I did the best I could.
I tried my hardest.
I couldn’t have done more.
I used to feel guilty every time I thought or said any one of those statements. I thought they were lies.
The superwoman days
You see, I have these days every now and then that I call my superwoman days.
On those days, I get up ridiculously early, stay up ridiculously late, and accomplish a super-human amount of stuff. I go and go and go and push and push and push.
I produce, I meet milestones and deadlines and demands, all in between client meetings and calls, maybe travelling between cities, and all while wearing heels and makeup. And maybe cooking dinner and hugging a child or two.
Fuck. I’m tired even thinking about it.
Beware the lies we tell ourselves
But here’s where the lying comes in: Since I do have superwoman days, I saw those as me being my best, trying my hardest, and only those days.
Every other day I counted as me being less than. Less than my best. Less than trying my hardest.
So on difficult days, on days when I was feeling low or everything turned to shit, or all the cats didn’t get herded, or clients got let down or my feet were just too fucking sore for heels, and I tried to be kind to myself and say, I did the best I could, I didn’t believe it. I thought I could do better.
I mean, I can be superwoman! I have proof! And on this day I hadn’t. So I clearly hadn’t done my best.
I lived this way for a long, long time (hello, antidepressants).
Mindset makeover required
Until I realised that my superwoman days were just that: SUPERHUMAN.
More than my best. They were anomalies. Exceptions to the norm. Really fucking impressive and exciting, but exceptions nevertheless.
I had to acknowledge that no one can be superwoman every day. That’s not my best! It’s BEYOND MY BEST.
What I do every other day, every day when I get up and am kind to people and get shit done, and get dressed or don’t, and work or don’t, and cry or don’t, that is me doing my best. That is me trying my hardest.
Because we all fucking do the best we can, every fucking day.
Put the cape away.
Put it away.
Pull it out on special occasions.
But recognise that it’s not everyday-wear.
You’re NOT actually superwoman.
The complexities of truth
I’m really intrigued by the concept of truth.
It’s probably because one of my core values is integrity, and so truth is part of that.
What I’m interested in, though, is the complexities around truth. As an indigenous woman, for example, I have a clear position that we each have our own truth, and no one has the right to say that their truth is more true than mine. It’s one of the reasons I don’t ever get involved in a whakapapa (genealogy) debate.
I know my whakapapa because it’s what my grandparents taught me. And they knew because theirs taught them. I have no reason to doubt the truth of their knowledge and their teachings to me.
I assume you gained your knowledge of your whakapapa in a similar way. If what you know is different to what I know, I’m never going to claim that what got handed down through the generations to you is any more or less true than what got handed down to me.
We both have our truth. I can live with that.
My whāngai (adopted) daughter has a truth that families aren’t safe.
That is not my truth. In fact my truth is the exact opposite – that family is my safe place to land. It’s my absolute security. It’s a guaranteed place where all is well. I don’t know how long it will be for her to develop a new truth about that, but I believe it’s possible.
I believe that one day her truth will be: I was raised in a family that wasn’t safe. I now know family can and should be a safe place.
Carver boy has a truth that humans often can’t be trusted. It’s that you can usually expect the worst of people, and you won’t often be disappointed.
Again, my truth is the opposite – people are good. They’re all trying to do their best and be good humans, and if I trust them, I’m rarely disappointed.
I ended my second marriage ultimately because my husband couldn’t be honest with himself. He wasn’t actually lying to me and those around us, because he believed the truth that he had constructed for himself to make his narcissistic universe a place he could live with. It was a universe where he could never be to blame for the things that went wrong. It drove me crazy – me, with my core value of integrity – to watch him construct a reality that was in conflict with the evidence around us. He wasn’t a dishonest man – he built a truth (and believed it wholeheartedly) that wasn’t my truth and I couldn’t make it my truth.
Challenging our truths
On the other hand, I’d like to think I challenge my own truths regularly.
I once got a haircut that I loved, but people were staring at me. After a week I was ready to grow it out, even though I loved the haircut. I couldn’t handle the ‘truth’ that people were staring because they thought I looked weird or dumb or bad or attention-seeking or something.
But then I asked myself if my ‘truth’ was based on evidence or assumption.
I had NO WAY of knowing why they were staring (unless I asked, and I wasn’t going to do that!).
So I decided to do an experiment:
when I caught someone looking at me, I told myself they were staring because they loved my hair? Just LOVED IT? What if I chose to believe it was an awesome hairstyle, and that other people agreed, and that catching them staring was evidence to support that?
I started walking with my head held higher. I started smiling at the people glancing my way. I’ve kept that hairstyle for YEARS. People tell me all the time how much they love it.
I built a truth that helped me feel good. Did I construct that truth for myself? Yes. And it’s a resourceful truth, and I’m keeping it.
So, confirmation bias
I guess I’m thinking about confirmation bias.
That phenomenon where we believe something is true, so we seek confirmation of it.
