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How I became "good enough"

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

By age 13 I knew very well what being good enough meant:

To be good enough is to be the smart, dutiful, mature daughter who always listens, always brings home good grades, always has beautiful handwriting, and cares a lot about who won the Nobel peace prize that year.

Meanwhile, I was… not that.

No matter how many after-school math lessons they sent me to.

No matter how many PBS shows they imbued me with.

No matter how much they said, “Why can’t you be more like Stacy? Or Holly? Or Julie?”

It’s not that I didn’t try.

In middle school, I observed the Stacy-Holly-Julies. The way they sat up front and used their sparkly Jelly Roll pens to accentuate their font-like notetaking. The way they used Sanrio stickers in their school planners, how they had a color-coded highlighter system and rows of neatly aligned neon post-it tabs sticking out of their books. How they wore dainty gold jewelry, how they crossed one leg over the other, how they exuded effortless feminine cool-girl vibes just by breathing.

And in the midst of trying super hard to take notes as beautifully as they did, my mind would go straight out the window, daydreaming about how surprised and overjoyed my parents would be if I magically transformed myself into a Stacy-Holly-Julie.

"I'm going to do it," I thought dreamily to myself, with sudden fervor. "I'm going to impress them! I'm going to make a beautifully labeled homework schedule on my corkboard! I'm going to list all my classes and exams! I'm going to clean off my desk and neatly file my notes into a binder!"

So I did. I spent all afternoon and evening reorganizing my room into what I imagined a Stacy-Holly-Julie bedroom would look like. I purged all signs of my messy, artsy, grumpy, childish old self; vowing to no longer be that person. And when my parents peeked into my room at bedtime, they were so impressed! Their eyes lit up. They praised me. "Wow!" They said. "It's like having a new daughter!"

And I basked. I soaked up every last bit of their approval, tucking into bed with a smug smile. This is the start of finally being something special!

The next day at school came and went. And while sitting at my Stacy-Holly-Julie desk surrounded by my neatly stacked textbooks, I realized that I would now have to actually do Stacy-Holly-Julie things. Things such as happily absorbing myself in this John Quincy Adams chapter and answering two(!) pages of boring-ass questions. And then I had to do MATH. And then I had to study for my science EXAM.

AND. Most importantly, I had to be POSITIVE and PERFECT while doing all of this.

NO complaining, no sloppiness, no bored frustration. Just focused studiousness.

And this is when I would realize: I just wasn't good enough.

I just wasn't.

I wasn't good enough to find formulas and treaties and dates fascinating.

I wasn't good enough to revel in gorgeous handwriting and 4.0 grades.

I wasn't good enough to be wholesome and dutiful.

I couldn't fill my parent's lives with joy and pride.

They didn't get a precocious child. They got mediocre, un-special Me.


But then, I got a boyfriend.

Despite my sheer lacking of noteworthiness, I somehow tricked someone into thinking I was a little bit special. Special enough to ask me to be his girlfriend, and then want to hold my hand.

Even with all the Stacy-Holly-Julies in the world, he wanted me!

He didn't care that I wasn't in the math club or that I wrote wild fiction stories during class. And in fact, he was impressed by my drawing abilities! He loved my silly humor and that I was a band geek who hung out in the library.

He thought that these things were special, stand-out-able, desirable.

For once, I was good enough.

The world opened up in full color. I looked in the mirror and suddenly saw all these naturally attractive traits that were completely unremarkable to me before I was his. I was someone's girlfriend. I had a boyfriend. I was now officially validated as Someone Who is Good Enough!

It was truly magical, heady times.

But then... I discovered that there were Laura-Ayumi-Shannons.

I mean I'd always known of their existence. I just didn't think much of it.

But to my boyfriend, they had something.

Something beyond my natural way of being.

Laura-Ayumi-Shannons would squinch up their bodies and put a hand over their mouth as they giggled shyly at his jokes. They wore leggings under their casual dresses, and sported bangs and checkered Converse shoes. They were really good at Nintendo. They were chipper and fun and cool enough to have mini Polaroid cameras (in pastel colors) with anime stickers all over them.

"Check out this photo Laura took of me!", my boyfriend said excitedly. "So frickin' cool! She said I could keep it too! She's so sweet. "

Suddenly, I realized I'd been living a lie:

I wasn't actually good enough.

My style wasn't cute enough. The pitch of my voice was too low and masculine. I needed to be more girly, more sweet, more innocent. I needed to watch more anime, learn how to play some video games...somehow...since my parents didn't let me own a gaming system.

And that is when it all started.

I began to believe that I'd be significant and good enough again, if only I could just incorporate these special traits to fix my current personality. Of course he'd want a girl who acts more like a girl! How dumb of me to just let myself be so aloof and tomboyish all this time! If I want to be a good girlfriend, I'll have to be a good GIRLfriend.

And just like how I attempted to change my room in order to be more for my parents, I began to slightly adjust the way I talked, the way I carried myself, the things I was interested in -- to be more "good enough" in his eyes.

"This is love," I thought. "Because I love him, of course I'll do anything to improve myself for him!"

