The topic of being good enough or not being good enough comes up all the time in my therapy groups, in the media, in life coaching 101, and therapy offices. It’s basically ubiquitous; it’s in the air we breathe. We constantly feel this scarcity or lack, and are culturally conditioned to do so.
We never have enough time, enough money, enough friends, enough clothes, enough vacation time, enough energy, etc. It’s an easy flippant response to say “Oh I’m so busy,” when people ask you how you're doing.
We are constantly hustling to get to the elusive “enough” point, but never seem to get there, like using a stairclimber to get to the top of a mountain. You're moving but always in the same place. The problem with achieving enough-ness is it’s usually motivated to win approval or accolades from someone else. It’s out of our control, and completely subjective.
The following exercise can help to determine if your quest is realistic or caught in the hustle for worthiness. Think about a place where you feel not good enough. At work? Then complete the following sentence:
I will be good enough when I get_________ (a promotion, a raise, recognition or acknowledgment from my boss, respect from my coworkers…).
When you reach this bar, are you satisfied, or does the bar move up to the next level?
If the bar automatically jumps to the next thing, it’s a sign that perfectionism is surreptitiously creeping into your life (or has already taken up residence). Since the approval is external, it’s like you are a boat without a rudder, and at the mercy of the sea and wind.
Relying on others to tell you whether your work, your appearance, your home, your grades, etc. are good enough is placing all the power and control outside of yourself. One boss may prefer a task completed one way to be “good enough,” while another may tell you the complete opposite. A friend may "approve" of one your outfits to wear to the party, while your mom prefers another. Always subjective.
We need to hold ourselves accountable for the ways we fall into hustling for worthiness if we’re going to change it. Completing this exercise lets us know if our goals are based on perfectionism and external approval that we may never get, or if they are reasonable, measurable, and within our own control.
So, the answer to "When will I be good enough?" has to come from you and not external sources. This means we have to unhitch the wagon to perfectionism and get in touch with our values.
Our values will help us get in touch with how we'll decide to respond to certain situations so that we can conduct ourselves in ways in which we'll be proud. Not in how others will be proud. Ourselves.
We cannot live sustainably if we try to always make others happy, get their approval, or make them proud. We'll never feel whole or have a firm idea of who we really are. The way to get in touch with that is to dig into what our core values are and how they operate in our lives.