I have a friend who cannot watch a movie without first looking at the reviews. She cannot pick a restaurant without first checking the ratings. She cannot take only one picture of something or someone. She must take several, to then select the best one.
This desire to pick the best available option, be it a movie, a restaurant, a picture, or anything else in life, is also a fear of making a poor choice.
I notice the same desire (fear) within me.
Since moving to Portugal and settling down here, I have had to make so many choices. Where to live, what car to drive, where to buy groceries, which Portuguese teachers to study with, even which new friends to spend time with.
This desire to make the best choice, or rather the fear of making a poor choice, feels deeply embedded in my thought pattern. It is unconscious. When faced with anything new, I expect myself to make the best choice. Always.
If I know that I have tried to find the best, then I will feel satisfied with myself for putting a good effort forward. I imagine the reason I want the best is that I assume that I will be happy with it. How could I not be? I have been conditioned to believe that the best is the best.
This is why celebrity endorsements, influencer recommendations or references from friends or family are often accepted without much friction. If it is good enough for someone that I trust or admire, then it must be good enough for me. Right?
This search for the best assumes that we are all the same. The definition of the best assumes an objective, consistent and standardised criteria by which to evaluate any thing, any place or even, any person.
The result of this attempted standardisation to find the best is, ironically, the lowest common denominator. The best is often determined by looking only at what can be easily and consistently measured, and that the majority might relate to.
As unique individuals, none of us is the majority, we are each a minority of 1.
From the colours that please our eyes, to the tastes that excite our senses, to the thoughts and dreams that we spend so much time with inside, we are all unique.
The search for the best choice out there is highly impersonal and fails to capture any of our own individuality.
The other week, I spontaneously went to the movie theater and picked a movie to watch on the spot, without looking at any reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. When I went home that night, I looked it up and saw that the reviews and ratings were horrible.
My immediate reaction was to doubt my own judgement, wondering if I had made a mistake, or wasted my time. Then I caught myself and checked in. And yes, I did enjoy the movie and would recommend it, even though the majority of people who saw it did not. In that moment, I began to feel more empowered in my choices and more connected to myself.
Instead of asking, ‘what is the best option out there?’, a different question might be to ask ‘what is the better option, for me?’.
The desire for the best is to find an objective, and impersonal, choice.
The desire for the better is to find a subjective, and personal, choice.
‘What is better for me’ is a much more relevant question than ‘what is the best option out there’. It is also a much more difficult question.
It requires me to take ownership of making the decision, versus delegating it.
It requires me to take ownership of the outcome of my choices. If I do not like it, it is far easier to blame the mass public for getting it wrong, versus myself.
It requires me to know myself, and what’s important to me as it relates to this choice.
What might be better for me might not be better for you. This is where the discomfort arises. In making choices that those around us may not agree with or even understand.
For example, in finding a place to live, someone might value location and convenience, someone else might value price and flexibility, someone else might value light and space. There is no single best choice for where all of these people might live. There will be a different choice, that’s better for each of them.
What might be the best out there may not be affordable for me.
What might be the best out there may not be convenient for me.
What might be the best out there may not even interest me.
To choose the best out there feels safe.
To choose what is better for me feels satisfying.
I cannot choose what is better for me though without first connecting with myself. I need to know what I value. And that continues to be a lifelong journey, to know myself.