Monday, April 11, 2016

Am I good enough to be good enough?


"I just feel like no matter what I do lately, it isn't good enough."

My daughter said that to me on the way home from a cookout last night. She was crying and had curled into a ball in the passenger seat. There is nothing harder than seeing your teenage daughter cry and knowing there isn't really much you can do other than listen.

I wanted to assure her that she *is* good enough. I wanted to tell her all the amazing pieces of her I see. How proud I am of her working so hard at being a good lacrosse goalie, how excited I am and how amazing I think it is, that for her 16th birthday she wants to put together a list of 50 random acts of kindness and then have her friends run around and do them with her to celebrate. How wonderful I think it is that she volunteers at *least* once a month at the food bank, and on her vacation days she does more. How impressed I am that she is so kind and welcoming to new kids at our school. How much people respect and admire her for *her* not for the things she does, but because of who she is. How funny I think she is, and how much I love how often we laugh with each other. How I respect her dedication to doing well in school, and that even when it is frustrating she doesn't give up.

But I didn't say any of that. I was in protective mode and I knew that by saying anything I would likely only make things worse. Sometimes, it doesn't help that your mom thinks you are amazing.

I think the hardest part, was driving in silence and while she blew her nose,  thinking about all the times in my life that I have felt not good enough. How many times I have looked to others to like myself - and chosen poor reflections as mirrors.

I have come to the realization that some people in my life are what I call, "Diminishers". Diminishers are the people who remind you that you are good... but not quite good enough.

I have a history of dating and having Diminishers in my life - they reinforce my own fears that I am not good enough. Not all, but many of the guys I have dated have been that way. "You're really nice, but I'm just waiting for you to be crazy like my ex." or "Why should I say nice things to you - it will only increase your lack of self esteem." or "You know, you are a terrible story teller." or  "Here is a list of things if you just changed, I'd love you more." or "Do you know who sings this song on the radio?" (I say something like 'Madonna') he'd laugh and say, "Let's keep it that way."

Even some of my former friends were diminishers. The ones that would always find that ONE thing and point it out - "Cute dress, but you seriously need to get your toes done!" I had one female friend, who would start every letter telling me why she loved me, then would spend the rest of the letter telling me all the things that I did wrong that hurt her feelings and how I needed to change to 'meet her needs' as a friend. I was friends with her for almost 20 years when I finally had enough - every letter made me cry and every letter made me doubt myself and my place in the world. There is obviously a reason for the word 'former'.

A Diminisher in your life is someone who can't ever *quite* be kind to you. Can't love you for who you are. Someone who, I suspect, is actually envious of your place in the world and wants to 'knock you down a few pegs'.

To be clear, that doesn't mean I don't want feedback. My sister is queen of telling me the truth, but when she tells me the truth it isn't to tear me down, it's to build me up. True friends help me see a behavior or habit that isn't helping me further my goals. That is different. I want people to be honest. What I don't want are the habitually negative people in my life who want to make sure I know I'm 'almost' good enough.

I know my feelings of 'not good enough' stem from a complicated childhood, and this article in Psychology Today explains a lot of the reasons people struggle with not feeling good enough.

What I have realized in my life, is that I am done with Diminishers. I am done with people who are narcissists and people who by nature, tear down - not build up. But more importantly, I am done with needing someone else to confirm my own worthiness. Because people you love sometimes go silent after telling you they love you, people leave, people change. But by building up my own self awareness, when those people come and go, my sense of goodness, my sense of place in the world, my sense of my own power doesn't diminish with their leaving.

I will continue to help my daughter build up that strength inside to know that she is an amazing young woman. She has her faults - we all do, but my hope is that when someone teases her or is mean to her - she will have the fortitude to recognize that the cruelty of another person is a reflection of THAT person, not a reflection of her. It's a lesson that took me much too long to learn.




Roberta said...

Thank you, MaryKate, for sharing your heartfelt writings. The concept of diminishers is new to me, but resonates. Yes, those people need to be dumped in the Goodwill bin, as one does cast-off clothing after a spring cleaning. Hugs to you as your prove once again, you're an amazing Mom.

MaryKate M said...

Thank you, Roberta. <3 Your friendship means so much to me... I know we don't see each other very often, but I truly appreciate having you in my life. <3

Kate said...

Thanks for being in my life and for articulating so many important things so beautifully.

MaryKate M said...

Love you, Kate <3