What Is 'Enough'?
At what point is what we do ever enough?
I don’t mean this from the standpoint of others not being satisfied with what we’ve done or them questioning our ability to do things for them. I'm not asking it from the standpoint of exasperation we have with others in specific situations ("Gosh, when is it ever enough for him/her?").
I’m talking about it from an internal perspective. I’m talking about our own ability to be comfortable with ourselves regarding what we’ve achieved, who we’ve helped and the effort we’ve put in.
It’s something I struggle with constantly. Should I have made one more call? Should I have reached out a little more? Could I have done something more to help that that family member or that colleague?
Because as much as I think I’ve achieved or done something positive, a part of me always questions if it could have been better, or if something more could have been done. Or should have been done.
Look, I honestly don’t know if this is a good trait to have or not. On the one hand, it suggests a sense of constant improvement - to do more, to help more, to be more. On the other, though, it could be a setup for constantly falling short - that the success (broadly defined) that has been achieved is never good enough. I can’t imagine that’s a healthy place to be.
I suppose one parameter to evaluate whether the sense is good or bad is what’s driving the perception. Is it an outward focused comparison - in other words, am I making this judgement based on the opinions, standards and points of view of others?
Evaluating your life by someone else’s standards is a recipe for failure. I know that for a fact. When you’re constantly striving to attain what looks good, what others suggest is success, you will never be happy. You will never be good enough because there’s always - always - someone who’s doing better than you are.
Another parameter, though, would be our own personal sense of whether we’ve done “our best”. Did I put all the effort in that I could? Did I not put my best foot forward?
I realize this is a judgement call in and of itself and frankly, is what gets to the root of the problem. At what point do we give ourselves permission to accept where we are as valid, and based on the best we could have done versus the result of an intentional lack of commitment. (As compared to a lack of education i.e. not knowing what to do in a situation.)
Getting to a realization of what is ‘enough’ is the heart of the challenge. What are the elements to be able to make this judgement?
I’m not suggesting I know the answers - I don’t, which is why I suppose I’m writing this. But I’ve got a few ideas as to what some of those elements could be.
Part of it involves setting the right standards. Our own - with input from elsewhere, certainly, but finally determined based on what we value.
Part of it is doing what we think is right. A sense of appropriateness based on our values and how much we value what we are doing.
Part of it is putting in the work. The judgement can’t be an excuse for laziness. Effort is essential.
Yes, part of it must involve ‘sacrifice’ of some sort. We must give of ourselves physically, emotionally, financially, whichever is necessary for the situation at hand.
Again, I don’t know if those are all the elements necessary to make the judgement. But they feel like some of the right ones. The ones that move the needle, so to speak.
And if that’s the case, then maybe they can help us. For those times when we’re down on ourselves for not being good enough. For those times when we question whether our best was truly our best. For those times when we continue to beat ourselves up.
Yes, I know sometimes we’ll find we could have done more. That we gave up too easily or weren’t open or caring or vulnerable enough. Yes, in those instances , we’ll find we’ve fallen short. That’s reality, that’s life. We need to learn from it and move on.
But other times, if we’re being reasonable, if we’re being thoughtful? If we feel we’ve hit the mark on all of those parameters?
Perhaps then, in those instances, we can let ourselves be at peace. We can be kinder to ourselves. We can stop beating ourselves up. Because then, what we’ve done is - for us - enough.