I’ve seen something on Social Media these days, saying that this is not the year to make everything happen, but it is the year to be thankful for everything you’ve done so far. Cute, but that was the moment when my inner critic started to tell me again how I didn’t do anything big so far, that’s not about me. But that was also one of those moments when I came to realize that progress will never be reached by constant self-bullying.
If I were a dramatic character, I would be a millennial Hamlet, consumed by anxiety and perfectionism, asking myself Am I, or am I not good enough? But I am not, and I come back and ask myself again: Good enough compared to what, exactly? To who?
And, as a restless perfectionist, I have to admit: that’s a great game-changer when it comes to the old matter of being enough. We often tend to tell ourselves that we’re not good enough period. But when it comes to telling what the other term of comparison is, we often put the story on hold. Because we don’t really ask ourselves with who am I comparing myself this time? And being enough is always about comparing yourself with another person or, even worse, with a whole set of social expectations.
This is where the trap actually is. Comparing yourself with somebody else makes you lose focus and perspective. You are not looking at your journey from the inside, as you should, but you look, instead, from above. You look down to your life, and you look down to the side of the other person’s life that you know about, and compare. And, as expected, you are never winning the imaginary race. Because no one can compete with a well-crafted image. And this is what we mostly know about other people’s lives. Well-crafted lives, created for the public eye. Basically, illusions where everything seems doable, and any failure seems easy to overcome. Unlike actual life.
But no one gets to see things like this from the beginning, it would be too easy. We have to compare ourselves to others, see our self-esteem and self-image be affected, and eventually get tired by everything, to see things clearly. Things that happen with age.
This is, however, the bright side, when you compare yourself to other people. The darker side is comparing yourself over and over again with society’s expectations from you. When you keep in mind that you are supposed to have your life together by 30 years, with a family of your own, a good job, a home, and possibly children, as you get closer to that age you tend to keep looking at your life, and then to look at your socially-imposed check-list.
The fact is you’ll never be on the same page with the never-ending list of social expectations, and this happens because every person has their own pace. There is no standard age for things like buying a house, completing your education, starting a family or a business. It’s true, coming usually from one’s dear people, the confrontation with the standards that society is imposing becomes much harder, as it borrows the voice of the ones you love. That’s why it is the darker, more damaging path to the Union of Never Good Enough.
But there’s nothing as damaging as looking at your life from outside in the long run. It makes you unable to be happy for yourself, and this is by far one of the most toxic things one can do. Because you can’t compare yourself over and over again and reach a balance. You can’t keep asking yourself why you’re not good enough and expect your mental health to be on point.
Mental health is, in fact, severely impacted by all the self-criticism and pressure one has to bear while constantly doubting on themselves. There is relief in accepting that your life and your choices have to only be meaningful to you, as you’re the only one able to access the whole image all the time. And there is joy to be found in knowing that whatever you feel like, is a valid and important feeling to be felt.
The reality is that you are and will always be good enough. No matter where you are in your life, no one could’ve done things better than you did. No matter what your inner mean voice says, it is only background noise. And no matter what you think, there’s a big, big difference between self-criticism and perfectionism, and it comes from the fact that critic comes from the inside, while perfectionism is always an outer voice. You are not too late and not too early either, because this is your life, not some social event to attend. And as long as you’re the MVP of your story, there’s no such thing as someone more worthy than you.
So next time when you want to turn into a modern Hamlet, asking yourself if you are good enough or not, remember what it made you feel like the last time, and ask yourself: Would I deliberately make my close friends feel like that? If the answer is no, then go for a walk, some popcorn and a cheesy movie, a bubble bath, or whatever makes you happy. You’re worthy of feeling good feelings about yourself and the life you’re living, so allow yourself as many occasions to do so as you can. And you’ll start to see why you’ve always been good enough.