I have been contemplating this question lately. What does it mean to be good enough? Or to be more specific, what would I need in order to feel that I am good enough?
Now it would be nice to get all Zen about this and practice radical self-acceptance and declare that I am good enough, everything is as it should be, end of story. If it were that easy, surely I would have figured this out decades ago. I am forced to conclude that this is beyond my rational abilities to figure out.
In ways large and small, I carry my gargantuan load of cultural baggage. I’m a woman brought up to believe that I must always strive harder, be better, be more competitive, be brilliant, and also be kind and compassionate and patient, and also be beautiful and thin and healthy, and also be selfless and giving and an amazing parent, and also be endlessly giving to my community, and also fulfill the dreams of my ancestors for “success.” That’s the tip of the iceberg. Why should it be any wonder that I am constantly full of self-doubt and never feel good enough? Haven’t I looked at all of this baggage before? Obviously being aware of it is not sufficient to banish the feeling of inadequacy.
I guess I’m still looking outside myself for some sort of confirmation that I’m okay, that my choices are okay, that I’m not screwing up all the time. Who could ultimately decide that I’m okay? Why would I want to empower other fallible humans with that decision? If I can’t feel okay all by myself, can anyone really have the power to make me feel legitimate and competent?
Why is this coming up for me lately? It’s always there, to be sure, but it seems especially acute in the past week or two. I have a few ideas. And making a numbered list may give me the illusion of mastery, so here goes:
1. The world feels out of control. It’s easier to dump blame on myself and suffer the consequences of that than to walk around in a state of constant fear, grief, and rage at the state of the world. (I won’t list all the reasons the world feels out of control; if you can’t imagine at least half a dozen reasons, you will not understand. So be it. ) There is a habitual, worn track in my mind that leads to self-blame and deep dark depression and crippling anxiety, and I know that part of it is an attempt to wrest control from the uncontrollable.
2. It is really, really hard to be a parent. There is nothing like being a parent to make you feel stupid, inadequate, ill-prepared, and incompetent sometimes. It’s also the best and most important thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t undo it for anything. But man, we’re talking literal blood, sweat, and tears on a regular basis.
3. It is really, really hard to feel judged. Whether the judgment is real or not, I’m not sure. It hardly seems to matter. Perceived judgment has just as much impact, it seems, or maybe even more, than explicitly stated judgment. I often feel judged for my parenting. This seems inevitable, no matter what I might choose to do. Knowing the inevitability, knowing that the judgment can stem from the insecurity of others– none of that knowledge seems to matter. It still hurts and it still sucks and I still haven’t gotten rid of it. I also feel judged by some people for thinking I’m “more sustainable” than they are. Even though this is hogwash (please, explain to me how anyone in isolation can “win” at sustainability?!) it hurts me to the core because I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.
4. I tend to discount all the good things that I do and only focus on the areas that need improvement. When I was a student, this was reflected in my feelings about grades. Anything short of straight A’s wasn’t good enough. And even when I did get straight A’s, in college and grad school, it didn’t become a great achievement in my own eyes; it was just the bare minimum to be acceptable. Can anyone really understand this? It sounds nuts. On a measurable scale of achievement, a perfect score was not good enough. And even seeing how crazy that looks, it doesn’t make me suddenly snap out of it and become self-accepting.
5. Tom is going away for a few days for a work-related training in Florida. I’m going to miss him, and I’m not feeling good about having sole responsibility for Lily the whole time. I am in awe of single parents who do this all the time. But bear in mind I don’t have daycare or babysitters, I don’t have any family members in the area to lean on, and I don’t have a lot of close friends nearby. And of the friends that I do have, most are extremely busy. This brings up a lot of feelings of abandonment. Literally all of my close family members, except for Tom and Lily, are in Europe. I miss them most of all. But I also miss my cherished vision of a close-knit community where it would always be easy to hang out with someone. I’m realizing that that vision is completely ridiculous to ever expect. It crushes me.
Okay. I’m done with the numbered list. There’s probably more but this is feeling like a lot already.
Is this getting me any closer to answering the question, what does it mean to be good enough? Haven’t I tried to answer this question my entire life?