“just do your best.”

“just” implies dismissiveness.

“best” implies not an average of all your past work, but the outliers at the top.

I have trouble with this phrase. It’s often used as follow-up to someone who is expressing struggle: “as long as you’re doing your best.” I think it’s meant to be a salve to the wound that we’ll never be completely perfect. But it also feels unachievable.

If “your best” is to have any value, I think that it must be defined.

How do you know when you’re at your best?

And if it’s anything less than very good, wouldn’t it be disheartening to say that it is your best? To recognize that your best may never measure up to what could be? If that is your best, why would you even call it your best?

Saying to a perfectionist to, “do your best,” doesn’t solve the problem of perfectionism. It is too ambiguous and in that ambiguity, their idea of their best could just as well be “perfect.”

Instead, of saying to someone (or yourself), “just do your best.” We could find specific, actionable, and measurable goals for their performance. Taking time to analyze what could be improved and exactly how we could feel or hear that improvement. Through our specificity, we can grow.