Good Enough, Getting Better
Andrew R. Warnecke, MA, LPC
One of the biggest problems I deal with on the couch is shame. Shame is a big player in a lot of our human dysfunction. I explain to clients that guilt is “feeling bad about what we have done or have not done.” Shame however, is “feeling bad about who we are.” Shame is feeling less than, not measuring up, or feeling worth less than others. We learn early in our development that we are constantly being compared to one another. In the family of origin it usually starts with some family cliché like the “the smart one, the pretty one, or the creative one” or worse… “the dumb one, the lazy one, or the ugly one.” The thing about shame is that it is universal, and all of us have to deal with not being as good, athletic, pretty, handsome, strong, smart, tall, cool, rich, etc. as someone else.
I have been watching a lot of the Olympics this summer, and it’s amazing how few of us are the “best” in the world at something, anything. I love that we are competitive and that we all have uniqueness, but this is truly a double-edged sword if we don’t have a way of finding equality in ourselves. I know that I can’t compete with an Olympic sprinter, but I feel that I am as good as anyone else on Earth as a person.
Shame becomes toxic if we don’t have the coping skills to get past the “I am not good enough” syndrome to begin the “good enough, getting better” process. I believe that people who don’t make this transition become embittered and begin the process of hurting themselves and others. So as a counselor, I help people change the way they feel about themselves, others, and the world they live in. I had another client who was interested in telling her story. She is a wonderful woman who has made considerable progress and has all but erased her shame base. She now for the most part feels good enough about herself, so she will consistently get better. Below is her story…
I first met Andy three years ago. A series of bad choices had set me back personally and professionally, and I was looking for some guidance to set myself straight.
I have seen other counselors before. I went to two rehabs in the 90s and continued to see therapists after that, so I’m no stranger to the concept. You sit in the chair, you talk about your problems, and you come up with solutions. Sometimes those solutions stick, but often they don’t. The enthusiasm wanes, you get busy, and eventually you stop going.
When I entered Andy’s office for the first time, he told me he was my brother in humanity and loved me for it. I knew at that moment this was going to be a completely different experience.
Andy practices love-based therapy. He makes it clear every time I see him that he cares deeply about me and my family and wants the best for us. He is so sincere in his expression that I trusted him almost immediately. Because I trust him so much, he’s been able to guide me through some pretty challenging emotions and push me through to the other side with a new sense of self-acceptance and purpose.
It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies though. Emotional growth is tough, and Andy has the battle scars to prove it. I’ve thrown a box of tissues at him, and he has a shrine in the corner of his office to the moment I was so mad at him that I kicked my shoes off and damaged his freshly painted wall. But because he believes so strongly in the power of love, he’s forgiven me and welcomed me back again and again.
Andy quotes historical figures, philosophers, poets, and other self-help professionals when we’re together. He is a very well-read man. Of all the expressions I’ve heard him say, the one that sticks with me most is “good enough, getting better.” I would often have a hard time coming up with something positive to say about my position in life, and Andy would suggest, “How about ‘good enough, getting better?’”
There is something incredibly positive about that phrase. It constitutes forward motion and getting un-stuck. It reminds me that even if things are tough, I’m working on them, and my situation will eventually improve if I keep trying.
One of my challenges was doing what other people wanted me to do instead of doing what made me happy. With Andy’s encouragement, I have combined two things I enjoy (writing and cooking) into a food blog that I launched this month. It is called Home Cooks Unite! (homecooksunite.com), and celebrates the recipes that bring families together. It is a reflection of the things that I love, and I did it on my own. It has un-stuck me.
I’ve come a long way since I first entered Andy’s office. I’ve learned that even if life gets tricky, there’s always a way to work through it, learn from it, and grow as a mother, as a wife, as a woman. Life is always… “good enough, getting better.”