Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

What’s Good Enough?

We all want it…to feel loved, admired, needed, relevant and successful. The influence of media, school, work, peers and parents can create expectations that drive many of us to meet their expectations, rather than our own. How often do you look in a mirror and tell yourself how great you look, versus finding fault? Do you feel the pressure to score high on standardized tests to get into a top university, even if it is likely out of reach? Are you expecting to find the ideal job upon graduation; and will you feel let down if it’s not your dream job? Have you stayed in a romantic relationship despite knowing deep down it’s not the right fit?

In the quest to fit in, it can be easy to slip into a mode where you are striving to be perfect, and create an idealized version of yourself; directing your energy towards pleasing others or doing what will make you feel that you belong. The extent to which we allow ourselves to conform to outside influences can chip away at our vision of ourselves. You need to ask yourself what you want – what is good enough – before you consider what other people will think. Creating a real vision of self can lead to higher confidence and the satisfaction of pleasing the most important person – you.

Dressing for Success

When I started my first job, I worked at a Fortune 100 company comprised mainly of men, most of whom wore suits. I was the only professional woman in my department, so I gauged my outfits based on what women in other departments were wearing, since I wanted to fit in. What I observed was women who were trying to look like their male colleagues, wearing masculine suits, shoulder pads, collared shirts and little ties at the neck. At first, I followed the typical dress (without the tie), but it just didn’t feel right. After a couple months of this, I decided to wear items of my choosing. I still wore jackets and suits, but chose fabrics, colors and shapes tailored to reflect my style. I felt great about how I looked, and enjoyed being a little different. My clothes reflected my personality, which gave me more confidence.

Your Needs

However, it’s not always easy to embrace what you want or need for yourself. You may have to make hard choices about what is good enough. As a working mother of three, there has never been a day when there wasn’t a push-pull between work and home life. My work involved overseas travel and there were times when important interactions with my daughters occurred over the phone: helping with homework, hearing them recite ABCs, singing a song, or counting to 50. There was always a sense that work or my children were getting short changed. When I wasn’t traveling, I was religious about leaving work by 5 and going to every sport game and performance. It’s hard, if not impossible, to work and feel like you’re handling both your career and your home issues effectively.  I realized that sometimes it’s okay to focus more on work, while other times home life is priority. For me, I found a way to accommodate a home/work lifestyle, realizing it was my choice to do what was right for my family and me. In this case, I wasn’t simply striving to live up to others expectations.

Take a look – close enough to see who YOU want to be and what you want and need in your life. Decide what’s good enough for you and embrace it. Oprah says is so well and so simply– “Live Your Best Life.”

How much of the time do you embrace who you or versus idealizing who you should be and/or living up to others expectations?

Janet Walkow is the Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Drug Dynamics Institute at The University of Texas and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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