Good Enough

This post has been brewing for a couple weeks, and is part of the silence. I had a conversation with a friend about 2 weeks ago that touched off something in me that I was totally unprepared for. A couple of comments were made questioning some things I'd decided to do, which made me angry. I let that be known, and then a couple other things were said that made me feel incredibly sad, but I had no idea why. It had to do with my writing and ability to share feelings, but my reaction was utterly out of proportion to the comments made. I melted in a puddle, got off the phone, and proceeded to mourn for 24 hours. I felt levelled, flattened, and broken. I finally got a handle on what I'd 'heard' (not what was said, but what my brain filtered it into) and came up with "you're not good enough". I of course added "nothing you do is ever good enough" to that from my own well of feelings that I think go back to early childhood.

Once I labeled what had triggered the meltdown, I started to try to figure out where the feelings came from. They go WAY back, but not quite as far as I can remember. I've almost always felt I had to please everyone, and in order to do so I had to do whatever was "good enough" for whoever was watching. For whoever I thought was watching. Teachers, parents, meeting, family, friends. My measuring stick was based on other people's expectations, not my self-confidence (which wavers wildly, and mostly is much much lower than it appears to be to most people) or my "best" really. Just what was expected of me. I didn't give too much thought to what God expected, not really having a clue as a kid what that was, though I assumed he expected perfection and not much else.

I've known for eons that my standards for myself (and immediate family, sigh) were never ever high enough, and if I'm in danger of satisfying them, I raise them. I'm never good enough for that consortium of ridiculous expectations, so just keep trying to do better and just keep feeling guilty. I feel horribly guilty if I disappoint anyone. More so if it's family or friends, but pretty much anyone counts. I'm good at imagining disappointments. I had a client awhile back who I felt like I wasn't really able to help much at all, and given the averages of things, having a client like that once in awhile isn't really all that surprising! But I felt awful for weeks. Low, guilty, burdened, like I'd done something wrong. Not good enough. Nothing worse than not being good enough.

I'm rather sick of holding myself to other people's standards. I grew up with several sets of standards, which didn't help the issue. The home/family standard, the school standard, the grandparent/laborer standard, the meeting standard ... you get the idea. The rules were not all the same, and I became pretty adept at switching gears, but it helped me wander pretty far away from being me and working with God, and knowing why I chose to do what. What was good enough to keep all the judges satisfied with me? I saw them all as judges, keeping me up to par and holy enough, smart enough, and submissive enough to pass muster.

My confidence seems based on whether or not all judges/observers are happy with me. Whether I've done what I promised or more realistically what I think they expected me to do. I learned a looooong time ago how to fake it. How to pretend I was confident, feel entirely unprepared or able to do something, but started out on it anyhow in the hopes that the ability/road would appear under my feet. It often worked, and masking my fear and trembling would turn into genuine confidence once the thing seemed solid enough or close enough to being finished to be trusted. I approach almost everything that way. It works, but it makes everyone else think I'm more confident than I am. I deliberately sign myself up for things I'm scared of (public speaking, running 26 miles, etc) and know that the shame of 'failing' at it or disappointing someone will be enough to keep me at it until I think I've conquered it. Bloody expectations.

I'm tired of the expectations game, but have no real idea how to stop playing it.