March 16, 2010

The Not Good Enoughs

Have you met the Not Good Enoughs? They are a large family, and some of them live in my brain. I'm guessing they're camped in the back right curve of my skull where it always feels like I've slept on my ponytail. There's Not Good Enough Mother, Not Good Enough Writer, Not Good Enough Wife, Not Good Enough Daughter. I could go on.

Often their cousin Not Smart Enough visits for an undetermined amount of time. He's one of those slacker relatives who sits on the couch for weeks watching TV and not helping with the tidying up.

Ok, I don't really have a real-life relative like that, but I have an idea about how much that visit would make my head throb.

My friend Laura says that my thinking I'm not smart is a lot like a skinny person looking in the mirror and saying, "I'm so fat." I had a friend like that once, and that conversation went stale faster than a McDonald's Happy Meal, so I have to remember to thank Laura for putting up with my insecurities for the last fifteen years.

I could blame it on my dad, who used to sing to me, "Fish Head, Fish Head, dumber than most kids, the dumbest we know. . ." to the tune of "Flipper," but it's long since past time to get over that old hurt. Although, Fish Head Soup is my little way of reclaiming the epithet.

So I have this new friendly neighborhood therapist. Actually, she's not in my neighborhood at all, but that's neither here nor there. She wants me to evict the Not Good Enoughs and their relatives, and insists that if I write argumentative responses to my negative thoughts, in Stewart-Smalleyesque fashion, these thoughts will run away.

I haven't been able to do it. Partly I haven't taken the time, and partly I am unable to come up with a response, which just perpetuates the cycle of ugliness. So now I'm wondering why I'm so reluctant to give up these thoughts. They must be doing something for me. I haven't quite figured out what that is, but I think it might have something to do with giving up, or with not taking risks, or trying at all. If I'm not going to succeed because I'm not good enough, I shouldn't even bother, right? I should just be slothful, sit on the couch, watch TV.

Since I've been thinking about writing this blog I've had Shel Silverstein's "Listen to the Mustn'ts" stuck in my head, but I could only remember the first five lines.

Listen to the MUSN'TS, child,
Listen to the DONT'S
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES. . .

Just now I cracked open my ancient copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends and found the last lines:

Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen child,
ANYTHING can be.

Enough said.


Anonymous said...

I have something to say about all this but I'll call you. Love you, Love Mom

Lisa Rivero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Rivero said...

Oh, can I ever relate to this! Thank you for writing about a rather painful experience in such an engaging and delightful way. It reminds me a bit of this article about women and the Impostor Syndrome:

(I tried posting the link before and it didn't work, so I'm just using the URL this time.)

Laura Grodrian said...

Okay, move over Trisha. I'm going to toot your horn FOR you.

Here are five things about Trish that I LOVE:

1. Her inventiveness with words that makes me feel so proud AND so jealous.
2. Her dogged determination and dedication when it comes to writing.
3. Recognizing how important it was for O (and herself) to be a stay-at-home mom even when the dough was not plentiful. She did it anyway and raised a beautiful girl.
4. She is an example to everyone of what a true friend is. I should know. She quit a job she needed so she could be there for me in my time of need.
5. Trish is a free spirit. She is willing and joyful and always up for anything from a pedicure to a pregnant photo shoot.

Dear Trishie, when I look at you I see ANYTHING but ignorance and inadequacy. You are a SUCCESS. And you're my best friend.
Love you.

Patricia Caspers said...

Thanks for the link, Lisa! I shared it. I wonder how many women are carrying this worry around with them. I need a support group! :D

L, thanks for always being my cheerleader!

My Little Cuties said...

I do think we all carry around some version of this worry with us. I wish I knew how to get rid of mine.

Irene said...

You know that little gasping sound you make when something strikes you as true? Well, the statement "If I'm not good enough...I may as well not even try..". did it for me. How many times has that scrolled across the screen in my head?! What a creative, well written and inspiring blog! I love it and will be back. You're great!