The Laura-Ayumi-Shannons hung on his every word, so I let him do all the talking when we were on the phone. I made sure to giggle cutely at his jokes. I tried my best to have a sweeter speaking voice.

This is self-improvement, I told myself. It's good that I'm learning to get my shit together now, or else I wouldn't have realized how unattractively un-feminine I was!

I no longer saw my favorite t-shirts as cool and comfortable. Now they were simply not girly enough. Rock music was out, and hyper-pop was in. I tried to wear what few dresses I had, but hated it, mostly because it wasn't the right style and I looked like I was going to a funeral instead of to Fun Factory to play DDR.

And I waited for the magical elation to return. I waited for him to see that I was JUST as special -- if not more -- than the Laura-Ayumi-Shannons. I waited to look in the mirror and feel just as in love with what I saw as I did in the beginning our relationship.

Instead, of course, we broke up. Because I had become quiet and uninteresting -- almost a shadow of a person, and he was already talking to a Laura-Ayumi-Shannon with bleach-blonde hair and really cute jeans.


I blamed it all on myself. Not because I had tried to revolve my identity around his preferences, but because I had fallen short. I didn't fix myself in time. I wasn't good enough quick enough.

And with each new boyfriend I would think, "This time it'll be different. I'll be good enough as is. I've improved myself from last time."

And I'd feel amazing and magical! And then, inevitably, there'd be yet another flavor of Good Enough that I hadn't known existed.

There were the Nicole-Candy-Britneys, who had carefree adventurous attitudes and mismatched bikinis.

There were the Rae-Whitney-Lianes who loved to party, have sex, and ride on the back of motorcycles.

There were the Cheyenne-Kate-Justines who were stoner-philosophers, artsy, chill, and wore flowy tops and peasant skirts.

And there were the Adriana-Natalie-Zaras who are loudly sassy yet worldly and smart, who know about European cuisine and go through life with spontaneous bursts of passion.

(Oh, and in my mind, they would all be way more loving and sweet and naturally compatible with my boyfriend than I was).

Meanwhile I was just Tracy, who was a little bit of a mix of all of these things, barely. Who was kinda sorta who she really was... but only when it was "acceptable" and "appropriate". And if my boyfriend liked that part of me. And so I was constantly on the lookout for what and how I needed to be. Constantly double checking for what I needed to diminish, what I needed to amplify.....

And I was getting really tired.

I was tired of trying so hard for years to find the magic formula to improve myself, and still not feeling good enough.

Plus, whenever I would desperately Google what more I could possibly do to be a good-enough partner, I kept seeing stuff about loving myself.

And I would sigh irritably.

What the hell would loving myself do for anyone? Ok, so I'm going to "love" my flaws, my inadequate personality, how I'm not cool and risk-taking enough, how I'm not sweet and girly enough, how I'm not driven and intelligent and worldly enough? And then what? I'd be a fool in love with this flawed, unworthy person.

Loving myself -- being myself -- felt gross. It felt stupid. It felt like just fluffy new-age bullshit meant to trick myself into feeling better without ever addressing all the things I needed to improve about myself.


And then I can love myself.


The o

ne day I hit rock bottom.

And this was during a time that I had every reason to feel good enough: I was living in what I thought was my dream city. I was living with my dream man. I was pursuing what I'd told everyone was my dream job. I had everyone nodding in approval.

But I was crying uncontrollably after I got home from "exciting" interviews.

I was sleeping alone in a cold loft at night while my boyfriend toiled away at deadlines downstairs.

I looked at the nightscape outside my window and felt utterly lost and alone.

I was turning 30 soon and had no idea who I actually was.

What would actually make me happy? I don't know.

What do I really want in life? I don't know!

Who do I really want to be, regardless of what someone else's "Good Enough" is? What? what do you mean? You mean just me setting my own standards for myself? Just based on what I'd think? I can't even imagine that, not without judging myself against what my parents and all my exes and my boyfriend have seemed to want me to be! I. Don't. Know.


Being good enough had been my pursuit for so long that I hadn't realized that there was any other way to strive.

There was always some kind of muse, some kind of other-person's-preferences standard to base myself off of and measure myself by.

If something felt off in my relationship, I'd consult the gold standard. Where was I falling short? Ah yes, something I can improve upon. Let me go do that.

"Just be yourself," sounded akin to: "Just give up. Just stop trying to be your best. Just settle for being mediocre and not good enough."

The moment true preferences surfaced within myself, I would immediately block them -- write them off, shut them down. "That doesn't sound good enough at all! Are you kidding yourself? That's exactly what will get you nowhere!"

I really think I'd prefer to wear all black, like minimalist clothing. Basics.

"What? BORING! Totally mediocre! You'll fade into the background! How will anyone see that you're creative and unique? Absolutely not, that's the opposite of what you want!"

And then I'd mourn that I lack any knowledge of my true personal style -- unaware of the sheer moment of genius that I'd just completely destroyed one second ago.

I'm tired of always being upbeat and loud around new people. What if I could just be how I really am? I'd still be friendly, just more chill and real....

