By: Rachel Goldsmith, MS, MA
How often do you wonder if you are good enough? Good enough as an employee, parent, child, friend, or spouse? When you look around, perhaps you evaluate yourself against those around you and simply wonder if you are falling short somewhere. Are your kids as happy as the neighbor’s children? Do you spend enough time with your aging parents? Are you satisfying your partner enough? Sometimes these are thoughts that plague us all day, chipping away at our self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Other times, they arise only sporadically, but most likely these nagging insecurities throw us off course for a while just the same. Indeed, in our culture of perfection and “more is more,” it can be hard to feel satisfied and confident in what you offer, who you are, and how you lead your life.
D.W. Winnicott, an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst whose work came to prominence during and after World War II, has some insights to offer here. His work with children led him to develop some important concepts about how important early relationships, particularly between mother and child, impact personal identity development. One of his most important contributions to the field of psychology, an outgrowth of his work with children and parents, is the idea of the “good enough mother.”
When you begin to question your worth or if you are living up to expectations (imaginary or clearly defined), try to remember Winnicott and the good enough mother. Winnicott asserted that to be a good mother one must be a good enough mother. This is a person who cares, tries, sometimes fails, but then tries again. It’s not about perfection – in fact, quite the opposite! Being a good enough mother means that you can succeed and miss the mark and still be valuable, good, and worthy. You are good so long as you are good enough.
Now, extend this idea to every other role in your life. It is enough to be good enough. You do not have to hit a home run every day. In fact, a solid hit to left field that gets you to first base is often all you need. Sure, some days you are going to want to do it all, go above and beyond, and really hit it out of the park! That is perfectly acceptable, but it does not have to define your existence.
When you start to question yourself, simply ask whether or not you have been good enough. Try it once or twice. Take time to notice what really happens if you do not cook an elaborate, perfectly healthy meal for your children tonight. Probably nothing bad, so chalk it up to being good enough and then move on. Maybe tomorrow night you will make that meal, and then again, maybe not. But if you genuinely feel that you are being good enough – providing for your children, loving them, caring about them – then let go of the pressure to be perfect and accept yourself for who you are in this moment.
Do not get confused and think that being “good enough” means you get to shirk your duties and slack off. By all means, being good enough means trying hard but being open to the fact that you will sometimes fall short. And that is okay. By shifting your thought process from being the best and the greatest to being good enough, you will begin to accept yourself for who you are and love what you innately have to offer. It will encourage you to be grateful for what you already have and enjoy your life far more than ever before. In fact, you might find that you feel great when you accept the moments when you are good enough.
If you feel like this is an area of your life where you experience difficulty, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you find ways to embrace being “good enough.”