D.W. Winnicott talks about the ‘good enough’ parent.
“In my terminology the good-enough mother is able to meet the needs of her infant at the beginning, and to meet these needs so well that the infant, as emergence from the matrix of the infant-mother relationship takes place, is able to have a brief experience of omnipotence. (This has to be distinguished from omnipotence, which is the name given to a quality of feeling.)” (Winnicott, p.57)1
This allows the child’s ego to begin developing where the child is forming “primitive mental mechanisms” (Winnicott, p.9) 1
All my life I have battled with not feeling good enough to those around me. That’s not to say my upbringing was terrible, I think I turned out ok, I personally don’t think anyone can raise a perfect child. What is this notion of ‘perfect’ anyway?
For years, in my own mind, I had this picture of my ‘perfect’ life, following a ‘perfect’ timeline; and doing everything ‘perfectly’.
I use the term ‘perfect’ in this way as it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact perfection is merely a figment of my imagination. A concoction of my fantasy to be living this ideal life that doesn’t exist, but has been created through a mixture of social construction and family pressure.
Don’t get me wrong, I still battle with this a lot of the time, with lots of should’s running through my mind on a daily basis, but I do my best at the time and try to remember that what I am doing is ‘good enough’ in that moment.
Being self aware this way can be very difficult, as I constantly end up questioning myself and thinking about my actions. It’s just one of things being a therapist I guess.
I digress slightly from the topic at hand, but it felt important to think about my own battle with feeling good enough.
I see a lot of mothers around me lately, trying to be the ‘perfect parent’, it’s curious to me as all their ideas are so different. I even do it when out and about, if my little one cries, I look around, feeling judged and mouth ‘sorry, sorry’ to anyone who looks over. I guess the question I ask myself thoughtfully is ‘what does a ‘perfect parent’ mean?’
There are so many ideas of what we should be doing, this post could be endless thinking about it.
A very amusing video I saw on YouTube was about a message from women, which you can here. (Please note it has swearing in it)
There are lots of different ideas in there. It just makes me wonder if everyone did think the same then what might the human race be like? This video shows that no matter what you do, judgement follows, but is this also part of human nature?
Is perfection a socially constructed idea that the masses have put out there for something to strive for? Or is it something the individual has constructed in their own mind as to how their life and thoughts should be?
Will there ever be a time where who we are and what we believe will just be, good enough?
I’ve always felt like I have had something to prove to others, as I said earlier. I’ve always felt I’ve needed external validation. Whether that be for who I am or my career choice. It’s incredibly difficult for me to internally validate myself, as honestly, I don’t really know how. But, I work on this element of myself every day, especially now I have a child.
I worry that he may not feel ‘good enough’ growing up, but I’m hoping my awareness of this will enable me to provide him with the he confidence that, if you try your best, then you are definitely ‘good enough’.
- Winnicott, D.W. (1965) The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 64. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. pp. 1-276.