given energy levels. Now, that’s what I consider “crushing it.”
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