You will never be good enough.
That’s the hard truth. You, reading this right now: you’ll never be good enough. That is, good enough for ‘them’. Your mother. Your father. Your friends. Your colleagues. That guy who leaves you for someone thinner, younger, smarter, dumber, someone with kids, someone who ‘understands him’ better than you. You’ll never be the sex kitten you imagine yourself to be. You’ll never be the top of your industry. You’ll always have someone in front of you in the race. So you should just stop running, right? Open a packet of chips, why don’t you. You deserve it. You tried.
Let me explain.
I’ve had a pretty successful day. This is about the first year of my life that I’ve been completely financially comfortable, so when I got hit with a $1,200 rego bill I ran around collecting the components I needed and paid it, straight up, no drama. I met my PhD supervisor for lunch and had my progress evaluated, and passed with flying colours. I spoke to her about my upcoming novel like an excited child filling her mother in on the approach of the Christmas season and promoted my part-time writing job on a brand new site on my Facebook page following its launch. I emailed a few students, then went to the gym and ran 6km. While I was running I was feeling pretty good. Here I am, everything ticked off for the day, doing a workout. Go me!
I was working up a sweat, not really struggling, pumping along to the music. I looked ahead to the next row of treadmills and noticed a woman probably ten years older than me running about two kilometres per hour faster than me and not sweating. Damn, I thought. I leaned out and looked at her time. She’d been running longer, too. Disappointment crept onto me like a light, grey cloud. Jeez, I guess I am pretty slow. A slow runner. The sweat flicked off my fingers onto the base of the machine, and the string between my earphones started getting in the way, flapping on my chest. Awkward. I’m a slow, awkward runner. I wondered if anyone could see my speed. I moved my towel over it. The temptation to get off the treadmill pulsed in me like a heartbeat.
When I graduated from university, everyone congratulated me. My dad was so proud he cried (multiple times, loudly and dramatically). There were drinks and hugs and photographs, cards and bunches of flowers. Then everyone wanted to know when I was going to do my Honours. Holy Moley, settle down! I only just finished! So I did the Honours. Then the Masters degree. Then I enrolled in a PhD. Everyone wants to know how long I’ve got left. How many papers I’ve published. How many classes I teach.
When I got married, people wanted to know when I was going to have a child. When I got divorced, they wanted to know if I’d found someone new yet. A few even suggested I ‘turn’ and start seeking women to fill the partnership hole in my life. My progress wasn’t fast enough. It had been a year, surely there was SOMEONE who would have me. ANYONE.
I want to make it clear that the above is not a rant, a whinge, or an extended complaint session on how difficult it is to please everyone. I hope that the right reader will see this as an article of inspiration; because while you cannot please everyone, while you will never be good enough for everyone, realising this will set you free.
You will be hated in life. You will make things, do things and say things that people don’t like. You will fail. You will embarrass yourself. You will make mistakes. You will offend others. You won’t run fast enough, speak confidently enough, dress beautifully enough or obtain the ‘perfect body’ for any more than a week before you get bored of it and drop the joyless lifestyle required to maintain it.
You can be proud, however. Now and then you can be proud. And I don’t mean the kind of Facebook status pride that is only validated by the comments and likes you receive from others, the kind of pride that glows in your face or vibrates through your excited words. I’m talking about the pride that makes you feel warm and content just before you fall asleep, that you wanted to do something, have something, say something, be something, conquer something, and you did, for no one else but yourself. Pride is not a series of words, nor should it be something brought on by others, defined in you by the level of satisfaction you get from ‘them’. You’ll never satisfy them. But you can satisfy yourself. You can love yourself. It’s not a shameful thing.
When you die, they will not write ‘She was perfect’ on your gravestone.
And even if they did, you wouldn’t know it.