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Good Enough

By Awa Jangha

I really wanted this blog to be GREAT!  I wanted to write something deep, profound, and reflective of the academic letters that come after my name.  As I sat down to reflect upon the time we are living in (which required even more quality time with my computer screen), I desired to share the set of PERFECT words that would spark epiphanies, calm worries, and be healing through all means of virtual outreach.  What a tall order! Even in life prior to COVID-19 that expectation would have been unrealistic because nothing is perfect. The questions that then emerged shifted my perspective: 

Instead of producing something Great, can you accept the reality of it being GOOD ENOUGH?  Can you use this time to separate your functional capacity (which may be less than optimal) from the core of who you are (which is still special and loved through God’s eyes)?  Instead of expecting perfection from yourself or from others during this pandemic, can you give yourself and others the grace to be Good Enough? But, what is good enough?

The psychoanalyst & pediatrician, Donald Winnicott, introduced the term good enough mother within the context of parenting and human development.  The idea is that children do not need parents who are perfect, but who sometimes get it right with the ability to be there (providing what is needed) AND who sometimes do not know what to do, are not able to be there for every difficulty, and are not able to provide what is needed.  Instead of perfect parenting with perfect provision, presence, and proficiency… parents are good enough. They live out their humanity, which provides the opportunity to teach children how to become self-sufficient, how to tolerate distress, and how to be creative as they problem solve and excel in ways they did not know they could.   

In conversations with family and friends juggling the new experiences of working from home with young children of varying ages (some who require daycare and some homeschooling), this idea of being good enough is so relevant.  A three-year-old crashing a virtual work conference call with her rendition of her favorite Disney song, when considered through the lens of ‘good enough’ may even allow for laughter and humor to build within our culture a skill set of flexibility.  I am so glad that this concept expands beyond the context of parenting as it also applies to navigating uncertainty as well.

 We all respond to change differently, but one thing we have in common is that we are living through this time of social distancing and uncertainty together.  As much as we wish for certainty and answers, there are seasons in our lives when we do not have them and we are offered the opportunity to walk by faith. I think it would be unfair for us to hold up an expectation of perfection or even of our own individual optimal level of functioning at this point in our lives.  We can allow ourselves to be good enough. Sometimes that involves peeling back the complexity of the way we used to do things, and allowing for the simplicity of slowing down with the power of showing up. When we are able to show up when we do not know the answers, we offer a gift of being good enough that is amazing.  Show up to classes, show up to work, show up to the impromptu talent show that your children create, show up to private moments of reflection, show up to hold both the anxiety of this time and the slivers of joy within it as well. We can be good enough by showing up. We can also be good enough by appreciating when all that others are able to do at this time, is gift us with their presence. 

So, here is my good enough blog.  I present you with a hodge podge of things that have encouraged me as I showed up to read articles & social media posts, or listen to a sermon, or meet with colleagues.

  1. Body: Go for a walk (or even a prayer walk)- bilateral stimulation (alternating from the left to right) does wonders for your body.
  2. Mind: Limit how much news about the pandemic that you consume- just like you want a balanced diet in the food you eat, you want a balanced diet of the media you mentally consume.  Balance might come through small experiments of things like creating art, connecting with your support system, lectio divina, or learning to cook something new. 
  3. Heart: This semester the Spiritual Integration in Counseling Scholars (two current graduate counseling students) have been working with me through The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer.  The timing could not be better to use this resource which focuses on the use of self-compassion (the comfort you would give to others, you now give to yourself) when you experience suffering (as we all are in our own ways during this pandemic).  Neff & Germer (2018) identify 3 components of mindful self-compassion: 1) being mindful, 2) recognizing we have a common shared humanity (we are not alone in our experience of suffering), and 3) giving ourselves loving kindness. This does not make the suffering go away, but does help us to learn to sit with and bear the suffering.
  4. Spirit: I recently listened to a sermon that focused on Matthew 6:25-34.  The takeaway was to look to the birds in the air (yes even the grackles) and the flowers/lilies in the field (like the beautiful Texas wildflowers) to be an example of how they live without worry.  Seeing them each day can remind us that God does take care of God’s creation, that we have tools such as mindful self-compassion when we do inevitably worry or suffer, and that we are loved as Good Enough.

Questions:

What does good enough look like for you?

In what areas can you give yourself more grace to be good enough?

In what areas can you give others more grace to be good enough?

Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook: A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive. The Guildford Press.


Dr. Awa Jangha earned a PhD from Loyola University Maryland in Pastoral Counseling (a Counselor Education and Supervision Program). Her research focuses on experiences of power in the pastoral counseling identity development of African-American female pastoral counselors in training and utilizes art as the means of exploration. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and has a background in art therapy. Her training in pastoral counseling reflects her passion for spiritual integration in counseling and in counselor education. As a member of both the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) and the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), she infuses creativity into her teaching of spiritually integrated practices within the classes she has taught (such as Clinical Practicum, Professional Orientation and Counselor Identity, Addictions Counseling, Assessment and Testing).


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