Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sometimes It's Okay to be Content

About a week ago one of my professors had our class fill out a self evaluation form for our performance in the class so far. One of the questions was: "Are you satisfied with you performance so far? If not list 3 things you can do to improve for the rest of the semester."

Now I am doing very well in this class. I got a perfect score on our 300 point midterm exam, so I'm really not concerned about it at all. Do I sometimes come to class without having done all the reading? Yup. But I am familiar enough with the material for it not to hurt me to have to put this class on the back burner.

And yet I felt somehow obligated to say "no, I am not satisfied with my performance." The American school system brought me up to understand that you can always, always do better, and that you should always be trying to do better. And so even though I know I am going to ace this class, I felt like I was supposed to say "no, I could do better."  But you know what, I didn't. I circled yes. Yes I am satisfied. And sometimes, friends, that is okay.

I understand why they drill the concept of always trying to do better into us. It is something I certainly internalized. Whenever I am posed this question I always feel like it would be wrong to say I am content because obviously there is something I could do to improve. There always is, right? But I think that after a certain point this refusal to be content becomes unhealthy. Because we cannot do everything. We cannot always be striving to do better in every aspect of our life because there are simply not enough hours in a freaking day. We need to be able to prioritize, to decide what we need to dedicate the extra time to, and where we can decide to leave well enough alone.

It is okay to accept that you cannot do everything. In fact it is absolute necessary. My counselor told me at the beginning of the semester that the first thing she says to the groups of freshmen she presents for every year is not to even try to do all of their readings for all of their classes because they will end up drowning. It is okay to acknowledge that you can skim- even skip- readings for a class and still do well. By a month into a semester I have already decided which classes I will be putting real time into and which I can push to the back burner without too much of a problem. The class I had to fill out the self-evaluation was a back burner class; and I am totally okay with that. I have no intention of dedicating any more time to it than I have been. And that's okay.

Could you dedicate every second of your life to school, work, family, <insert your particular situation here>? Sure you could, but it is not worth it if it means sacrificing your personal well being. We need to feel free to spend time doing things that we enjoy and that help us relax. Let yourself take a night off to read that book you bought with the best of intentions 6 months ago, or to binge watch a few hours of Netflix, or even just to paint your nails, without feeling guilty about what you think you should be doing instead. Sometimes you don't have to strive for perfection. Sometimes we can and should be happy with good enough.

*Unimportant but totally exciting side note: this is the first post with a picture taken with my new camera! Eeeeee! I was in a hurry so I didn't edit it or anything, but still. I love this thing guys. I love it.*


  1. Brilliant post, all so so true. I remember through school always filling in goals and trying to improve and with every report we got, if we didn't get an A* then we always had to write what we could do to do better. It was so hard to think of so many reasons and impossible to keep it all up. As I've got older and am studying the one thing I love I do have a better work ethic than when I was younger, but I was still a kid. I still can't keep it all together now, especially with juggling a job and paying rent and bills and organising all the other things in life, it's just not possible!
    amber love

    1. It really is impossible! I understand the concept of always doing your best and all, but usually doing your best in one area means letting another area slide, and they never teach you that part. They teach you to strive for perfection in every class and in everything that you do. And it is super stressful and harmful, I think, to those of us who internalize it to such a high extent.

      This is something I definitely still struggle with. I have to make a very very conscious effort to shove "me time" into my schedule, and even then I'm not so great at the "don't feel guilty" bit. But I'm getting better. And I always feel so so much better when I make the time for it.


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