Good Enough

I’ve been stuck on blog entries for the last few weeks. Typically, I develop an update based on themes I’ve noticed in recent therapy sessions, pulling from them as inspiration. I feel productive and insightful sharing my perspective on subjects. Of course, it’s always nice to receive feedback.

Recently, I haven’t been able to pinpoint a theme. Nothing has really stuck out as something I could expand upon and offer as engaging content to an audience. In sharing about this challenge with other coworkers, I’ve realized I have fallen into an old pattern. I am placing an expectation on my content, pressuring myself to make something that I deemed as “good enough.” The bar has been set to some unknown level of insightful or interesting, because— and I admit this quite candidly— that will increase my chances of receiving positive feedback.

It’s unrealistic and unsustainable when I consider the initial purpose of writing. This is a creative outlet and a convenient way to share my ideas. If they happen to interest others, that is wonderful. However, if they do not and I have used that as a bar for my success, I have set myself up for failure.

Now that I am writing it out, this is a theme I see in my office all the time. A subtle method of self-sabotage to which so many— including myself— subject ourselves, the message of not good enough extinguishes our motivation. Before we’ve even had the chance to start a new project, goal, or dream, the needling voice in the back of our minds has doomed us. We can never be good enough, according to this pattern, and therefore anything we attempt will not meet our expectations.

“[Perfection] is the enemy of good.” – Voltaire

If you are a perfectionist like me, that is usually enough to stop you before you’ve even started. There is a misconception that perfectionists are overachievers and strive to out-do those around them. Some of that may be true at times. Perfectionists also tend to compete with themselves and their expectations, and if they believe they might not succeed or win, they don’t bother trying. It’s a crippling anxiety, literally preventing growth and healing from the wounds that caused it.

In my efforts to overcome this pattern, I must let go of my attachment a particular outcome. If I am open to possibilities and the chance that good enough might exist, I can discover more potential within myself and I can grow. I can personally nurture myself away from that perfectionism, which somehow deceives me into believing I should already have maximized all my potential. This pattern believes I have no room to grow. It’s misguided, and impossible.

We are all flawed, and we are all still learning. With acceptance of this, I can understand that making effort to try something, even if it might not be perfect gives me the opportunity to learn about myself and discover what I can create. If you notice this pattern within yourself, believe that good enough is a possibility. There is more potential there than in perfection.

Isolation and Solitude

I really like my alone time. In it, I can designate space for various hobbies, chores, self-work, and creativity. My most productive time is spent by myself, and that works for me. Often, I will even have my husband take my car with him to work so that I don’t have easy means of transportation to go anywhere. It’s a commitment to spending quality time with myself and I consider it solitude, peaceful and restorative.

That’s not to say that every day I designate to being alone is so fruitful. I’ll admit, there are days where I loaf around, marathon tv shows, or sit and play video games for hours on end. It brings a different feeling than days where I’m connected. Stagnant and stuck, it seems like my brain is fixated on staying distracted. When these days occur, it feels like time somehow simultaneously drags on and disappears. Effort is required to become unstuck from a day of isolation, requiring a mental push to step outside of complacency and back into productivity.

According to the dictionary, the words isolation and solitude are synonymous. Solitude is time alone, equated to loneliness, and isolation is the act of separating oneself from the rest of the world, deliberately being alone. I’m sure I am not alone when I hear something different in both words. Superman’s headquarters, the Fortress of Solitude, became a place where he found solace from the stressors of being a superhero, a place to collect himself and gain clarity. Though he quite literally isolated himself, it does not match the clinical consideration of the word. Isolation is reactive avoidance, shutting off outside influences without a mindful goal.

Those days where I fall into the pit of Netflix and video game marathons typically follow high-stress days at work or days that required a lot of social interaction. When I am not mindful of my method of recovery, I lose track of how to recharge. I know I am not alone. The topic of isolation versus solitude has come up with friends, peers, and clients and I share the same insights I have gathered.

If you are like me, you might also enjoy taking naps. But consider the quality of the nap you receive and the purpose for that mini-sleep-session. Is the purpose to boost energy and allow the mind to rest? Or is to waste an indefinite amount of time lounging in the comfort of sleep? Notice the difference—intentionality. If you are like me, you might also notice that a 30 to 45-minute nap leaves you feeling awake and refreshed. You might need to set an alarm to limit the nap to a specific time, and it helps if you have something to do when you get up. However, when that nap is a gamble when there is nothing scheduled for when you wake up, it might go on for two hours, or more. When you wake, you feel groggy, irritated, and might even have a headache. It seems the only solution to the nap-hangover is to take another nap. What was gained from that use of time?

