The Best We Can Do


Yesterday was my birthday. And, as is my custom, I spent the day in contemplation – how last year went, what I learned from last year, and what I’m dreaming for next year.

Last year I pushed myself – not as hard as I would have done, because I’d learned from the year before.  But, I still pushed myself. Why? Because I still don’t accept who I am. Still need to be better than who and what I am right now. Still self-judging, finding myself wanting.

I thought of the stories I tell myself about my past struggles, and focus on all the things I’ve tried that didn’t work.  Then I thought “What if I were a woman from a truly struggling part of the world – from the Congo, for instance – looking at my life and where I am in it.  What would she think and say to me?” I think she’d laugh in my face, and tell me with incredulity that I am so lucky! To rejoice in my good fortune!

I think of my friend Eric. He was a poet, and struggled most of his adult life, working at jobs that would feed and shelter him so he could spend of his time writing poetry and speaking at readings. He didn’t strive at being the best poet in the world.  He strived at being the best poet he could be in that moment.

I thought of my parents. They had their issues and in some ways never grew up. There were secrets and lies, favoritism and unfairness. I used to fantasize – like Gloria Steinem – that I was adopted, and that this somehow explained it.  Then one day as an adult, I noticed that I was doing what I swore I’d never do like my mother or father did. Shockingly, I was more like them than I ever imagined!

That’s the first time I got it: they were doing the best they could do.

It’s what inspired me to become a therapist.

When I come from knowing that I am doing the best I can, I become more accepting of me, and of everyone else around me.


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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .


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