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Anxiety, and What to Remember When You Feel Like Your Best Isn't Good Enough

I was brought up in your stereotypical Asian household. Anything under 95 percent was considered a failure, and that applied to every aspect of my life, not just academic. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming my parents for having high expectations, or my sister or cousins for continuing this self-imposed, self-regulated system from the time we were children. We’re all competitive and we all want to be the best. Who doesn’t?

But it’s this notion of always trying to out-do each other, striving for perfection, that’s made my anxiety skyrocket every time I got a test score back; when I was awaiting university acceptances; when I was incessantly checking my inbox for job interviews.

I’m a high achiever and I’ve always wanted to be successful – not just a winner by my own standards, but also in the eyes of everyone else. I can’t say for certain this is what has caused my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but it definitely hasn’t helped it.

I’ve always wanted to be the best and when I wasn’t perfect, it was devastating. And I mean I would be crushed. I’d beat myself up for days thinking about it. I’d lose sleep, lose my appetite and just go into a downward spiral that was nearly impossible to snap out of.

And as my anxiety and depression got worse, the feeling of helplessness – of failure – just got worse. I was trying my best and I wanted to do my best, but how could I when I couldn’t even get out of bed? How was I expected to beat everyone else when I could barely drag myself into the shower?

In all my previous experiences, the more I tried, the harder I worked, then the better the results. Put in the work and do your best so you can be the best, right? Wrong.

That’s not how real life works. It was a hard concept to come to realize: sometimes, your best isn’t good enough. How did I come to terms with this world-crushing revelation?

I learned to shift my focus. Who’s to say I’m not good enough? I’m trying my best and that’s all you can do and if all I can do is get in the shower and eat a full meal, that’s a major accomplishment. It is enough and I am enough and I learned to celebrate the small victories because it’s the small moments that string together to make the life we live.

Whether it’s calling to make my own appointments or writing a new blog post, each milestone is a mountain conquered. And on the days where I feel like I’m not good enough, I count the things I’ve done and the things I will continue to do … if I just get this one thing done. And one thing at a time might be slow, but I will get it done. It is good enough.

Next time, if you feel like your best isn’t good enough, remember this: you are. You are good enough. You are enough. And you are not alone. Ask for help. Call a friend. Breathe. Take time to remember all of the things you’ve accomplished and remember you will continue to accomplish. Your best is amazing, whether it’s getting out of bed or climbing Everest. Your best is good enough. As long as you are trying, that is enough.

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 Thinkstock photo via LewisTsePuiLung.