Today I offer you one the most effective and consistent strens to help you become your own lifelong best friend and free yourself from dependency on dictators. Apply what I call the reasonable best test: in any situation simply recognize when you’re doing your reasonable best and endorse yourself for doing so. You will create and maintain positive feelings about yourself.
What is the reasonable best test?
Most people evaluate their self-worth by the “outcome” of what they do. The reasonable best test is an “input” measure of self-worth. It emphasizes your efforts, not the results of your efforts.
In every situation in which you’re trying to achieve a goal, you only have control of your input. The outcome is usually influenced by many factors that you can do little or nothing about. Unless you’re a magician, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can control the outcome of what you or others do. Yet most people have been taught since childhood to regulate their feelings about themselves by asking themselves the inappropriate outcome question, “Did it work out O.K.?” As a child, you didn’t have the mental resources to apply the reasonable best test. You had no choice but to be dependent on others for your self-worth.
Do you still depend on the outcome of your efforts as the primary measure of your self-worth? Consider these outcome measures that create a positive or negative emotional response:
I’m OK if:
My efforts worked out
They accept me
I got an “A”
He/she loves me
My salary is increased
The audience applauds
They think I’m attractive
I own a ______
The kids do well
I didn’t make a mistake
You’re utilizing healthy, realistic criteria to create positive feelings about yourself whenever you answer, “Yes,” to the question, “Am I doing my reasonable best?” even if you don’t attain the outcome you desire! Yes, there may be necessary hurt and trauma because of the outcome. We can almost never control the consequences of events, but we can control how we deal with them. We worsen and sustain the effect of an undesired outcome by attacking our self-esteem. We often become our own worst enemy. The above is worthwhile reviewing a number of times; what follows will help clarify the key aspects of the reasonable best test.
But isn’t it only natural to feel bad when things don’t work out?
Of course! Most people feel appropriately disappointed, sad, or hurt when the outcome of their efforts doesn’t work out the way they had hoped. Maybe you didn’t get back the love you so desired from that special someone. Or you didn’t get that raise. In fact, you just lost your job after years of dedication to the same company. Or you recently discovered that your son is involved with drugs and is “hanging out” with friends that you consider undesirable.
It’s appropriate to experience discomfort and diminution of your spirits when things don’t work out the way you would have liked, or when you’ve been treated unfairly. These feelings are normal and healthy, but you are designed to stand the hurt that comes when “the world doesn’t cooperate.” Applying the reasonable best test balances your pain or disappointment. By creating a sustained level of positive feelings about your self, you become confident that you can manage your discomfort while facing the issues and attempting to resolve them.
How do I know what my reasonable best is?
Your reasonable best is the best you can do in a situation considering your limited resources. Your intelligence is far from perfect. You have time restrictions and commitments to other obligations. Note that your reasonable best isn’t your absolute best. For instance, suppose you want to win the annual bonus at work for obtaining the largest number of new accounts. You work at achieving this goal eighteen hours a day, seven days a week for several months. In this situation, you are doing your absolute best – at the expense, by the way, of your spouse, children, friends, and even your health. This is more than most rational people would expect of you and it’s more than is wise for you to expect of your self.
If you’re in doubt about what your reasonable best is, discuss your efforts and expectations with other people. Seek the views of others to enhance your own critical appraisal. Others’ opinions may be helpful in shedding light on your blind spots. Some people, characteristically perfectionists, set such unrealistically high standards for themselves that they think they are never doing enough. They continually feel inadequate, even though they do far more than their reasonable best. Others feel good about their self although they put forth little effort and accomplish almost nothing. Moderation in all things is usually the wisest course to pursue. Discussing with others what you believe is your reasonable best can provide valuable guidelines for your use in setting realistic goals.
The next time we meet, I want to answer a commonly asked question:
Suppose I’m not doing my reasonable best? Don’t I deserve to feel bad about myself?
You’ll love the answer. You will learn how to make “The Reasonable Best test of self-worth” a win/win skill that is 100% in your control.