When 40% is 100%

I saw something recently that said, “If you have 40% to give, and you give 40%, you gave 100%.”

Shew, I needed that. I think a lot of us need that lately. This can be a challenging time of year. To start, the holidays don’t mean the same things to all people. For some of us, it’s a reminder of loss. For some of us, it’s a reminder of what could have been. For others, we are simply overextended.

In my case, I had a health scare this past week and then I got sick. For the past two weeks, I was waiting to get a diagnostic mammogram. My mammogram was flagged as needing further review, but they couldn’t get me in for a couple of weeks. My appointment was last two Tuesday. That felt like the longest two weeks of my life. And then, the actual appointment felt like the longest 2 hours of my life. Two mammograms and an ultrasound later, I’m relieved and feeling very grateful to be cleared. Then, I woke up on Friday with nausea, aches, chills, and a low grade fever. I’m on the mend and very thankful to be. It makes me realize how many people spend every week in a hospital and with doctors, and how fortunate I’ve been up to this point that hasn’t been my reality.

So, I don’t know exactly what percentage I had to give this week, but I’m confident that it wasn’t 100% and that’s OK because I’m a human having a deeply human experience. Whatever I had to give, I gave, and I will try again next week.

This isn’t novel or earthshattering, but it does run counter to what many of us were told growing up. Many of us were taught to give 110% in all we do. I write about this in the draft of my book:

“This may be one of the most destructive “virtues” that we received as a child and are passing along to children in our schools. There is simply no way to give 100% in every moment of the day and in every area of our lives. And yet, here we sit, trying to live up to those expectations. Those unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves. And here children sit in classrooms all over the world, trying to live up to those expectations and failing at it every day because it is not humanly possible. Not to mention, not everything is worth our highest level of effort.

This may be controversial. I have no idea, and maybe I’m too tired to care if it is or is not. I just know that it’s true for me. Unfortunately, what’s happening is that many of us are quietly going through our day feeling ashamed. We feel ashamed that we didn’t give maximum effort in all areas of our work today or in all areas of our home life today. And you know what shame does? It makes us tired and quiet and closed off. It can actually make us feel so unworthy that the areas that are worth maximum effort cannot be attended to because we are exhausted and defeated. As shame researcher Brene Brown has said, ‘In a society that says, ‘Put yourself last,’ self-love and self-acceptance are almost revolutionary.”’

I’m not totally sure what we are working toward sometimes. There are no busy badges or gold stars for the most hours worked. It’s one thing if we are loving what we are doing and losing ourselves in it in the best possible way. But not everything in our lives and our work is worth that kind of effort.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been combating guilt over your effort on something. Ask yourself whether that guilt comes from knowing that something is truly important to you or whether it comes from worrying about what other people are thinking.

Life is simply too short to live any other way.

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