I’m not saying two-hour naps are never useful. If I didn’t sleep well the night before or if I’m sick, then I utilize that nap as needed. But I do so intentionally, just like an alone period. Video games and tv-shows—or whatever you use to occupy your free-time— can still be used to recharge. Sometimes our brains need a break from so much thinking, planning, and self-work. I simply propose that deliberate use of that downtime, with the intention of restoring the brain, can help to create a balance between self-indulgence and self-care. Both are necessary, and moderation is key.

Opposites Attract

It’s an old theory that opposites attract, and as a couples therapist and a person in a relationship, I agree. However, that does not mean that a couple must have polarized interests in music, hobbies, political beliefs or the rest. Some level of commonality is necessary for a couple to thrive. In my opinion, the most drastic and compulsory differences occur in communication and emotional processing. These can be narrow individuals down to two categories: minimizers and maximizers.

Minimizers tend to avoid conflict by— you guessed it— minimizing the severity of the issue in their mind. Minimizers are likely to shut down during an argument or emotional discomfort, literally unable to find words to express themselves. They might hold inner logic that if they don’t interact with the problem, the problem will go away. It’s important to note that minimizers usually learn to handle conflict in this manner through childhood. As a kid, parents might have taught their child not to talk about family problems, to bottle up feelings by distraction rather than discussion, or to prioritize keeping the peace via silence rather than resolution. Children can learn this dynamic in many ways to a small child, and the impact is lasting.

Maximizers, on the other hand, take small problems and think them into much bigger ones, often (though not necessarily) becoming loud and vocal about their dissatisfaction. They can also be the one more likely to yell in an argument. Maximizers are more likely to want to talk about the issues at hand and become anxious, if not obsessive, with the unknown until that discussion occurs. As a child, maximizers learn that their needs, often the needs for love and attention, weren’t met unless they sought out the love and attention. That might have taken the form of crying, tantrums, or backtalk.

Imagine a parent who is in a bad mood and a kid who assumes it’s their fault. The maximizer child learns to make the parent their primary focus until they received concise information, perhaps by crying until parent comforts them, or even acting out and causing trouble to understand a parent’s bad mood. The minimizer child learns that the best method for handling an unhappy parent is to hide until the coast is clear.

Following the idea that two people in a relationship will tend to lean toward being a minimizer or a maximizer explains much of a couple’s progression during conflict and needs for resolution. Please note, individuals usually lean toward maximizer or minimizer, but this is not exclusive all the time. Both people attempt to balance the other, but each person’s maximizing or minimizing will be reactionary. The maximizer will justify their obsessions and blame the other person, while the minimizer will justify their avoidance, also blaming the other. Neither logic is particularly helpful for strengthening a couple.

Admittedly, I am a maximizer, through and through, and gaining the freedom to see through that tendency has been liberating. In the past, I would fixate on everything I was unhappy within my relationship. My partner could not do anything right because my expectations were rigid, and I took everything he did or didn’t do personally. It was exhausting for both of us. Though I justified leaving, I never did, and at some point, we went to couples therapy. We learned about minimizers and maximizers and healthy dialogue, and it saved us. I learned that I could not attempt to change someone else’s behavior to make me happy in a relationship. No one can make me feel anything; my expectations make me feel things. I discovered that my partner, in all his minimizing ways, can talk if I create a safe place for him to tell me he’s having a hard time. I learned that some of my complaints were irrational, and my expectations were unrealistic based on the type of human I had selected to be my partner. Though I stubbornly clung to what I wanted our relationship to look like for a long time, eventually I accepted what our relationship could be. I believe we are kinder and more compassionate toward each other now than we have ever been.

Most importantly, and this is a tool I take with me into every session and with every couple in my office, I learned to see the other person’s inner child. My partner’s tendency to minimize is something he learned at a very young age, and when I become compulsive about making him talk, it does not get me closer to what I want. I do not create a safe space for either of us.

The goal is for each person, whether minimizer or maximizer, to make a concerted effort toward meeting in the middle. In doing so, the minimizer can step up as the partner they want to be, and the maximizer can step back, no longer overcompensating to progress a relationship’s growth. While this process is not always easy, there is peace within it when we learn to soothe our own inner children.


