Are You Good Enough? Really? You Sure?

Elizabeth I of England, unknown artist
Queen Elizabeth I. She really had it rough! Image via Wikipedia

Such an American obsession, this fetish for self-improvement!

Nice piece about it in The New York Times:

“There’s a tendency to seek and seek and seek and never find,” said Kristen Moeller, creator of the Web site (The motto? “Stop Waiting. Start Living.”) “It becomes one more addiction.”

It’s not that trying to find ways to improve ourselves is a bad thing — not at all. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” the poet Robert Browning wrote. But when we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.

“We grew up with the idea that we can do anything,” said Hollee Schwartz Temple, a professor of law at West Virginia University and co-author of “Good Enough Is the New Perfect” (Harlequin, 2011). “But we took that to mean that we have to do everything. And many women took it as you have to do everything perfectly.”

I admit it, I’ve read some self-help books I’ve found useful, from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit to an oldie-but-goodie, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m OK with this, because, especially as a self-employed person, I have no boss to guide or mentor me and only online colleagues, often very far away, to give me advice or feedback.

But there’s a limit to how “perfect” anyone can — or should try to — be. And “perfect” in whose eyes? I know there are many ways I could improve myself: lose weight (20 to 30 pounds, ugh); be much more tidy (papers and magazines everywhere); manage my investments better (a 15 percent drop this summer. Ugh indeed!)

But you know, we’re all works in progress. I keep a clean, organized home with fresh food in the fridge. I organized Jose’s closet the other day (feeling a little guilty for being so invasive). I write real thank-you notes on carefully-chosen stationery.

I’m reading, very slowly, a great biography of Elizabeth I — I think my life is complicated? Between wars and treaties and endless suitors and a bossy Cabinet and gossipy court and religious battles and the challenge of maintaining order — she had two men’s right hands cut off once to prove her point — my 21st century life is a bloody picnic, even without castles or a crown.

What do you need to improve on?


7 thoughts on “Are You Good Enough? Really? You Sure?

  1. Lisa Wields Words

    “Being perfect [is like] carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day.” (Anna Quindlen)

    I think the biggest thing I need to improve on is believing in myself. All the rest is gravy.

    I have always been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I. What biography are you reading.

  2. Perfection doesn’t exist. Not really. It’s one of those moving target things.

    (she says, while guiltily eating downing another piece of chocolate)

    That said, what do i need to improve on? Today, a day where I can’t seem to do anything right, the answer is: everything!

    1. Have one for me!

      I agree, perfection is an absurd target to aim for….just when you think you’ve achieved it (by your standards, if possible), someone else is bound to disagree — boss, colleagues, neighbor, spouse or family member.

  3. Great post! I’m working at accepting myself exactly as I am. Not easy for a driven perfectionist like me. But I discover that driven perfectionists get less happy, not more, because my ideals will never coincide with reality. I just keep trying to llke myself a little bit more, and have compassion for what I’ve been through – although like Elizabeth 1st, I DO have very little to complain about in comparison!

    1. Thanks!

      So true…

      I’m such a driven creature that even what others genuinely consider as accomplishments worth admiring often look like little to me. Not healthy! Part of the issue, as a writer in NY, is being surrounded by so many competitors with Big Fancy Jobs and who have published two or three times as many books. It’s very hard not to compare oneself (unfavorably) with others.

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