Inner discontent. We all suffer from it occasionally, and for some of us, it never goes away. When you feel that you’re not good enough, or that life would be better if you were just a little more this or that… Journalist Mariska Jansen examines how to shed this feeling once and for all.
In the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert ends her marriage and says goodbye to her home to go off in search of something new. During her travels around the world, she makes peace with herself, with her grief, anger and shame. “I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you,” she tells herself on the beach of a tiny island in the Indonesian archipelago. Self-love also means accepting that you can’t do everything perfectly, that you should sometimes be happy with a “C” instead of the “B” or “A” you always want to get. Sometimes a busy day at work means you simply don’t have the energy that evening for a game with the kids or a good conversation with your partner. If we do one thing well, then we can do the rest well enough. Not everything can be perfect at the same time.
According to Swiss philosopher Alexandre Jollien, “mild love for yourself goes along with hateful condemnation of your own weaknesses.” At the same time self-love is not the same as “nothing left to do,” Jollien writes in La Construction De Soi, Un Usage De La Philosophie. [Construction Of Self, A Use of Philosophy]. Self-love means both accepting yourself and still working on yourself. “To move forward, you have to believe in yourself and in the possibility of progress,” writes Jollien. It requires self-knowledge. “Above all, you need a certain innocence, a transparency preserved. You are aware of your own strength and deal with it without comparing it to anyone else.”
I admired Jollien’s insights and shared them with a colleague at work, confiding, too, that I felt he was able to articulate these things so much better than I ever could. “I wish I was a bit smarter,” I sighed. “You shouldn’t talk about yourself like that,” my colleague responded. “You should focus on the qualities you do have, and build on them.” I had to laugh at the irony. That was the whole point: dwell on the beauty that is already inside of you, not on what you haven’t got.
- More about not feeling good enough can be found in Issue 8.
Text Mariska Jansen Photography ©Karl Fredricks/Unsplash