I’ve been trying to improve myself from an early age. If I wasn’t trying to go up to the next level in Peter and Jane books, I was riding around cones for a cycling proficiency award, and perfecting my ‘backward roll to astride’ for my BAGA Award 3. That last one was a real strain on my capabilities because gymnastics is better when you don’t have the flexibility of a breeze block.
It’s how we learn, and how we get from Billy Blue Hat to talking about the ‘motiveless malignity’ of Iago in just over a decade. That push for self improvement is a rewarding process. Until it isn’t; until you always feel one or two steps away from where you need to be.
This week someone said to me: ‘what if you’re already good enough?’
I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean, I’ll obviously be better when I’ve lost this final 10 pounds, got my roots done and finally started that German A Level. Perhaps when I’ve been a more diligent friend/daughter/sister and made contact with the 5 or 6 people who have been asking when we can next meet, and when I can load a dishwasher without causing my husband to yelp in dismay at my plate loading.
But the idea that NOW, right now, I am good enough. Mind-blowing.
I have realised that the best me is always a future vision, it is never anchored in the here and now. On the one hand this attitude is what keeps us curious and engaged in the world, on the other – it can stop us realising how much potential we have in this moment. Improvement should be the addition of skills, not the subtraction of joy.
I have always felt lacking. I worry that I’m not intelligent enough compared to my brainy friends, attractive enough for my husband or talented enough to move forward in my career. I am always pushing to be brighter, kinder, fitter, thinner, funnier… It’s like a never ending school project, without the sweet relief of the bit where you can colour in a pie chart with pencils.
Is it time to say: improve, but only if it makes you happy to do it, and then simply accept the rest as good enough?
Now, right now, I think it is.