Myths of being “good enough”.

From a young age we are told to “just do your best.” But what actually is our best? We are led to believe that doing our best means giving everything we come across our everything – and I mean everything. As people, our health, time and energy are some of the most valuable resources we have. Yet we continue to pour ourselves until we run empty, with nourishment seen as a weakness.

At the same time, there seems to be the idea floating around (and by floating around, I mean Constantly Bombarding My Brain And Probably Yours Too), that to be a good and successful person, “doing your best” must be constant and ever rising. This means that doing your best and being a Successful Person, involves giving all of your time, health and energy to the enterprise that will endow such successes.

Black String Lights

Several myths exist as to what being a good person actually entails:

Myth 1) The less sleep the better. Somewhere along the line, we got it into our head that pulling all-nighters and surviving off energy drinks into the wee hours of the morning, multiple days a week, is quite a marvelous idea. All-nighters are not a good thing, nor are kind to one of our most precious organs; the brain. All-nighters are far more indicative of simply not doing work during the day instead, or perhaps overloading ourselves with too much, rather than success, and unprecedented hard work. Sleep is good. Sleep is healthy. That’s why beds exist, and why babies sleep lots, and why your eyes start closing on their own when you really want them to stay open. Listen to your body. It always lets you know what it needs.

Myth 2) The less energy the better. Welcome to the world of dieting, and to the world of tea that makes you run to the bathroom a weird amount. Living off specially designed shakes, permanently counting calories, and depriving yourself of what you are craving, is not healthy. It is dangerous that it has become normalised. Trying to live life in a child sized body is simply impossible, for our bodies grow to accommodate our growing lives. We need energy to live. All less energy equates to is less living. We are too full of life to be doing things by halves.

Myth 3) The more busyness the better. A full to the brim planner and zero down time means success, right? Wrong. Depleting ourselves to zero time and time again, with no time to regenerate, will only end in crashing and burning somewhere down the track. We are creatures of balance, and we need time to work hard, time to play, and time to rest. Success is not running on empty.

Myth 4) Emotion is undesirable. Everywhere we look, men are told not to cry, and women are told to not be so bossy. Feel what you feel, and talk about it. Suppression does not led to connections or growth. Dishonesty and shame is all that arises. We have emotions for a reason; to feel. Without them, life would be bland and boring. We do not need to be afraid of what makes us, us.

Myth 5) We are not good enough. There are entire, billion dollar industries based upon the assumption that we will continue to not believe we are good enough, and that we require change towards a particular ideal. This is a lie, based solely upon money, and tearing each other and ourselves down. Our insecurities mean nothing without the comparisons we hold them to. And within this myth, perfection cannot be reached. We are good enough because we are human, and because we try hard to do good in the world around us. Anything else does not determine if we are good enough yet or not. We already are.

abstract, art, background

How did all these myths arise? It seems that somewhere along the way we have confused being good enough, with being everything all at once, and in that, with being perfect. Let’s break it down – being a good person does not mean being a perfect person. This is because perfect people don’t exist, but good ones do. Striving for something unattainable will only leave us on the ground. And we will never be the best we can be if being perfect is the only goal. Let’s be wild, free, kind and courageous instead. We will be able to soar far higher on these wings.

Our health, time and energy are the building blocks to all that we do, and to all we can be. Looking after them, and acknowledging and embracing our imperfect humanness can go a long way. Perhaps instead this is success, and being good enough. Being brave enough to be ourselves.

Advertisement

Perfectionism and it’s shadow.

Perfectionism is something that is sought within, an ever-increasing height that we strive to leap over. It is impossible to reach, but the attempt is forever. Perfectionism is cruel, unhealthy; a dark shadow that clouds.

Everything I find most beautiful in nature, isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s wonderfully flawed. Each element is different and intricate and vast. I adore rugged landscapes, coastlines carved by the sea and the rich spectrum of species that each ecosystem is uniquely blessed with. It is within these environments that I feel most free, and most safe to be myself.

afterglow, avian, backlit

The people around me, like nature, are also not held to my impossible, perfectionistic standards either. I don’t criticise their grades; I feel proud of them. I don’t measure their bodies against the ideal; I treasure how real and how human the flow of their home is. They each have their flaws. This is what makes them, them. And I love them dearly for it.

But when it comes to me, my brain switches from relishing these differences between us, to the fear of never being good enough. I am suddenly exempt from from this freedom to appreciate what makes everyone, and everything else, special and unique. The pressure to be this impossibly perfect person that has been conjured up in the darkest corner of my anxiety, is terrifying, because I can never be that person. I feel as though this fear of failure restrains me from living at all. With every task I have to strive higher and higher each time, and each accomplishment is never good enough. I find it hard to complete things unless I know that they are absolutely the best I can do, otherwise I struggle to do them at all. And even then, the apparent flaws become ever large, clouding out anything worthy that is actually there.

My eating disorder grew on the constant, inner, bombardment of never being good enough, and fed on my striving for perfection. Although it manifested initially in my physical self, the perfectionism is not limited to just my body. It criticised my every social interaction, my grades and exactly who I was at all times. I would (and sometimes still do) lay in bed at night, trying to sleep, with my brain obsessing for hours over my tone in an earlier conversation, or if I possibly hadn’t come across exactly how I had intended. I could feel okay getting an A grade, but this little voice still pipes up with “it isn’t as good as it could be though.”¬†Even writing this piece, I feel like a fraud, because how could I be a perfectionist when there is so much wrong with my writing?

art, back view, backlit

In saying this, I have gotten better with my perfectionism over the years. To be honest, failing all of my exams at my worst (an academic perfectionist’s most horrific nightmare) actually did wonders for challenging my perfectionism. When I failed all of my exams, and became the exact opposite to my perfectionist self, my brain was a war zone. However, beyond my own head? The sky didn’t fall in, my friends and family still loved me, and I learnt I was no less of a person. Life moved on. It kept going. Experiencing a complete failure of who perfectionism told me I had to be, was life changing. I survived without it. I grew beyond it.

Recovery from the eating disorder, and generalised anxiety disorder, have allowed me to challenge this suffocating voice in my head. Anxiety and perfectionism are strongly linked, and perfectionism is a risk factor for many mental illnesses. The typical low self esteem and high levels of self critique that perfectionism supports, are kerosene for igniting many unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviours. Throughout my recovery, I have gotten far better at challenging the notion of never being good enough. Little things, like continuing to write or run when it’s messy and not going how I had envisioned, have gone a long way. Just simply starting, or trying things out, have helped me to become more comfortable with not being good at things, and instead just enjoying them for what they really are.

backlit, beach, beautiful

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Anne Lamott’s wise words acknowledge the alternative to perfectionism – not necessarily failure, but rather fun, play and joy.¬† Experiencing life as it is meant to be lived; messily and with the curiosity of a child.

Have you heard that quote about comparison being the thief of joy? It’s safe to say that this thief has a partner in crime. Perfectionism. Robbing you of joy since yesterday.