In a previous post I addressed the somewhat controversial concept of believing that at any given moment everyone is doing their best. I acknowledged that I sometimes have trouble embracing this mindset but that the more I practice it the more I find that it fits. I think I recently figured out the final obstacle – for me – to fully believing it.
In seventh grade I threw the English class spelling bee. I didn’t know which would be worse: advancing to the school bee and failing in front of everyone, or winning and being an even bigger nerd. Both were equally horrible outcomes in my book. Anyway, this is my earliest memory of not trying my hardest at something “big” so it’s the example I always come back to when I stumble with believing everyone is doing their best. When I intentionally misspelled the word I clearly was not doing my best… at spelling. But I was doing my very best, with the resources I had at the time, to protect myself from the shame and embarrassment I was sure would come from moving on to the next stage of the bee.
Give it a shot. Assume everyone is doing their best, consider that you might not know what they’re trying at, and see if this extra empathic effort doesn’t make you feel good.