on being good enough
November 3, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: advice, life | Tags: , , ,

Dear Spoonah,

I’m a 30 year old queer male who has been blessed with great family, friends and a positive outlook. Seriously, my life keeps getting better with every year and I’m very grateful to the Universe and God for all the wonderful people and things in my life. A natural extrovert, I am friendly and warm, which brings me a lot of joy. However, every so often I find myself feeling quite shy and insecure, and my mind is invaded with horrible thoughts about the central insecurity in my life: that I’m just not good enough. Not good enough to find a partner, not good enough to hold and keep my job (which is going fine, fyi), not good enough to make my parents proud (although they say they are!), not good enough to meet other cute guys (which I do!)… the list goes on. Every so often this feeling comes and I try to fight it off with positivity, or even just noticing the thought and letting it pass. (Because I’m an extrovert and grew up with a lot of parental pressure not to disappoint, when I feel shy I feel very badly about it, instead of just realizing it’s a natural emotion or reaction.) But some days it really bothers me that I still grapple with this insecurity, which I now realize has been central to my self-perception for many years. Spoonah, I would like your advice not only on letting go of this fear in the long-term, but also how to deal with it when it comes along in the short-term.

well my dear shy and insecure queermo,

you are on a journey. do you have a destination in mind? it sounds like you are (possibly inadvertently) on a journey towards meeting other people’s expectations of you, and what it means to be you. do you know what it means to be you?

one day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began.

I think what you said about noticing what you are feeling when it is happening is the first step. reaching out for help from loved ones is also going to be helpful. when you feel like you’re “not good enough”, think about all the ways in which you are good enough, and the ways in which you have already achieved what you want, by being perfectly enough. think also about who you are trying to please. who are you trying to be good enough for? are you not good enough for yourself? or is it someone else that you’re trying to get the approval of? listen to yourself.

though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.

ask yourself whether the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing are serving you. if your goal is ultimately to simply be happy, to be “enough” for yourself, then they do not serve you. let them pass. you are not your thoughts.

But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

when these thoughts come up for you, it is easy to let them waylay you. I know they are for me (because don’t we all have this problem?). they are rocks in your path. learn to climb.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,

take time to look up on your journey. notice the stars. notice the improvements you have made, the milestones you have passed. from your email it sounds like you have achieved a lot of what you have set out to do already.

and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,

as you get further along in life, listen for the voice which you “slowly recognized as your own”. your parents, your friends, your partners, your coworkers–all of their voices are important, but none of them are yours. whose life are you living?

determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

taking care of yourself is “the only thing you could do”. make this your work. make this your goal.

good luck out there,


*poem is The Journey by Mary Oliver.