Doing the Best I Can

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches us that an assumption is a ‘belief that cannot be proved, but we agree to abide by it anyway.’ There are 7 Skills Training Assumptions, and they build upon each other. If you can’t master #1, then you can’t move on to #2.

The first assumption is that people are doing the best they can. It says ‘all people at any given point in time are doing the best they can.’

That’s a lot to wrap your brain around. It doesn’t mean that people can’t do better or that they can’t desire improvement of some sort. It also doesn’t mean that doing the best we can and wanting to do better alone will solve whatever problems we’re facing. They won’t. Believe me. But we can’t move forward in the problem solving process until we acknowledge that we are doing the best we can, at this moment.

I’ve found that it is much easier for me to accept this assumption when I’m talking about other people in other situations than it is for me to accept about myself in my current situation. I tend to get bogged down by all the voices of dissent:

  • you really suck at this
  • you can’t do anything right
  • you are definitely going to get fired
  • why would anybody ever love you?
  • you are such a burden to everyone around you
  • you are the worst mom in the all time history of moms

That last one is pretty tough, but one I hear inside my head pretty much every day.

If I can accept this assumption about other people, then why can’t I give that moment of empathetic grace to myself? Why is that so hard? It’s like I’m Alice, lost in Wonderland, giving other people very good advice but rarely ever follow it.

So what now? You have to teach yourself to become more mindful and less emotional, to find that balance in the center. Personally, I start with slow, purposeful breathing. I breathe in through my nose, filling my lungs and feeling my diaphragm rise. I hold it for 3 or 4 seconds. Then I breathe out slowly through my mouth. I always try to make my exhales last longer than my inhales, and I try to keep my diaphragm tight – if that makes any sense. I do this 7-10 times, relaxing on my last exhale. There are all kinds of breathing exercises out there to help with mindfulness – just go to Google or YouTube and you’ll find more than you could ever want.

By doing this, I can move my thoughts from defeatist to determined. Yes, I made a mistake, but it’s not the end of the world. I am doing the best I can, right now, in the moment, with the resources and skills I have with me. Do I want to be better? YES! Is accepting that this was my best mean I’m excused from any consequences or that my problems have now disappeared? Absolutely not. But by this acceptance, I am able to continue moving forward. I can continue to learn more, do better, and find creative solutions to those problems.

So remember – just breathe. You’re doing the best you can. Do better next time.


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