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  • Ann Yeong

Can I ever be 'good enough' for you?


Somewhere in my growing up years, I began to feel that I was just not good enough. I listened to a lot of adult conversations going around me when I was growing up and I listened to the way people were talked about - who was praised, who was criticized.

I remember at times thinking that I would never want to be like the people who are being criticized. I wanted to be like the people who were liked and praised and spoken well of. Inadvertently an ideal began to form in my young mind of the ideal woman: beautiful, tender yet strong, capable of being independent and successful professionallyAnd at the same time, brilliant domestically, able to cook, host and be a competent parent.

It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with this ideal that they were promoting. After all who wouldn't want to be so wonderful and accomplished and all rounded and attractive?

On top of all these, I also felt like I was expected to excel academically, in leadership, in sports, as well as in moral character. I received the same nurturing towards this both at home and in school, out of the best intentions of my formators. It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with this ideal of perfection that they were promoting. After all who wouldn't want to be so wonderful and accomplished and all rounded and attractive?

Apart from achievements, a very important part of my identity was self-sacrificial love. Now this is a wonderful ideal, as far as it goes - to love another so much that one is willing to sacrifice one's own self-interest. As a Catholic, self-sacrificial love is a mark of mature faith and discipleship. As an ethnic Chinese, the willingness to sacrifice one's individual interest for the good of the larger community is also held up as a cultural ideal. The problem is not in the ideal, but in the way in which it is lived out.

True self-sacrificial love comes from a place of an abundance of love, but I was trying to emulate self-sacrificial love from a place of deficit. I was trying to be self-sacrificial because I thought it would earn me love; that it would make me worthy of love.

True self-sacrificial love comes from a place of an abundance of love, but I was trying to emulate self-sacrificial love from a place of deficit. I was trying to be self-sacrificial because I thought it would earn me love; that it would make me worthy of love. I had been taught from a very young age that I should always take the lower place, offer the best available to others and to serve others instead of expecting others to serve me.

Acts of love do not come from a place of abundance or freedom when it is thought of as a condition in order to be valued and loved.

Again, I wish to stress that these are all noble things in the right context. When these acts come from a place of abundance and a freedom, they are truly beautiful to behold. But it is not the same thing when I try and act self-sacrificial, not because I have that love to offer, but because I'm hoping that by doing so I will get the love I need. Acts of love do not come from a place of abundance or freedom when it is thought of as a condition in order to be valued and loved.

I had so little self-worth, I grasped at my own moral achievement to give me the esteem that I needed, and it led me to look down on others who failed to measure up.

Trying to love self sacrificially from a place of emotional poverty had another unintended and terrible consequence. To the extent that I believed I was actually loving people sacrificially, I became self-righteous and prideful. Because I had so little self-worth, I grasped at my own moral achievement to give me the esteem that I needed, and it led me to look down on others who failed to measure up. Of course in reality, I was not really genuinely loving sacrificially either, but I was not yet aware that my acts of service and love for others was in large part due to my need to be loved back. It was only much later that my eyes were opened. But before that could happen, I had to realize that for all my drive to excel and achieve and be loving to others, I simply could not accept or love myself. In my own eyes, I was never virtuous enough, diligent enough, intelligent enough, or capable enough.

I could not accept weakness in myself. It was only then that I noticed how prideful and insecure I was and how incapable of rest I had been my whole life.

When I started burning out, I pushed myself even harder because I could not accept weakness in myself. It was only then that I noticed how prideful and insecure I was and how incapable of rest I had been my whole life. The need for rest and play were to my mind symptoms of weakness. It was little wonder that I struggled to have genuine compassion for weakness in anyone. The passage to wholeness and interior freedom is made through many deaths: death to our self-image, death to what we thought we understood about good and evil; death to what we thought we understood about faith and love. Finally, there had to be a death to the old way of living from fear and insecurity.

And as I would eventually learn, the only way for this death to happen was to be filled with unconditional and unmerited love. It is being loved for who we are that gives us the courage to accept the truth of who we are. Truth - with such extravagant love - is what we need to set our True Selves free.

Listen to Episode 13 The Impossible Race to Be Good Enough on the Becoming Me Podcast from Wednesday 20 January, 2021. Spotify: https://buff.ly/34vZRf1

Apple Podcasts: https://buff.ly/34rFkIu

Google Podcasts: https://buff.ly/3n9MHgh

Website: https://buff.ly/3kzUylB


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