• Dian Handayani

Is feeling good enough, enough?

Updated: Nov 21

Whether it is your job, friendships, or even sex with your significant other, you might experience from time to time feeling less complete or fulfilled emotionally, physically and mentally. No matter how much you try, you don't feel good enough. I assure you that we've all been there, and it is normal to feel that way. In this article, I hope to provide some insight and reassurance that trying your best and feeling good enough about yourself might just be... enough.



The good-enough mother


Of course, perfectionism has its merits and can be a helpful trait.


I first came across the concept of "the good enough mother" during my art psychotherapy training. "The good-enough mother" was first coined by the British paediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott in his famous book Playing and Reality [1]. It centres around the concept of good enough mothering. The mother's attempt to achieve perfection may not be helpful to the emotional development of the child. Winnicott gives us the permission to allow a child to experience frustration and failures in life to encourage resiliency, creativity and compassion. Interestingly, I recently discovered that software and system design are also built with the "good enough" principle instead of striving for perfection [2]. Well, I find it assuring that even such a sophisticated system has its built-in flaw.


D. W. Winnicott's mother and infant analogy is a good metaphor. Many of us strive to be perfect in one or all aspects of our lives, which can be, in fact, a limiting perspective about the range of needed experiences needed to live a full life.


Of course, perfectionism [3] has its merits and can be a helpful trait. Some aspects of our lives, such as our jobs, may require precision to function. However, when striving for perfection is taken too far, it may cause some issues in the long run.[4]


Perfectionism from childhood

It is also possible that chasing and maintaining the idea of perfection is a trauma response that could have its origin in childhood. In Asian culture, for example, children are often encouraged and compelled to get perfect grades. This is often to avoid the parents' wrath and survive the family comparisons fest during many family gatherings.


Consequently, we tell our younger selves to study and work harder to achieve better grades. We do so because we think this earns our parents admiration and love, but it may come with the lingering fear that we will be shamed as soon as we fail.


These coping mechanisms of perfectionism might have been helpful when we were children. However, if left unchallenged and unchanged, it can continue to stay with us at various stages of life.


These mechanisms can result in strengthening your inner critic because the negative self-talk may mount over time. Subsequently, it may leave you constantly feeling like you're never good enough for anything or anyone, including yourself. Burnout, procrastination, body dissatisfaction, and sexual issues may also surface.


If left unchecked, it can rob us of experiencing joy, discovering the fun elements of play and pleasures in life. As a result, we may not be growing as our efforts to maintain the status of perfection encourage us to continue staying in our comfort zone when we fear failing.

Good enough sex

When perfectionism and inner critique enter the bedroom, it may get in the way of enjoying our sex lives. We may be busy thinking about the shape of our bodies or adopting the perfect technique. Sexual pleasure, fun and joy may be affected if we expect anything less than a "perfect" sexual performance. We are no longer present with the joy, pleasure and connection that sex offers.


In Dr Barry McCarthy's article "Is Perfect Sex Possible?" [5], he introduces the "Good Enough Sex" (GES) model (Metz & McCarthy, 2007)[6], where couples are invited to share experiences around desire, pleasure, eroticism, and satisfaction. GES emphasises positive, realistic sexual expectations without requiring perfect intercourse. The model also recognises the varied roles, meanings, and outcomes of couple sexuality rather than endorsing an unrealistic demand for ideal performance. He assures us that it is normal, within any relationship, for 5-15% of sexual encounters to be mediocre, dissatisfying, or even dysfunctional.


Couple sexuality is anti-perfection. Contrary to what the media likes to portray, sexual relationships that focus on "perfect sexual performance" are anxiety-inducing and can set us up for failure.


It's about embracing imperfections. The key to healthy sex life is to turn to your partner after sex, being present in the moment, playful and messy at times. Laugh or shrug off when the sex is not so great. Get together later when you are both open to a pleasurable sexual experience.

Conclusion

It is important to note that the first thing you need to know is that you're not alone and that we're all in this together. Life can ask you tough questions, but it can be more manageable when you take actionable steps and get the help you need.


Many of us are conditioned from a young age to strive for perfection in one or all aspects of our lives. While perfectionism can sometimes help us do our best, there are also downsides. You may not grow in the ways that taking risks and allowing for the possibility of failure, thinking that you're not good enough, exploring new challenges and moving forward in your life.


Both thoughts and feelings of not being not good enough may make or break you, depending on your willingness to take a look at the reality of those critical thoughts.

This is where I come into the picture to help you develop more insight into the many facets of your life or sexual life. Let me walk with you as you make your way on this journey of self-discovery. Reach out to me and the take the first step today.



References:

[1] https://icpla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Winnicott-D.-Transitional-Objects-and-Transitional-Phenomena1.pdf [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654842/ [3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/basics/perfectionism [4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/perfectly-hidden-depression/201911/the-five-stages-healing-the-disease-perfectionism

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/whats-your-sexual-style/201505/is-perfect-sex-possible [6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681990601013492


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