I saw someone tweet recently “I don’t want to be told I can do anything if I put my mind to it, I want to be told that what I can do is good enough” (@brookewinters33). It really struck me.
This is something you hear so often…”you can do anything if you put your mind to it”. We tell our kids that all the time in an attempt to inspire and motivate them to go forth and live their lives, particularly when they face challenges such as disability or health conditions. I have no issue with lifting our kids up and ensuring they take the path they want in life, and I encourage their imaginations and dreams. But the thing is, that is not really true is it? Can you really do anything? And if you can’t do everything, does that make you not good enough?
I mean I can tell you now that when I was in school, no matter how hard I tried, I was just terrible at sprinting. My body is NOT made to run fast. It was however quite good at running long distance, at sticking at something, hanging on for the long haul and putting up with the slog of it all. Held me in good stead when I got type 1 diabetes. I was also not that great at jumping, mind you I was put in the hurdles quite a lot, but you can bet that quite a lot of those hurdles were in the flat position once I had hurtled down the lane – and now I am quite good at smashing down barriers that get in my way. I was also quite good at the strength activities like throwing the shotput, and I even competed in the interschool cross country on one occasion. Let’s forget that my best friend and I had to go to the toilet right before it started and the bus leaving to the starting point left us behind…and we cried as we were taken late to the start, meaning we were not even in the running..so to speak. Because I was not that athletic, the PE teacher made my life hell…and being picked towards the end of the group for sports teams was no picnic.
As I grew up, despite being an “A” student in many areas and having lots of talents, it was the lack of other talents that plagued me. My overweight body, my type 1 diabetes and in fact even my intelligence, added to this feeling of being “not good enough”, an outsider, a loser. I was even told that by some people. I was bullied by girls and put down by men. I remember as clear as if it were today, one of my first “boyfriends”, who was 5 years older than me and already an adult, telling me that “you would be so pretty if you just lost some weight”…..I felt not good enough when I was dumped by the love of my young life for the other woman, even though he told me I was too smart to stick around the country town where I grew up and needed to go find my future at university in the big smoke. I felt not good enough as I embarked on my social work degree and career, as part of a small group of “test pilots” they let into the degree straight from school, rather than having some “life experience” first. We were seen as the “babies” and it took me a very long time in my working life to feel like an equal to my colleagues. I felt not good enough when I was in an abusive relationship and later, a disengaged one. I felt not good enough when I could not gain control of my type 1 diabetes, particularly during pregnancy. Not good enough as a mother when my babies had reflux and wouldn’t sleep…ever…. Not good enough when I could not breastfeed my first baby after weeks of trying and he nearly faded away..not good enough when I had to leave my work in social work due to post traumatic stress…..not good enough.
The thing about all these “not good enoughs” is that they overshadow the things you can do, and have done. They can take away from the celebration of your life. If someone tells you that you can overcome your challenges and do whatever it is you like in life if you just set your mind to it, or that if you could just strive to do this or that thing, it implies that there has to be “more”, that what you can do, what you have done, and who you are, is simply not “good enough”.
What if you were to celebrate simply who you are and what you do right now. Who you are is remarkable. Not for what you do or don’t do, what you achieve or don’t, but just for being glorious you. Pure and simple, the person you are is valued, important for who you are. Whilst I agree we need to encourage our children and ourselves to go for it and find what we want to do in life, to learn new skills and to never give up, I also think it is wrong of us to think we can do “anything” if we just set our mind to it. It is a bit like telling people “oh you know my millions were made because of all the hard work, you can do anything if you just work hard enough”…nope…done that…worked harder than anyone I know….didn’t make the millions.
I have grown to celebrate who I am and all that makes up my life. I have learned to value all of the experiences that have led me to where I am now, and I adore my life, in all of it’s ups and downs and in betweens. I do strive and I do reach for more. That is who I am. I want to learn more all the time and see what else there is on offer. But I also recognise that I am a fabulous human being. Measuring yourself by some invisible stick is not helpful for your health and wellbeing. Even the words “good enough” could be taken as some kind of “settling”, therefore implying that you are “just ok”. That is not the intention of this story. The intention is to say that who you are, the person you are, that is magnificent. That you can just be YOU, without rushing around checking and measuring yourself against the range of opportunities to do that out there in the world. Social media has dealt us one tricky hand when it comes to that.
When you live with diabetes there are so many opportunities for you to feel that you are not good enough and the idea that if you just set your mind to it you can achieve an HbA1c of 5%. Life seems to become all about the numbers. Can’t go to the gym without a hypo? Not good enough. Can’t keep your blood glucose under 6 mmol at all times? Not good enough. Developed some complications? Not good enough and your fault for not working hard enough. Overweight? Not good enough and your own fault you got type 2 diabetes anyway……In just one simple day as you wake up, wipe the sleep from your crumpled face, and flip open your blood glucose machine before your feet even hit the floor, there is an opportunity to say “you are not good enough”. Those numbers on the screen can taunt you endlessly and make you feel like everything you do is rubbish and if you just set your mind to it you could do better.
I am telling you though that this is lies all lies.
Greatness can be found in miniscule moments. We need to redefine the idea of “greatness”. Nobody needs to be told how remarkable they are because they did something any ordinary person can do – that is not what I am saying here. I don’t want to be told how “amazing” I am just because I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 38 years, or that I manage my life, as well as my diabetes. That is not remarkable. Many people live with extraordinary challenges and get on with life, it is what we do. I am also not telling you not to strive, if that is what you want or need to do. It is not about copping out and accepting less than adequate health, or dropping your bundle when it comes to caring for yourself. You still need to have goals and work towards things that matter and we most certainly need to give our children the messages that they can reach for the stars no matter what.
What I am saying is that whatever you choose to do in your life, whatever it is that makes a life for you, whatever your capabilities are, wherever you are right now – that is greatness. It is in fact, MORE than good enough. The numbers on your blood machine, or the scales, your choice of partner, your work choices, your decisions about having a family, the way you look and the clothes you wear – these are not some kind of test about your value in the world. It’s time to tell yourself that life is not about being able to do “anything” and most certainly not about measuring yourself. It is about living it as well as possible, here and now. It is about being comfortable with you are and your own personal dreams, desires and happiness. Isn’t it about time we started telling ourselves that?