Winnicott talks about the concept of being ‘good enough’. This originally was in the context of the relationship between mother and baby. The child needs a mother who is ‘good enough’. But it is a principle that I try and apply to many different areas of my life- work, rest and play.
But when is ‘enough’, ‘enough’?
I have my first essay to submit. Deadline is 2nd January- (not the kindest of submission dates me thinks!)
My Masters course is either a pass or a fail. (the essays get graded but final degree classification is pass or fail).
I am a recovering perfectionist and I am choosing (against every fibre of my being screaming in protest) to submit an essay that is just ‘good enough’. It doesn’t have to be all singing-all dancing, it just needs to be good enough to pass. Wowzers, I’m finding that hard! Because I genuinely do not know when ‘enough is enough!’.
At the moment, I am tired and a little churned up emotionally…so I really do not want to spend between now and January 2nd, slogging on an essay unnecessarily. I have thoroughly enjoyed the reading and I’ve learnt a lot in the process, but I’m ready for a break.
So how do I approach this? and can I actually do this in practice? More importantly, how on earth do I manage this shouting internal voice screaming ‘failure’ at me? And how will I manage myself when a) my peers start talking about how much they have done and b) can I cope when I get the mark returned- knowing I could have done better, if I’d put more effort in? (Gosh, I am finding this ridiculously hard!)
So plan of action thus far… with my internal dialogue shouting
- The word count is between 4000-5000. 4000 words is enough.
- Get to 4000 and then STOP.
- Refer to theory
- Give both sides of the argument
- Structure it in some kind of coherent order
- Reference accurately
- Proof read it
- SUBMIT and MOVE ON.
Surely, if I do these, it should pass? (I need to accept the uncomfortable truth that ultimately until this one is marked, I won’t entirely know- so I will need to manage my anxiety and add a little bit of ‘fingers crossed’.
Unusually, I will now allow my inner critic a space… usually I just try to squash it down, but pretending it isn’t there is really quite a stupid strategy (for me).
“If you stop at 4000, it will be rubbish. Usually, you write well over the word limit and in that process of editing, it gets better. You are basically suggesting handing in your first draft…ARE YOU MAD! It will never be good enough. You will fail. The tutor will think you are thick. You talk a good talk but can’t write an essay. You will lose all credibility. Everyone will ask what you’ve got and not believe you when you say you were trying to just do ‘enough’. ‘Enough’- what a load of bullshit. Who thought of that?!? Why? Why do the course unless you are going to put 100% in to it? Just because its a pass or fail- you don’t have to lower your standards… bit weak isn’t it. Sometimes Hepzibah, you are just a light weight- not very committed, lazy and quite frankly not very impressive.”
Gosh, it’s good to write. That is what I’m carrying at the moment- no wonder I’m feeling crap! So what do I do about it? Well I think I need to counteract the inner critic to move forward.
“Yep, I am planning to do this differently. Yes, I am planning to hand in effect, my first draft. And yes, it may not be as good as previous essays. I think it is really unlikely that it will fail. I think if I do the points 1-7 listed above, it should be ok. I can’t guarantee that until I get the mark back- but I think, it should be enough. The tutor will think what he thinks- I can’t control what he thinks and most probably I will never know what he really thinks. I can write essays- in fact I can write quite eloquently. It may not be the most refined thing I have ever written- but I can write. And I can write well. Yep, my peers will ask what I’ve got and I can either choose not to tell them, or I can celebrate what I get- knowing my own internal motivation. ‘good enough’-has caught a very big following in fact… I am totally committed to this course. I have worked hard. But I’m also totally committed to my family, my friends, my dogs, my work and my self. I’m not lowering my standards I am trying to do things differently and stay well- both physically and mentally. I am many things but I am not a lightweight. I am totally committed to all I do. I’m not lazy- I just want a break. Impressive is in the eye of the beholder…”
And as I write my response, I know that I don’t believe a word of it. BOTHER. I know its true- but I don’t know its true about me. SHIT. So, that’s why, I have to stick to the plan. I have to hand in a ‘good enough’ essay and deal with it. I remember handing in an essay for my bible course diploma- it ‘only’ got 89%. I had a TOTAL meltdown. My tutor agreed to a re-mark and the mark did get increased however, I still remember what he said to me… ‘Hepzibah, this is a warning. The mark has been raised, but you know as well as I do, that the mark isn’t the issue. Your response is.” 20 years later, I have to put that advice in to practice. Sometimes you just have to prioritise, Hepzibah, get over yourself.
So, I am going to grit my teeth. Do points 1-7. Have fun with my family. Enjoy my time away with some of the most wonderful people I know. Walk the pups lots. Watch films. Read novels. Crochet and colour. Make and bake. Sleep. Eat. (maybe drink the odd baileys) and replenish the reserves ready for the next bit.
I know that for many who read my blog, Christmas is a painful time. Hanker down.You’ve got this far. You can do it.
Thanks for listening.