How to be Your Own “Good Enough” Friend
By John Graham
July 27th, 2012
This morning I opened Tara Brach, Ph.D.’s book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of A Budda (Bantam Books, 2003) and read: “When I was in college, I went off to the mountains for a weekend of hiking with an older, wiser friend of twenty-two. At one point she described how she was learning to be “her own best friend.” Brach says, “A huge wave of saddness came over me, and I broke down sobbing. I was the furthest thing from my own best friend. I was continually harrassed by an inner judge who was merciless, relentless, nit-picking, driving, often invisible but always on the job. I knew I would never treat a friend the way I treated myself, without mercy or kindness.” Brach went on and on about how this affected every area of her life and even in her pursuit of pleasure where there was not much to call pleasure. She said in the eyes of the world she was quite function, but internally, “I was anxious, drie, and often depressed. I didn’t feel at peace with any part of my life.”
I had to wonder if many of us aren’t like Tara. We judge others to be lovely, smart, successful but not ourselves. We are our own worse judges. Perhaps that is why I have heard so many say over the years, “I need to straighten out my life before I come to God.” We seem to think even God would reject us, because we reject ourselves. We think we don’t measure up. And, certainly that is true if we compare ourselves to the perfect image we have in our minds — Sigmund Freud would say in our “superego,” our conscience which can condemn us and is as Tara said, “is always on the job.”
I am a Psychotherapist and more often than not my clients arrive with a poor self image. Many judge themselves to be a failure and believe no one could like them. For example, a man called me up to make his first appointment and said, “You are going to be disgusted with me.” Of course, he was projecting his own feelings about himself onto me. How did he know I would be disgusted with him? I wasn’t, by the way. I was concerned, but not disgusted.
Another client was divorced, without a job, had all her furniture in storage, and at the time was living in the home of a friend. She said, “Why would any man want to be with me? I am a failure.” I said, “Really? What I believe most men would think is you are a beautiful, intelligent, and caring woman. Why wouldn’t they want to be with you?” Again, she was projecting her inward bad self image onto others. No one could possible like her, because she didn’t like herself.
Every religion says God loves us. Not some of us; all of us. Not just the beautiful ones depicted in fashion magazines. Not just those who are rich and live lavishly. Not just those we idolize largely because we don’t really know them. Even a glacing look at people magazines ought to dispell our misunderstanding. The rich and famous struggle just as much as the rest of us. All their talent and money doesn’t translate into inner peace and joy. Does it?
God loves us, inspite of our failings, as much as a mother loves her child who is convicted of a crime and is in prison. Maybe we need to treat ourselves like a “good enough” mother treats her children. The Brittish psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, gave us the term “good enough” mother to say no mother is perfect and she doesn’t have to be. Being a “good enough” mother is well, good enough.
And, what about you? Can you see yourself as “good enough?” Not perfect, but good enough? That might be a good starting point — telling yourself that you are a “good enough” man or woman. In other words, you are human like the rest of us — with failings, with successes, with sorrows and with moments of celebration. Not perfect, but good enough.
Try it on for size and see what it does for your self esteem. Right now say, “I am good enough.” Get off somewhere and shout it out loud, “I am good enough!” Driving your car to work shout, “I am good enough.” Other drivers may think you are crazy. Who cares? And, while you are at it, see other people that way too, “good enough” men and women. Not perfect, just good enough.
It is a great leveler. No one is worthy of our envy or idolization. But all are good enough for us to respect and value as a human being. Maybe if we start with others, we will find it easier to accept ourselves just the way we are. As a good enough man or woman.