My parents never faulted me for doing badly in school; whether I was top in class or last in class, they always said – as long as you’re doing your best. The problem was, I don’t usually know what my best really is. There isn’t really a proper benchmark. Competing with yourself, doing better and better in each of the next test is also not easy to achieve because the topics tested keeps on changing. Or if you’re gunning to be better in class ranking for each upcoming test, then it is also just a relative exercise.
Doing your best is really more of an attitude, that you have not spared any effort, you’ve not done things you regretted looking back. And looking back means not necessarily knowing the end result but then taking the same course of actions anyways. It’s another thing to say, having known the results, you regret doing such and such (that kind of regret is merely constructing an alternate universe and then attempting to live in it).
So what does it mean to have not done your best? Honestly, only you know. It could be pockets of skiving that you could have been bettering yourself. It could be actions you kept thinking you’d take and then you didn’t despite being fully capable of doing so and with no other obstacles in the way. But above all, it could be anything. The point is, what are you going to do from now? So what if you didn’t do your best just now? It no longer matters; what you do henceforth matters more.
In allowing me to put pressure on myself, and selecting my own success metrics, my parents liberated me but also gave me ownership of my own goals and targets. That is perhaps them doing their best at parenting.