Everyone has different reactions to the concept of “good enough”. Some laugh, some recoil, some are curious. Good enough can feel like a cop-out, a license for mediocrity, or a recipe for disaster. For most of us, good enough doesn’t compute, because we live in two gears: it’s either “perfect” or a total “failure.” But, in reality, good enough has more to do with rational choices and the exercise of healthy boundaries than impulsive behavior driven by perfectionism.
The “good enough” mother was a concept introduced in 1954 by Dr. Donald Winnicott. He decided to challenge the Freudian tendency of blame-shifting the parents for every imaginable problem. Parents always feel that pressure, and the guilt. Winnicott is the reason I survived motherhood with twins. I’ve been fascinated ever since.
So, what is “good enough”? Good enough is not mediocrity. Good enough is getting the job done now and striving to make it better, only if needed. How do you know if it’s good enough? Try this litmus test: Are there sufficient benefits? Is there an absence of critical problems? In the present situation, given the limited nature of our personal, performance, and people resources, would the impact of striving towards further improvement be more harmful than helpful?
While I realize that our collective fantasy of being Best-Boss-Ever, Always-On-Employee, Perfect Friend, “You Complete Me” Spouse, SuperMom, SuperDad, and Right-Up-There-on-the-Cross-with-Jesus Christian is much more appealing than considering ourselves to be good enough, the limitations of 24 hours in a day and the need to have some semblance of a personal life demands that we consider a different viewpoint. Good enough takes the real world into account– the one God designed us to live in– by accepting the gap between our ideal self and the one we are actually capable of being. Good enough is the belief that we can improve while doing, we can learn while failing, we can cope in the midst of complexity, and we can adjust to our fallen human condition.
And by way of walking the walk, after writing, reviewing, and rewriting this article, I’ve given myself permission to believe that you will find it good enough.
To be good enough, Canadian Family Physician (2009), March; 55(3): 239–240.