I often tend— to little avail— to withhold my enthusiasm in case life doesn’t go as planned (or hoped). I say, “I don’t want to jinx it,” or “I don’t want to get my hopes up,” and then I minimize my excitement or squash it entirely— as if me being happy about something could change the outcome. It’s unfortunate, I’ve realized, and dates to childhood experiences when I got excited about things and then found out they weren’t going to happen. As a kid, I didn’t have the coping skills to handle the disappointment, and when I shared my frustration, I often received messages in line with, “Well, you shouldn’t have gotten so excited,” or something to that effect. My little kid brain translated that as it “being my fault ” that it didn’t go the way I wanted, and therefore my unhappiness was also my fault. We didn’t get to go on that outing I wanted, I didn’t get the toy I wanted, or I didn’t get to have the quality time with that person I wanted to spend it with. That’s a lot of responsibility for a kid, that somehow my excitement could control the outcome of a situation.

In adulthood, I have realized it is a horrible way to look at things! Not only does it deprive me of joy for what very well may come to be, but if it doesn’t happen or doesn’t go as planned, I end up blaming myself anyway. I’m not suggesting anyone should always assume the best possible outcome. In fact, I’m saying the outcome doesn’t matter! If someone is excited or happy about something that might happen, I think they should experience that excitement or happiness. Celebrate the possibility.

I am relatively open about my recovery from addiction with clients and comrades, and I feel safe to share that here as well. I believe my experience helps me be a better therapist and the work I do on staying clean helps me be a healthier human being. There is a lot to be excited about on this healthy path. And yet, sometimes I notice myself not wanting to overstate my enthusiasm about my clean time. It’s not as significant a number as many others I know, and there’s this underlying fear if I celebrate too loudly, I will jinx myself. Somehow happiness means I will become instantly complacent, ruining my motivation and dooming me to relapse. It’s not the most positive outlook, and I must remember that the point of this journey is not the destination. It’s what I’ve done to help myself, what I’m doing to continue, and where I am now as a result. If I can’t be happy about that, what’s the point?

When I picture myself getting to the desired destination in my life, and I see that I’ve lived in fear the entire way, the whole trip almost seems like a waste. When I allow myself to embrace the possibility, I am more likely to act as if it could occur and continue making decisions in my life that encourage the direction of that positive outcome.

For now, it comes back to the moment. When I am over-concerned with the results, bogging myself down with what is beyond my control, I sacrifice my own joy. I must be mindful and responsible with my self-care, and part of that care is permitting that happiness. When my pessimism speaks up, reminding me not to get my hopes up, I must champion for my joy. I envision my inner child, thrilled about some new adventure that might come to be. Rather than telling her to tame her excitement, I must be the adult who guides her through it. In case the event does not come to occur, I must help her with the let-down. She can handle it. I’ve handled it before, and I can do it again. That fact alone should permit me to celebrate potential and not fear the outcome. Life is much fuller for it.

Good Relationships

I am in constant pursuit of being a good partner to myself. If you are my client, you have certainly heard me use this idea in our sessions. The theory: More important than our relationship with any other person is our relationship with ourselves.

When I notice myself drifting into self-criticism, those “should” messages that always manage to make me feel inferior, I try my best to take pause and ask, “What kind of partner am I being to myself?” If I envisioned the communication I am having as a relationship between two people, I would see a partner who is looking for every fault in the other person (me), ruthlessly voicing all of her imperfections with a goal toward what? If the answer is to motivate them, strive toward something better, it certainly isn’t working. Those “not good enough” messages don’t empower me. They make me feel small and helpless.

Great. So I’ve identified I’m not only moving myself further from my goal, but I’m also not being a healthy partner to myself. The next step, I try to imagine what a healthy partner would say and do. I try to be a partner who encourages the other person, while validating that it’s difficult. Working together (with myself— yes, I know this sounds weird), I can figure out what my next steps are for any given situation. Often, the answer is to be accepting of the moment. I cannot change it as quickly as I’d like, and that doesn’t indicate my goals are meaningless, but it does require me to be kind to myself in the process.

Currently, I (like many people) am making a diligent effort to exercise regularly and eat healthier. This has been ongoing for the last year or so, but I have stepped up my methods and started going to the gym. At first, I felt inferior. I hadn’t been in a gym in years and my regular yoga practice had dwindled, and still didn’t give me the stamina for cardio or the strength for weights that I once had. The default reaction was to criticize myself. ”This is what you get.” “You probably look ridiculous.” “You don’t belong here.”

