Good Enough

In my high school years, I really loved Sarah McLachlan. I think I actually took the CD from my brother’s huge box of CDs — remember when you could get 12 CDs for  $1 or something crazy like that from BMG? — and just started listening, without much prior knowledge of what her music would be like. When I like something, I tend to love it; no lukewarm feelings for this girl. So I used to play track 4, “Good Enough,” off her album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy over and over again starting somewhere between late sophomore year and into my junior year.

“So don’t tell me why
He’s never been good to you,
Don’t tell me why
He’s never been there for you,
And don’t you know that why
Is simply not good enough,
Oh, so just let me try
And I will be good to you
Just let me try
And I will be there for you
I’ll show you why
You’re so much more than good enough”

While I’m sure there there are lots of interpretations of these final chorus lyrics — as there are any time words are put out into the universe — the part that always resonated with me was the phrase “good enough,” especially the last line: “I’ll show you why/You’re so much more than good enough.”

My entire life I have wanted to be “the best.” The best student, the best athlete in my sport, the best teacher, the best ______. I think it’s important to aspire to greatness, to want to do a thing well. But it’s also a very dangerous desire, to want this, because if you don’t become the best, then does that mean you have failed? I still struggle with this idea at times  because I am used to doing things well. I can be easily frustrated when I’m learning something new (I’ll save my skiing meltdown anecdote for another day) instead of enjoying the process because I start getting competitive with myself or start comparing where I’m at with others. I know objectively that it doesn’t matter, that I only need to worry about my own improvement, but… I struggle.

I think most people today (myself included) are more often guilty of underestimating their own abilities than they are  of overestimating them. While most of us can probably picture right now the face of the most arrogant person with whom we have ever worked, I guarantee that arrogance is only a facade for the fear of being inadequate. We worry that we’re not qualified enough to apply for that job; not athletic enough to try that new sport or workout; not worthy enough to be in that relationship. If any of my friends, regardless of gender or sexual preference, ever ask me for general relationship advice, my go-to response is that you have to work on the relationship you have with yourself before you can start/maintain/improve a relationship with another person. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t believe that you are “more than good enough,” then who else will believe that? My mom always taught me that; she often used to say, “You have to know what you’re worth. If you do, they can’t touch you.” “They,” of course, being anyone else who wants to sit in judgment about your character or talents. “Can’t touch you” meaning they can’t harm you emotionally or break your spirit. As I grow older and have a clearer understanding of my self-worth, I am mostly able to remain “untouched,” though it’s not easy every day. On the hard days I talk to Husband or my mom or my sister or one of my best friends.

During my senior year in high school, I led Kairos for my peers. In fact, I was the rector, in charge of my fellow student leaders and of overseeing the entire retreat in conjunction with our Campus Minister and the teacher team. Up to that point in my life, I would argue that it was the most meaningful thing I had ever done. As the rector, I was charged with giving the final talk of the 3-day retreat, entitled “Live the Fourth” — it is intended to inspire the retreatants to take what they have learned from their time of reflection and bring that spirit into their daily lives.I’m sure that somewhere in my old bedroom I could find the physical copy of my speech (typical of the writing saver that I am), but I still remember, 12 years later, that I talked about my battle with perfection, and the way I disliked being labeled by others who only knew me from the outside. What “they” didn’t know was that I worked my tail off (and still do — it’s the only way I know how to invest myself in my work) primarily because of the high expectations I placed on myself, not because I sought out attention and recognition from others. I know better now that all of those kind of external rewards go away (or never come), and in the end we are left facing ourselves in the mirror back at the original question: Am I good enough, just the way that I am?

And so each day, even for a fleeting moment, I try to remember that who I am and what I can give in a particular moment is the best of me, that it is “good enough” for that time. And in the spirit of Kairos, that the best is yet to come.

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