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Why Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

The power of identity is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior.

I am an avid yoga student. I find it’s a great practice for my physical and mental well-being. The particular studio I attend has a tradition where the instructor begins the class by offering the students an intention for the hour of practice. On a recent evening, the teacher began the class by offering the intention of trust. At the conclusion of class, the instructor spoke about why she chose that particular intention. She explained that she is in the third month of a new job (she teaches yoga in the evenings on the side), and that she is working with an incredibly talented group of colleagues – so talented that she often questions her own intelligence and ability. Trusting herself, she shared, allows her to feel that she’s “good enough.”


I immediately appreciated and was moved by her vulnerability. The practice of self-acceptance is an incredibly important one. For many, it is a healthy, valuable discipline that allows one to move from a place of self-doubt or even self-loathing to a place of self-compassion and self-assuredness. As class ended, however, I found myself questioning the notion of good enough. “This woman isn’t good enough,” I thought. “She is extraordinary. Why would she be denying herself the gift of that belief?”


I have written quite a bit about the power of self-image or identity. I argue that identity is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior. Everyone has an identity and can take only those actions consistent with that identity. I believe that an unexamined identity is the most significant constraint on one’s potential. “Good enough” is a much healthier and stronger identity, of course, than “not good enough.” And yet, a “good enough” identity robs the person of so much more. Good enough implies just that. A person who is good enough is sufficient. He or she meets the bar but doesn’t exceed it. A person with a “good enough” identity will take actions and get results in life that are just good enough. So, although this is much better than not good enough, it is far short of the full potential which most people are capable of reaching.


I left class that evening thinking about the nuanced implications of the beliefs we hold about ourselves. The consequences of a negative self-image are clear. Less apparent, however, are the subtle limitations of otherwise well-intended, healthy beliefs about self-sufficiency. Paradoxically, beliefs like “I am sufficient” or “I am good enough” may be the most limiting. Simply put, good enough is not good enough.

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