"Stop thinking about that right now! You NEED to be as extroverted as possible in order to make people like you! Come on! Are you crazy? Everyone will think you're boring. You will be invisible! Remember how invisible you used to feel in high school?!"

And so then I'd get overly drunk, embarrassing myself in my forced attempt to be the life of the party -- while simultaneously wishing I just could naturally 'be myself' around others.

I naturally love creating, writing, making videos, drawing. I used to spend so many blissful hours doing those things as a kid. I've always known I'm meant to do something creative!

"Are you kidding me? You're not good enough at any of those things! They're not going to get you ahead in life! Look at that artist over there, and that writer! If you're not as good as they are by now, what's the point? You'll make a fool of yourself! You have to do something that IMPRESSES people!"

And that is exactly how I ended up at this dead-end. I'd one everything as right (based on other people) as I possibly could. Yet I imagining myself in the institutional profession I was heading towards made me feel desolate inside.

In a last ditch effort, with immense fear rising in my throat, I admitted it to myself in the loft mirror:



The term "inner genius" felt like more like "delusional, uncool, unattractive foolishness" at the time, but I had nothing else to stand on.

I'd tried everything else, and had been greatly let down by the results.

I'd respected the ideals I constructed of what boyfriends and parents and society wanted, only to be lead to a version of myself that STILL was far from feeling good enough.

Over and over again.

So I began humoring myself. "Ok, what if only my opinion of myself mattered? What if no one else cared? Who would I want to be? Who would my ideal "good enough" be?"

And instead of immediately knocking it back as foolish boring stupidity, I suspended my disbelief and chose to see genius.

I'd be living a life that only made sense to me. I'd be running my own creative business that was deeply helping others similar to me, to live a more fulfilling life. I'd have a whole head of colorful anime hair. I'd dress sleek and comfortably. I'd be fine with not being "cool" enough to others. I'd be fine with not being the life of the party. I'd still be working hard on things that mean a lot to me. I'd wake up much earlier, with purpose and excitement. I'd spend time in nature, under the stars. I'd stop trying to learn things in order to impress or be liked by others, and instead learn things that fascinate me. And I will NOT be boring by doing this. I will become naturally unique. Naturally special. Naturally good enough. I will be who I am. And I will still improve myself, but this time it will be for my own enjoyment -- not someone else's.

What if, in order to be as Good as I Can Get, I need to:

* Stop making myself wear dresses and heels when I really prefer not to.

* Stop trying to make beautiful art, and just draw and create and give to the world whatever comes out of me.

* Stop measuring my worthiness according to how 'perfect' I am for my boyfriend, and start doing things that feel perfect to me -- even if they make no sense to anyone else.

* Write. Write fiction. Write poems. Write things without over thinking them and trying to make them be 'right' for others.

* Mix and match aesthetics, philosophies, interests. I don't have to fit into a particular type of subculture. I don't have to make sense to how other people live their lives. I have to allow myself to go with whatever is actually working for me.

* Throw all the rules out the window. Catch myself in old judgements, picking apart my every move, my every emotion, every choice. I am starting anew.

What if, by going against everything I know, I actually:

* Attract genuine things, friends, opportunities, love, connections, into my life?

* Become more accepted and loved and respected than ever?

* Feel free and secure and inspired in my life?

* Enjoy being myself and feel in love with who I am?

* Finally find my own unique purpose, my own people?

The more I allowed myself to believe that all the ways I wasn't good enough, were actually bits of my own inner genius, little clues of wisdom, that would lead me closer and closer over time to my FULLEST and most ENOUGH self -- the more my life began to actually feel good.

I began waking up without immediately being met with crushing insecurity and a towering mental list of all the things I needed to "improve" upon and change with myself in order to ever feel special.

I began experiencing what it feels like to relax into who I really am.

And to my surprise, the world didn't banish me.

I wasn't shunned or disliked.

I didn't become invisible and forgettable.

I realized that the habit that I'd taken on at age 13 wasn't one that I needed to carry so far into my adult life anymore.

I could put it down. Let go of it. Release the habit of thinking, "who do I need to be for this person?".

I realized that I had never been nurtured into who I really was.

I was never taught to stop taking other people's ideals so seriously.

I was never told that all the boring, flawed, unimportant things were actually the sexiest, most special things about myself.

And that is what I want to tell you.


An exercise to find your own genius:

What if, in order to be as Good as I Can Get, I need to:

[ List everything you've been trying to do in order to be good enough, but deep down it doesn't feel good to who you really are. This could be from personal style choices, to things you're pursuing. Then, revise the list to say to do the opposite of those things. See my list above for reference. For example, I thought I needed to wear heels to be good enough in my boyfriend's eyes, so I could put "Stop making myself wear heels when I really don't want to."]

This is the new formula to you being MORE than good enough. Just suspend your disbelief and play with this idea.

What if, by going against everything I know, I actually:

[ List everything you've been trying to 'get' by trying to be good enough for others. Confidence? Success? Love? Freedom? Beautiful things? What are the things you most want to experience, regardless of what others think? ]

What if the ONLY way to get as close as possible to these things, is to do what you listed in the first question?

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