My daughter seeks confirmation that families aren’t safe, and finds it. Carver boy seeks confirmation that people can’t be trusted, and finds it. I sought confirmation that my hair was cool, and I found it.
So maybe you could check in on your truths occasionally.
- What is your truth?
- Is it a truth which is resourceful and helpful to you?
- If not, what would be a more resourceful truth? What evidence would confirm that for you? And can you start seeking it out?
Living with depression
I’ve lived with depression officially for 15 years but in truth probably closer to 20.
I’m all good with that. It’s part of me. We manage. I know how it works and what to watch for and what to do about it.
And when I’m having a low day/week/time, everything feels like too much.
Everywhere I look, there are things. Things I need to do. That I feel like I can’t do.
It makes me want to cry, sleep, eat and or drink myself sick. None of which are helpful, but some of which I still do sometimes.
The POWER to do ONE THING!
When I have the presence of mind, what I tell myself is to pick one thing.
I’ll shower. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll do the dishes. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll pick up that thing off the floor that’s taunting me. Or I’ll drive to the supermarket and just get milk. Cos even though we really need a full grocery excursion, we can’t do without milk right now, so I’ll just get that. I don’t even need to put on a bra.
Cos who the fuck cares what I look like? Only me.
These are the mind games I play with myself to survive the low times.
Pick. One. Thing.
Because one thing almost always leads to one more thing. And before you know it, you’ve adulted for a time. And the day passes. And tomorrow’s a new day.
So even if you’re not depressed, what’s one thing you can accomplish today? One simple thing? One thing you’ll be able to look back on as you go to sleep and pat yourself on the back and say, go you, you did that thing?
What can you accomplish today?
I woke up this morning, looked at the beautiful man beside me, and thought, it doesn’t get much happier than this.
I’ve been doing the gratitude thing this year and there’s NO DOUBT it’s making me happier, kinder, less sweating the small stuff.
That’s absolutely one big reason I’m feeling so happy.
But a really big reason I’m feeling so happy is that I have a good life. A life I worked damn hard to build myself.
A life I had to be fucking brave to get, over and over again.
I had to be brave enough to leave my first husband when he said he didn’t love me, and brave enough to keep living when he drowned soon after.
I had to be brave enough to leave my second husband and commit to being a single mother for all those years.
I had to be brave enough to be alone.
I had to be brave enough to build a house at home on our island so my children and wider whānau have a place to come home to. And so that while I work so hard on my business all year, I get a summer in paradise recharging, reconnecting, and reprioritising.
I had to be brave enough to walk away from my religion. The only worldview and culture I knew, so I could truly be me. And so I could be loved. And so I could feel the sun on my skin.
I had to be brave enough to admit what I wanted.
I had to be brave enough to resist when carver boy wanted to break things off. Brave enough to persist in our relationship. Brave enough (and patient enough) to wait four years for him to move in. Brave enough to risk another broken heart.
I had to be brave enough to say no to things that were tempting, but not right or good for me.
I had to be brave enough to set boundaries around my time and my contributions to others.
I had to be brave enough to charge what I’m worth.
I had to be brave enough to love and back myself.
It took a while, but I turned 45 this year, and I’m proud to say I’m brave enough to be happy.
I once had a friend staying with me, and she was worried about a small decision my daughter made. She later told me how stressful the visit was, because of that one thing.
Let me explain a bit more (while still respecting the privacy of both my friend and my daughter).
The one thing.
My daughter’s behaviour didn’t harm anyone.
It didn’t inconvenience anyone.
It was not made or carried out in anyone’s presence.
It didn’t impact on my friend’s ability to do anything.
It didn’t create any consequences my friend had to live with.
I was 100% unconcerned with the decision my daughter had made. It didn’t inconvenience or worry me. It was completely fine by me.
So when my friend later told me how stressful it was for her, and how it impacted on her ability to enjoy staying with us, I was blown away!
It wasn’t hers.
She didn’t own it. She CHOSE to be concerned. She CHOSE to be worried about the decision my daughter made. I was incredibly surprised that my friend didn’t have the self-awareness to realise she was feeling stressed about something that she simply didn’t own.
How do I deal?
One of my go-to responses to stress is to write a list – itemise the things on my mind (which is where stress lives, of course).
And then I categorise:
- what’s mine?
- what’s not mine?
I look at the what’s not mine category and often that’s all I need to do – acknowledge I’m carrying stress about things that aren’t mine and that I can’t influence.
That simple awareness (and the fact I’ve written it down and acknowledged it) is usually all it takes for me to let something go.
I basically roll my eyes at myself and go, well duh, that’s not mine. I cross it off the list and it’s gone.
I know. Sometimes it’s not that easy!
If it’s not that easy to do, then I think about what meaning I’m attributing to that thing that’s not mine, and see what I can shift there.
Sometimes it’s just a shift I need to make in my thinking. Other times I might need to act so that I can cope with the things that are not mine, but that are impacting on me nevertheless.
Then I look at the what’s mine category and plan out what I can do about it and when, and what I need so I can action that.
Stress management 101 (according to Shelly).