If there’s one thing I have heard time and time again in my career as a mental health counselor, it is: “I’m not good enough”. It may not always be expressed in these exact words, but the sentiment is there.
These are all versions of the same story: Not enough.
Yes, sometimes, the can’ts and the nots are very real. Sometimes you can’t do something because of factors like your mental or physical health and sometimes you are not going to be exactly what you want to be exactly when and where you want to be it.
However, these can’ts, nots, and nevers are usually just stories that we are telling ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, whether we were literally told these things by significant people in our lives (i.e., parents, teachers, peers) or we developed them as a way to explain our imperfections, these statements have become our “elevator pitch” of failure.
This not-enough mentality is a result of a perfectionistic culture and society we have found ourselves in. After all, who wouldn’t want to be perfect in each and every way?
Who wouldn’t want to look like that model on that gorgeous island with the 5M follower Instagram?
Who wouldn’t want to be making a seven-figure income?
Who wouldn’t want to land that perfect job with the perfect partner in the perfect home with the perfect work-family-travel-party-sleep-exercise-eat life balance?
Just repeating the word is giving me a headache, trying to live up to it is giving me a life-ache.
So what would happen if, when you woke up tomorrow, all the photos of people on your phone and TV screens, on magazines and billboards, were blurry?
What if all the mirrors you looked into returned a blurry reflection?
What if all the diplomas with their degree names and school names were blurred out?
What if the numbers in everyone’s bank accounts suddenly weren’t legible?
What would be left?
If you can’t see yourself in reflection or in picture, would you focus so much on how you look or how you feel?
If you can’t display your degree and school, would you focus so much on prestige or on what you learned?
If you can’t know how much money you have, would you focus so much on making it or on the experience and work that you do?
Of course, this is all an impossible, whimsical, highly flawed, hypothetical scenario.
BUT it helps us understand what we would put our energy into and focus on if the current measures of “perfection” didn’t exist the way they do today, whether in beauty, career, social status, and so on.
It is these impossible measures of perfection that we hold ourselves to now. These are the things that make us “not enough” if we can’t be them. These are the can’ts, the nots, and the nevers.
So the next time you do something that you are hard on yourself about, try this - whether it’s a homework assignment, a social gathering, a yoga pose, anything - try imagining that the results of it will be blurred out leaving you with only the feelings and experience of whatever it is.
Maybe the grade on that assignment will be blurred so the college you’re applying to won’t be able to see it.
Maybe the dress and make-up you put on will be blurred at the gathering so no one will be able to judge you based on your appearance and clothing.
Maybe there’s no mirror and no one can see you in the yoga studio attempting that pose.
Sure, getting accolades and validation for our efforts feels really good. After all, we are relational beings and we like to be liked by others. This is why we strive to be good at things.
I am not saying to not try and I am not saying to eliminate can’t, not, and never from your vocabulary. These all can be constructive to think about and consider in your life in ways that will help you grow.
However, the minute you assume perfection is the standard, then you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of can’ts, nots, and nevers with absolutely no room for cans, dos, and sometimes.
If perfection can’t be measured, then what you are and what you do suddenly becomes good enough.
Tags: self-care, good enough, perfection, self-esteem, mental health, wellness, yoga