There was a time when I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I felt as if everyone was out to get me, like the deck was stacked against me. I released that chip because I decided to accept that everyone is doing the best they can. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter if they’re out to get me or not, or if they’re doing their best or not because that’s always going to be out of my control. What is in my control is how I respond and that focus makes my life so much better.
Accepting that everyone is doing the best they can may seem a bit Pollyanna and that’s definitely not me. It takes practice to cultivate this mindset and sometimes it’s really hard! I love Brené Brown’s work and in her book Rising Strong, her husband’s response to “Do you think everyone is doing the best they can” is one of the best truths I’ve heard. He explains, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” Eureka!
So, when we aren’t recognized at work for going above and beyond, it’s not a reflection on the quality of our work or our worth. Our co-workers are doing the best they can and right now that doesn’t involve acknowledging us. That doesn’t change our awesome skills or value.
When we’re in a hurry at the grocery store and the person ahead of us is unloading his cart at a snail’s pace and then decides to pay with a handwritten check, the universe is not against us and this person probably isn’t a jerk. He’s doing the best he can at that moment and our judgment or anger isn’t going to make the line move faster, it’s only going to increase our stress response.
When we’re too exhausted to cook a homemade meal for ourselves or our families and we get takeout instead, it doesn’t mean we’re bad. The best we can do some days is takeout (hopefully healthy takeout!) and that’s okay, healthy or not. Our self-criticism doesn’t change the situation, it only makes it harder for us to thrive.
Are you starting to get the point? Our judgment and criticism negatively impact us more than anyone and there will be days when we need compassion from ourselves and others, so the more we practice the idea that everyone is doing their best, including us, the easier that compassion is to express.
Here are some ways I try to cultivate acceptance of everyone doing their best:
- Pause and take a few deep breaths, especially when rushing or about to explode
- Be mindful, notice what’s really happening and give others the benefit of the doubt
- Tune into the internal dialogue, reframe negative thoughts with positive ones
- Say no when necessary and let go of any guilt around it
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Do you think people are doing the best they can? If so, how do you keep that mindset? If not, what's holding you back?