Are You “Really” Good Enough?

Hmmm. I hesitate to post this.

I hesitate because I fear I’m going to say some things that may offend some and anger others … perhaps. That’s my suspicion, anyway, because I regularly read all over the blogosphere the opposite of what I’m about to say here. Offense is not intended, but my take on the truth demands an airing. So here goes.

Given the title of this post, you have likely come here expecting to hear me tell you that you are good enough right now just the way you are. That seems to be the trend. But I can’t necessarily say that. Don’t get me wrong, you may very well be good enough, at least in some overall metaphysical sense. But some of you reading right now are decidedly not.

As I said, many blogs speak of everyone being good enough, right now, as is, no second coat of paint necessary, thank you very much! Some have even criticized personal improvement blogs in general as implying a lie: that we are not, in fact, good enough already. We are perfect, they claim, so no need for self-improvement because the design is already flawless.

But wait a minute. What does that mean? Some people right now, as you’re reading these words, are engaged in the act of cheating on their wives. Is that good enough? Some lie and steal, robbing their fellow hard-working neighbors of their hard-earned property. Is that good enough?

Indecency is not Good Enough … Ever!

Some people beat their kids. Others verbally abuse their wives, damaging their sense of self-worth. Some women humiliate their husbands in public. Still others sell heroine to children in back alleys. Good enough?

I’ve seen out-of-control drivers darting dangerously through traffic, tailgating, cutting people off, jeopardizing life and limb, even flipping off other drivers who dare honk at their selfish recklessness.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s good enough … at all. It’s not even tolerable! I want such people off the streets, away from those they choose to endanger, hurt, threaten or terrorize.

There are cops who abuse suspects, suspects who abuse the law, politicians who abuse power, doctors who abuse patients, CEOs who abuse the environment and child molesters who abuse children.

We simply can’t call such people good enough. They’re not. I want them to change, to transform, to stop abusing and hurting and robbing and selling and befouling and otherwise being very indecent people. And I want them to stop it now.

Of course, I have no direct control over any of that indecency. But I do have control over the words I use to describe such behavior.

To tell such people they’re good enough is to condone, even culturally enable, such indecent behavior.

Instead, let’s call a spade a spade, an apple an apple, and indecent people indecent.

I know what you may be thinking: “Such people are not likely reading self-improvement blogs and therefore are not the people being spoken of.”

Well, I bet we would all be surprised at the private lives of some of the readers of self-growth material. But let’s assume most are not. There’s still a problem with proclaiming everyone’s good-enough-ness.

How Good is Good Enough?

Human decency and good-enough-ness is on a continuum with uncertain ranges. Mother Teresa is on one end. Hitler is on the other. One is certainly good enough. But the other is at least as certainly not. Most of us are sprinkled somewhere in between, likely quite a ways away from either, huddled somewhere in the middle, hopefully a bit closer to Mother Teresa than Hitler.

So at what point along that continuum of human decency do we become good enough?

Truth is, I don’t know. Each of the extremes is a no-brainer. But where along that continuum away from the Hitlers of the world do you fade into the murky middle of good-enough-ness? Again, I’m just not sure. You see, I have no way of knowing. Most of those in the murky middle are good enough in some ways, but ought to reach a little higher and push a little harder in other areas of their lives.

A man who loves his kids but cheats on his taxes is good enough in one area, but not the other.

But here’s the larger issue: Some people’s not-good-enough-ness looms so indecently that it discolors the totality of the person even when other parts of their lives are otherwise indeed good enough. A man who gives millions away in charitable causes, for example, but makes his millions selling heroine or engaged in child prostitution is, on balance, not good enough at all.

Perfect Potential and Completeness in the Now

Some may argue that it is our perfect human potential that’s good enough, that we have everything we need, however dormant it may be in our lives right now. But that’s the whole point of personal development blogs and churches and psychotherapy, for that matter. It’s to help us reach that potential, to grow into it.

But many people are so far away from what that potential is, that to call them good enough is to rape the definition of “good” of all meaning.

Some may say that we are good enough here, in the now, as the only person we could possibly be, and therefore already complete as is. But that’s like saying an extension bridge that is only half completed is good enough for the very reasonable fact that it is all it can possibly be at that moment. But most would agree that, as a bridge, a half-completed one is very incomplete.

Good Enough = Done.

If I’m working on a project and get to the point where I stand back and say, “Alright. That’s good enough,” what I mean is, by definition, I’m done. The project is complete. I am finished working on it. There’s no more that needs to be done.

But I will never be finished with the project of my own life. There will never be the finality of a period at the end of the sentence of my growth.

Some part of me will always need tweaking and re-tweaking. I will always have character traits to work on, personality issues to reconcile, emotional idiosyncrasies to adjust, obstacles to climb, and relationships to improve and deepen. But that’s just life. That’s simply the way things are for all of us as we clumsily navigate the waters of living well.

The sculpture of my life will never be completed. And here’s the thing – I’m perfectly fine with that!

We can accept our not-good-enough-ness and still love ourselves, still accept ourselves, still cherish ourselves and enjoy being ourselves and be proud of ourselves without pretending we are more than we are, completed, finished, done.

You may wonder how readers who are depressed might be taking this. And that’s fair to wonder. Won’t they be harmed reading a post about not being good enough? I sincerely and even desperately hope not. Gladly no one is forced to read any of this and can simply stop reading once they sense this is going in a place that will hurt more. I hope that’s not what’s felt though.

Accept Your Murky Middleness in all its Glorious Imperfection!

You see, the problem isn’t the reality of our imperfection or not-good-enough-ness. The problem is in our perception that it matters that we’re not quite there yet. It isn’t that we aren’t perfect, it’s when we think we are inadequate and inferior for not being perfect or failing to fit comfortably into some self-imposed shape and form of good-enough-ness within some self-imposed time-line.

But it’s not the truth that is hurting us, it’s the perception that it means we are therefore worthless or undeserving or worse.

Ours is not to reshape reality to make people feel good about themselves. It is to encourage the reshaping of our perceptions to more closely fit reality.

It’s to help people accurately see reality and let go of self-imposed perceptions and definitions of inferiority or shame or self-disgust because of old scripts written by misguided parents (or whoever) and accept the reality of their condition: an incomplete work in progress, imperfect, flawed, not yet good enough, but improving and growing and loving themselves nonetheless.

That, it seems to me, is a healthier reality to accept.

Your Turn

But please share your thoughts in the comments and let me know if I’ve hit the nail on the head or hit my proverbial thumb instead. I’ll be fine with whatever your assessment is!

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles