“Only do what you can do . . . if you only do what you can do, you never have to worry that someone else is doing it. It keeps you from competing. It keeps you looking inside for what’s true rather than outside for what’s popular.” – Delia Ephron
I read these words last week Monday afternoon, and after waking up that morning questioning my purpose as a writer in this age of media oversaturation (as I sometimes do), I needed to hear them.
Does that ever happen to you? When you’re plagued with self-doubt and then seemingly out of nowhere these magical words pop up—whether in a social media post, a line in a book or a song, or something a friend says—and it’s like you’ve been given an instant shot of perspective?
It’s possible that these instances are mere coincidence. A case of finding that which we have been already seeking out. Like positivity or negativity, a scientific study that backs up our beliefs, proof of our strengths or weaknesses. Whatever we are focused on is certainly easier to see.
But the funny thing is the book in which I read this quote—Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron—had been on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, for about a half a year. It sat there next to at least a hundred others vying for my time and attention and for some reason, on that day, I chose it. And thirteen pages in, there was the line.
It begs repeating and remembering. “Only do what you can do.” Of course. It’s so simple, yet how often do we complicate it? How much time do we spend comparing and competing? How much of ourselves do we lose trying to imitate and impress?
I’ve been telling myself this every day for a week now and I am convinced that this is one of the surest ways to be true to ourselves. So if you do nothing else today, do what you can do: Be you. Be the you-est you that you can be. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.