As Marriage and Family Therapists, we work with folks who are having relational issues. Sometimes the issues are in relation to others: our kids, our spouse, or our friends. But sometimes they are in relation to ourselves. I find that at the center of many of these issues is a sense of “not being good enough.” Everyone doubts and second guesses, and almost everyone beats themselves up over what they did (or didn’t) do today, yesterday, last week, or last month.
So I thought I would share five things I wish I had known sooner…
#1 All people are different. I know, I know….this seems obvious. But many of us readily say everyone is different, then use the same parenting style, follow the same rigid rules, or see all our relationships through the same lens. I often find that with minor adjustments and some practice, some of the rigid thoughts decrease and we are able to be more compassionate. Take away: know your audience.
#2 Feelings just are. People say things like, “I feel so guilty about my stress” or “I wish I didn’t get so angry.” Feelings aren’t inherently bad or good, but responses can be helpful or unhelpful. If I feel guilty about being stressed and isolate, that often makes my stress worse. If I talk with about it with someone, I can work through it and move on. If my phone won’t load fast enough so I smash it, probably not the best move; if I finally upgrade to a phone made this decade, that’s empowerment (or retail therapy!). Take away: separate the feelings from the behaviors and take the best next step.
#3 When we know better, we can choose to do better. Many were raised with a lot of “you should…” in their lives. Adult children of addicts know this better than most. They had to become the parent in a child’s body, complete with child’s resources and brain development. Impossible, right? Except all those “you should” statements were internalized and normalized somewhere in our thoughts. I once heard a friend tell someone “would you please stop should-ing all over me?” It stuck. Take away: challenge the “should.”
#4 Perfect doesn’t exist. We spend so much time and energy trying to make things look, smell, feel or seem perfect, only to have one thing change, pushing us back to the drawing board. Marketing and advertising are designed to convince us that we can’t live without (you name it). How much more time might we have to enjoy our relationships if we could be okay with not chasing what isn’t there. Take away: #5.
#5 Good enough IS good enough. That’s not to say we don’t strive for excellence or fulfillment, but let’s give ourselves a little grace. If we see ourselves and others with compassion, accept that feelings just are, do better when we know better, and acknowledge our own imperfections, we might find a little more breathing space and realize that each of us are enough just the way we are...