Ouch. The internal dialogue was not the healthiest and when I paused to ask what kind of partner I was being, I realized I was practically abusive. I had to stop and be kind and supportive. I had to be loving and provide gentle encouragement that met me where I was at, while giving me the support to push myself a little further. “This is what you get. A chance to get healthy.” “You can only do your best, and that can get better.” “Everyone looks silly at the gym.”

And the process is ongoing. My default negative thinking can find something else to gripe about and it’s only up to me to notice when that occurs. I must be a good partner to that voice too, so I don’t shame the negativity, because that is not at all effective. But I do gently acknowledge when it arises. Most of us have been trained to be negative with ourselves due to school and home environments that weren’t always ideal. It is also harder for some more than others. No matter our pasts, we must remind ourselves that we deserve better, especially from ourselves. We can change the negative messages to kind ones.

Welcome to my first blog entry. I’m doing my best to encourage my partner that is me to share her ideas through a new approach to a similar platform. I’m finding my voice and showing myself respect in so doing. Stay tuned for more thoughts on mental health and wellbeing.


Your alarm goes off. Groggy, you roll over and grab your cell phone to make a half-conscious decision of getting up or hitting the snooze button. Opting for the chance to snooze for five more minutes, you press the button and roll back over. You might do this a few more times, lazily preparing to take a quick shower or skip breakfast; or maybe you decided the night before to set your alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier than needed so you had the option. Eventually, you choose to rise to follow your morning routine, showering, dressing, and preparing for work or responsibilities. Each step of this process requires you to make choices.

It does not stop there. It is easy not to notice but making choices occurs every second of every day. On a daily basis, you have to choose what you absorb mentally and physically, and how you apply your energy. What you watch on television, look at on your phone, eat, and say to others (and yourself) involves decision-making.

But you knew that. That article has been written before. I’m not here to rehash a topic that you’ve probably already read about. Instead, I would like to twist this simple self-help subject into something novel, because let’s admit, we love novelty. It’s probably why you’re reading this article right now. So for a novel way to consider the choices we make, let’s explore what we might be teaching ourselves in the process.

Self-lessons based on choices is a broad topic so I’ll start at the beginning. Do you always realize you are making a choice in the moment? Choosing to brush your teeth or whether or whether or not to use your turn signal when driving, for example? Or do you seem to run on autopilot? The first lesson you teach yourself based on your choices is of cognizance. How engaged would you like to be? How much effort are you going to spend on making choices? Running on a mindless default abandons a significant number of the choices you make. They become routine. You will feel like you have less choice in many matters where you are actually the only one who can decide. Life can feel boring and that can be frustrating, or maybe you feel trapped because your choices are so few.

I am certainly not saying paying attention to your choices will fix all of those negative feelings, but it’s at least a start. By paying attention, you can start to break the rote patterns of mundane life, and alter the ways in which you handle the more intense moments. In an argument, is your default to shut down emotionally? If you ignore the problem, does it usually disappear? Or maybe you get loud and expressive, sometimes in not-so-productive ways?

When you pay attention, you can choose how to respond to both the little things and the big things in life. It gives you a chance to make the situation different from the past and presents a learning experience. We spend so much time unconsciously anticipating what will happen, while simultaneously repeating our patterns from the past. When we interrupt the future-focus and stop repeating past actions, and instead pay attention to this particular moment and scenario, we can make change. We can teach ourselves to grow.

In case you thought at any point this process would be easy, guess again. Teaching yourself new ways of being, perceiving, and responding is challenging. Our brains are lazy and would much rather conserve energy and rehearse what we have done for years. Not to mention, the pattern worked at some point. Old, even unhealthy patterns helped us survive and manage life up until now. But if you are considering making change, I am willing to assume you have noticed these means of existence are not leading to pleasant ends.  It’s time to do something different.

Choosing to live, respond, and be healthy allows us to empower ourselves. Though we may be dragging our feet sometimes, when we arrive at a figurative fork in the road and choose the mentally and/ or physically healthy option, we benefit. The trick is noticing the choice is available. We reach those points of decision-making a million times a day, and if we realize the opportunity to teach ourselves different ways of being, the effects will be long-standing.