There is a strong belief in Western society that there is a lot to feel guilty about; if we have really wronged someone we should feel guilty. The problem lies where we feel guilt for unnecessary things. In other words, we can feel guilt without actually being guilty. I suffer with guilt terribly, mainly surrounding my input to relationships, so I understand the hours that can be spent procrastinating over past conversations.
I also feel guilt for failing to live up to my own expectations, which I now realise have been unrealistic at times. However, once we have recognised this issue, we may be able to change our expectations.
One way to change our expectations is through the application of the Good Enough Principle (coined by Dr D.W. Winnicott). The principle is based on the fact that aiming for perfection in both our personal and professional lives appears to be the norm in modern society, leaving us suffering with feelings of guilt when we do not meet this perfection.
If instead of perfect, we should aim for each task to be ‘good enough’ for it’s purpose, we may get more done and it may actually be of better quality. For example;
- This food may not be perfect, but it is good enough to eat
- This outfit may not be perfect, but it is good enough to wear
- This text message may not sound perfect, but it is good enough
- I may not be a perfect parent, but the children are happy so I am good enough
Whilst I have only just discovered this principle it speaks to the perfectionist in me and I hope I am able to take it on board in practice.