It’s a real killer admitting it — that nothing I do is good enough — not because I’m embarrassed by it, but because I try so damn hard. What’s worse is, the harder I try, the more harshly I judge myself when I fall short. It’s kind of like there are two versions of me, and I can’t trust either one – the creative me to be good enough or the critical me to judge me gently when I’ve done my best.
Situation / Trigger
Obsessing over imperfections
Nothing I do is good enough.
Anxiety Level (1-10)
I find something wrong with everything I do.
If it’s not an error evident in an end-product – like a meal, for example, or a piece of writing – it’s a shortcoming in an experience:
- The way I went about cooking or writing – rushing through it, worrying what people will think of it, and just generally not enjoying the creative process
- How I handled myself in a conversation – talking too little; talking too much; saying stupid things, inappropriate things, boring things; asking too many questions; getting defensive; missing out on what the other person is saying because I’m so worried about how what I just said, or am about to say, makes me look
- The way I chose to spend my day – working too long without a break, working when I promised myself a day off, doing something I’d rather not because that’s what someone else wants
Even the times I’m happy with what I’ve created or how I’ve behaved, I find something wrong with it later. What seemed like a great idea yesterday is a terrible idea today.
I know things I do aren’t good enough for other people, either, when their level of enthusiasm doesn’t match mine.
As for times when other people’s enthusiasm for what I’ve done is greater than mine, I know they’re wrong because the shortcomings are so evident to me; they just don’t have as critical an eye.
Within anything I do that isn’t good enough there are always parts of things that are:
- The way I toasted the bread
- The opening sentence
- That funny thing I said that got a laugh
- The afternoon I spent reading a book
What’s More Likely
“Good enough” is subjective.
I equate “good enough” with perfection. So, there may be a lot of things I do that are good enough by a lot of people’s standards; I just don’t see it that way because those things aren’t perfect.
Everything is a part of something:
- Within toasting the bread, there is the spreading of the butter and how much time it spends in the oven.
- Within an opening sentence, there is every word and punctuation mark to choose.
- Within a funny remark, there are the words, the timing, the tone.
- Within an afternoon of reading there are coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, feeding the cat breaks.
Were all of those parts good enough?
That afternoon I spent reading, maybe there were coffee grounds in my cup. Maybe I stubbed my toe on the way to the bathroom. Maybe the cat was driving me crazy begging for food. Those were imperfect parts within a whole that I remember as plenty good enough.
Why cannot the same be said of the larger parts of things?
Every meal is one small part of the all the cooking I’ll do over the course of my lifetime. The same is true of writing, conversing, spending my days.
When I look at it like that – considering what I’ve created and how I’ve behaved over the course of my lifetime (i.e., the whole) – it’s easier to be gentle on myself because I consider things within the context of all I’ve experienced and how hard I’ve worked to do my best in response.
Alternative Thought / Positive Affirmation
My best is different every day. My best is plenty always.
Anxiety Level (1-10)
What’s Worrying You?
Keep your own worry journal and work it through. I picked up this tool in cognitive behavioral therapy. Inevitably, my anxiety level at the end of the exercise is less than it was when I started. I hope it works that way for you, too.