Good, Better, Best

There is a quote that hung in my third-grade classroom that read: “Good better best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”

Good. Better. Best.

I have no tattoos on my body, but these words have been permanently etched in my brain. They are the framework by which I live my life—one that has brought good, but has also brought pain.

The pursuit of better.

I don’t know when the seed for this idea was planted, but it has dug roots. It has turned my brain into a scanner, constantly looking for ways to improve, searching and finding the smallest flaws to remove. And yet, even when found, and even when fixed, the result is never something of which I approve…because the problem with better is there’s no “good enough.” The problem with better is it’s not just some stuff—better sister, better person, better athlete, better friend. The problem with better is better has no end.

And so I searched for ways to be quantifiably, undeniably better. And I began to live life by the numbers. First in the classroom with scores on tests, next in the gym with personal bests, then the food that I ate, calories consumed, and ultimately my weight, the pounds I wanted to lose.

I can’t remember the first time I thought that too much of me was a bad thing. That my body composition said something about my character, that muscle said strength and fat screamed flawed. I don’t know when better became synonymous with leaner—that to be strong, I had to look strong. As if a toned back could somehow shoulder a greater burden, as if defined arms could hold tighter the ones I care about, as if muscular legs could provide a sturdier base for my confidence to stand on.

I don’t know when self-belief became tied to my thighs, when mirrors were invited to scrutinize, and everyday thoughts revolved around food, and my body image dictated my mood. When anxiety attacks became commonplace and I learned to cope by just staring into space, trying my best not to let my mind race. But when it does race, reaching for the wheel, for a way to steer, for a way to feel—better.

I don’t have it figured out yet, and yes, that quote still repeats in my head like a broken cassette, but I’m learning it’s a balance. A balance between giving my best, and ultimately knowing when it’s time to take a rest. It’s still blurry, but I’m trying to find that line. I know it will take practice, and I know it will take time. But I guess I’m getting better…

Avatar photo

About the Author | Mackenzie St. Onge

Mackenzie St. Onge is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College, where she was a psychology major and two-sport athlete. Growing up in Vermont, she's always loved the outdoors, and you'll rarely find her inside or sitting for too long unless she's reading a book or enjoying a cup of tea. She's currently working on her own story collection project where former athletes can reflect on transitioning to life after sports.

Leave a Reply

7 comments to "Good, Better, Best"

  • Marina Meerburg

    Beautifully written and so relatable. It breaks my heart how many of us suffer from the curse of perfection. Thank you Mac for the courage to share! You are a strong woman indeed.

  • Kate Austin-Avon

    So good, Kenzie. You are “best”. You already are, by just your being you. Take time to rest. Love you.

  • Lexie

    Love this – It makes me so happy you’re sharing it with people outside of Dartmouth and Voices.

  • Anna Terry

    I love this is perfect and you are awesome! Thrilled to have someone like you as a role model for my Vermont born and raised athletic daughter.  Love.

  • Elizabeth Liptak

    Effing awesome, Mackenzie!! I’m floored! See you at JJ’s wedding, I hope-PROPS GIRL! xoElizabeth (Clare’s sister-the crazy one!)

  • Beth Florian

    Thank you Mack. Something to think about and such wonderful words. I appreciate you and your gifts. God Bless. Xxoo

  • Ron Lake

    Mackanize, weren’t you just here in Hawaii? I remember meeting you… that was good, now that I know a little more about you, it’s better : ) I love the way you reflect and the way you write. One of the mantras I learned from yoga goes like this: “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.” I’m kind of a perfectionist, so when I’m reflecting, and “push comes to shove,” I stop myself with this mantra…. and remind myself that I am enough. I realize that I’m done far more than I ever dreamed…. so I’m good! Best of luck on your journey and be good to yourself! Take care!