As I explore my personal aspirations for the coming year, the idea of being “good enough” has been on my mind. We are exposed to so much information through television, magazines, books, movies and the internet telling us and showing us how to do things right, how to do things well. Yet all this information can be overwhelming, and make us feel inadequate even when we are doing our very best and even excelling in our roles.
I think about the idea of being a “good enough” mother frequently. I struggled to conceive a child for over 18 years. In light of the link between eating disorders and infertility, it’s likely that my fertility challenges stemmed—at least in part—from the eating disorder that threatened my life from the ages of seven to 18. I had always known that I wanted to be a mother. After I sought eating disorder treatment and found a life of recovery, I endured 18 years of attempts, losses and finally a successful pregnancy resulting in a healthy baby girl. During this time, I learned as much as possible about motherhood. When my time came—and I had faith that it would, eventually—I would know everything there was to know about being a mom and I would be the best mother in the world.
Fast forward to today—my daughter is 13 years old, and she is beautiful, wonderful, talented and smart. I also have an amazing 16-year old stepdaughter, my “bonus daughter.” My girls bring so much joy to my life. I love being a mom, but it is certainly challenging at times. Even with information and experience, I often find myself struggling to figure out how to protect my girls from growing up too fast in a world characterized by extreme connectedness, information over-exposure and a pervasive yet seemingly impossible beauty ideal. I balance the needs of my family with working full-time at a job that I love and I am doing my best to raise healthy, confident and well-adjusted young women. But honestly, a lot of the time I find myself thinking that my best efforts at motherhood might not be “good enough”—that somehow I should be doing more for them, doing things differently, doing things better. I know I am putting my best effort forth and that I, along with my husband, am doing a good job raising my girls. However, sometimes I just cannot quiet that little voice that tells me I am not “good enough” in this very important role. Even though I am a therapist, I am human—I too struggle with feelings of anxiety, sadness and frustration when faced with challenges, including the journey of motherhood.
However, being an experienced therapist helps me to think critically about feelings of inadequacy and gives me practical skills to reframe my thoughts when I feel like I am not “good enough.” In 2015, I am committed to being kinder to myself, and I encourage others to do the same. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of inadequacy today or at any point throughout the New Year, consider embracing the following strategies:
Reframe how you define yourself. Rather than define your worth by what you think you don’t do well, be proud of what you do well. I come across so many wonderfully talented and intelligent people that would sooner tell me that they are always late, bad with numbers or a crummy cook than celebrate the things about themselves that are positive.
Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone thinner, prettier, smarter, more successful, more stylish, that makes parenting look easier, with a better car/house/job. Chances are, the very same people that we feel inadequate next to have their own feelings of inadequacy when they compare themselves to others. Stop comparing yourself to others, and instead focus on having gratitude for the things that make you special.
Ask for help. Even when we try our best, sometimes we fall short of expectations—our own and those of others. Rather than feel depressed, inadequate and generally not “good enough,” channel your energy to finding a way to improve your skills in that area. For example, when my now-husband and I were blending our families last year, it was challenging— I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. So I talked to a family therapist, who gave me amazing insight and practical strategies. Even therapists need therapists sometimes!
Find someone that complements you. My colleague and the founder of Eating Recovery Center, Ken Weiner, MD, FAED, CEDS, is a big believer in the idea that we need to surround ourselves with people that are experts in areas where we may lack expertise. After all, we can’t be good at everything—we all have strengths and weaknesses. So rather than chide myself for perceived inadequacy in areas where I lack skills and expertise, I have put Dr. Weiner’s philosophy into action in my own life—at work and at home. Allowing those with complementary strengths to support me has made an amazing difference in my ability to celebrate and emphasize my strengths.
I hope that in speaking honestly about the wonders, challenges and feelings of inadequacies related to motherhood, that my readers can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about this subject as well. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.