Why be perfect when you can be good-enough?

The world we live in has become a place of “be perfect or be judged”. That is a tough ask for anyone and anything. People will fail…people will stumble…people will not have ll the answers, even if they are experts in a certain topic… yet we expect everyone to perform as if they will never fail, stumble…as if they have all the answers…

Photoshop, Facebook, and other social media apps and computer technologies, helps some people seem “perfect”–we only show our best side on these platforms, don’t we?But they/we  really aren’t perfect. Don’t get me wrong, They might still be beautiful, intelligent and wonderful people, but even they would say that they are far from perfect.

Striving for perfection will cause all sorts of problems for us. We will become stressed, anxious, depressed, angry, obsessed with performing well at all times…we will fear being judged and looked at with less than admiration… (Benson, 2003)

Don’t get me wrong – go the extra mile at work or in your home life. Nothing wrong with that. In fact it is great to be able to be kind to the ones we love, and achieve at work, and be recognised for it.

But if going that extra mile gets you down, stresses you out, makes you ill (psychologically and physically), then why would you want to keep going down this path…

Why not be good-enough instead?

Winnicott theorised about the good-enough mother. He said that the good-enough-mother will nurture her child in such a way that the child’s needs are met fully, but then gradually, she will need to disappoint the child –something that happens naturally and without planning– by leading the child to realise that his mother is not an extension of him/herself, and that mother has other things that take her attention – life will get in the way, mum needs a shower, the toilet, to answer the phone, to go to work, etc.

The child might be initially frustrated and confused by this, but the mother’s nurturing and predictable presence will lead the child to learn how to become an independent being, and to recognise that the mother is also an independent being. The child then can become autonomous.

On the other hand, “a too-good mother or a not-good-enough one, both obstruct self-formation and interfere with the development of an autonomous self. The former does so by contributing to the illusion that the world is an extension of ‘me’ while the later provides so much disillusionment that the child never learns to trust the outside world.” (Bingham and Sidorkin; pg.115)

Now, the question prevails: why be perfect, when you can be good enough?

Why struggle with the pressures of being perfect, of being too-good, rather than accepting that we won’t always get it right, that we will not always know all the answers, that there is no need to suffer to be accepted, and that whoever accepts you will do so for who you are, and not what society expects you to be?

Why not choose a happy, calm, good-enough life, that won’t make us physically or psychologically ill – of course there will be bumps along the road, we can’t avoid that in life, but we can make it easier to manage, through therapy or just through acceptance of who we are no matter what , no matter what anyone else thinks…

That is pretty good-enough, isn’t it? I think so…

Leave me a comment below if you have anything to add, any questions or feedback…



Bingham, C.W., and Sidorkin, A.M. (2004), No education without relation. Peter Lang Publishing

Benson, E. (November 2003) The Many faces of perfectionism. Available at: http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov03/manyfaces.aspx. Monitor on Psychology. American Psychological Association.

4 responses

  1. I think that as therapists we also have to fail our clients. Hopefullly, not in a huge way, but just in small ways.an inaccurate interpretation, an ‘off’ day, running late, taking a holiday, being ill. Any of those and more besides. I find that in sessions we often gain more from me getting things wrong, than we do when I am brilliant.


    • Dear Rob,
      Thanks very much for your comment.
      I agree. As therapist we are offering a “re-mothering” and reframing of the clients’ experiences, and in this we are mirroring their relationships with their primary carers, in many ways. Disappointment is part of the process, and an important part of it as well. It opens up discussion and an opportunity to process feelings that might be stuck or hidden for different reasons.


  2. Great post! As a mother I can relate to trying to be this too good mom, and when I can’t be which is more often than I care for, I am filled with guilt. Life can be exhausting,when you don’t have a growing 8 year old who eats every 30 minutes (LOL). I enjoyed this post because it makes me feel a little better about not always being able to meet my sons every need 24/7. I definitely work to do the best I can within my capabilities. I look forward to reading more of your articles. 🙂 – Laila


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