When You’re Not Good Enough

What do you tell yourself when you start facing the realization you are not good enough for something?  Not that you can’t do something.  But that you can’t do something well enough to excel, continue and progress.






I am a physically awkward individual.

There is nothing but truth in that statement.

I do a lot of physical activities but I have suffered from doing a lot of physical activities.

Technically speaking my body is pretty much designed to be a box.  And you know how flexible and graceful boxes are.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

I was in the midst of practicing my martial arts forms today.   I realized, not for the first time, how things have changed.   When I started martial arts I was almost eighteen years younger than I am now.  I was quite heavy.  And once I learned what achieving black belt rank in our school entailed I decided I would be quite content at stopping at dark blue belt.  If I ever got to that rank.

Funny thing about that thought….

I didn’t know me very well.

Content?  At stopping before I was finished?  But I did not know this when I started.  I only knew I was doing this because others talked me in to it and I was there with my daughter.

By the time I got to that rank of dark blue belt “with a tip” I realized I could not stop there.  Because there was more to get, do, achieve.

I had no  clue that I had any ambition.  Desire.  Drive.  Self discipline.  For that matter, I didn’t think when I started, that I had the energy to do such things in life.  To that point I felt that life took all of the energy I had.

But, again, I didn’t know me too well.

I discovered ambition, desire, drive, self discipline.   And realized that living life is where you get your energy from.  Not what you lose it to.

So I eventually tested for black belt and achieved that rank.   And wrapped up in that belt was a bundle of gratitude beyond what I could ever explain to anyone.   I don’t owe my life to martial arts. But it was part of the process of living lessons and learning much.

After black belt I thought I would live my life forever happy as a black belt.

Will I never learn?  About me?

There are many degrees  of a black belt.  Ten in our system.

Ten.  At the age I started martial arts I would be ninety or older to reach them all.

I have reached 4th Dan.   And after earning that rank I told myself….that is quite enough.   You never thought you would reach black belt rank.  And look what you did.

Weeks ago my little sister asked when I would test to be “a Master”.   Which, in our system, is 5th degree black belt.

I told her I wouldn’t be.  And when I told her, unknown to her, I became very upset.

She asked why.  She is insistent I test so that our five brothers (not to mention the two sisters, including her) would have to call me “Master”.

She told me I had done very well and should be proud of where I am regardless.   But her encouragement over the years has always been to reach “Master” level.

Did I think about this after the last test?

I did.

And that brings me to today.   I was downstairs “doing” my TKD.  I do not teach a class, or own a school any longer.   Injuries have been an on going curse in my life since 1998.   My physical ability to be flexible and ‘get better’ has been hindered by metal rods, metal plates, and broken bones.   But I still “do” my TKD.   I believe that I spent so many hours, days, and years of my life achieving this that the only way to accurately call myself a “black belt” is to retain the knowledge I have earned.  And it isn’t stored in my brain.  It’s stored in my body.   And for my body to retain the knowledge, it needs constant review.  I refuse to give up what I worked so hard for.

Today while “doing” my TKD I became a bit sad.

Sad Chatter Master

Sad Chatter Master

I thought back to starting martial arts with my very young daughter.   I thought of how, even though I was heavy, I had the ability to get better.  Lose weight.   I marveled at the skill of others and quickly realized that my box self would not have that level of physical skill.  But the amazing thing was, I still got better.  I improved my abilities to defend myself, and I improved my abilities to  be myself.    But now….eighteen years later….I am eighteen years older.  There is still more to learn. Still more to do.   But I don’t have the same chances before me that I had back then, before I got to here.

Without a doubt I am not good enough to test for master level.

From the time I sat down to write this, to now…. I don’t know how I feel about it.   I’m still “doing” my martial arts because I don’t see a reason to stop.   It is different to not be going to class 2, 3 and 4 times a week as I once did.  Can I accept that I cannot move ahead, test, progress…   Can I do that?

Is accepting that I have done “enough” a manner of growing?

Can I continue to “do” martial arts knowing I won’t go further in rank?  When there are more ranks to achieve?

Does getting better have anything to do with “rank”?

Do I need a new “rank” to feel like I am gaining something for me?

I am still a physically awkward individual.  I am still a box.  But I know, now, better than to accept an end, or a set finish line.  Every finish line I’ve ever seen has plenty of space behind it so you don’t run smack in to a wall.  I have to redesign my own finish line.  Who set up the parameters for my life’s run anyway?

So I’m working on adjusting my master level dreams to encompass more than a belt.  Maybe I need to focus my drive on mastering my life.  If I can do that than I can easily accept my physical accomplishments for what they are.  I am very grateful for all of the ability I have.  I know there are many who would be grateful for a fraction of my physical ability.

When I started this process that included martial arts I never envisioned what I have now achieved.

But I’m not finished yet.  I’m not good enough to test again.

But I’m good enough.

And that’s what I have to tell myself.  Now I have to go do something.   Something else.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

51 thoughts on “When You’re Not Good Enough

  1. The only one you have to be good enough for is yourself. We all adjust our goals based on everything going on in our lives and our bodies. Keep working, learning and living.


  2. You are amazing. Goals are only relevant to you. Sometimes some goals that others set are not meant for us. You will always be good enough. Always!


  3. I surrendered to my lumbering form when I tried martial arts. I LOVE martial arts and it was a great disappointment to not be good enough. You’re on the right track, though Colleen, to master your life, because ultimately that is what lies at the heart of martial arts. I just gave up in a huff! If I can master this life, perhaps I’ll be a master kung fu artist in the next!


    • Well I have certainly got enough to do to try and master my own life. There was one sentence in this entire post that was very difficult to write. And the only reason I wrote the entire lengthy post was to say it, to myself, and know it.

      I wonder what it is that makes its so difficult to accept I can’t do ‘that’ when I can do so much?

      Perhaps in our next lives we will even be sparring partners!


  4. Colleen, you are probably the only person I know who is TRUELY comfortable in your own skin!! I am in awe of you everyday! I love you!


    • I love you too! And yes, I know who you are. 🙂

      Thank you, I do kind of like my skin. And being open to my own faults, quirks and isms sure helps me to be okay with me.

      Thank you for always loving me. ALWAYS.


  5. Love it, Colleen. For me, life is all about “something else.” Circumstances, some of them physical, some mental and some spiritual have me moving all the time. In fact, like they say of a shark, move or die. I’m convinced, the secret of life is being able to adapt. The people who cannot adapt end up putting a gun to their head. When you have physically reached your peak in your martial arts pursuit, you will know it. Then, move to something else. Continuing to hang on to what once was, is not healthy for mind or body. It’s a cliche about god closing a door and opening a window, but life does do that. Your body or mind will tell you when the martial arts door is now closed–then, look for that window! I’m betting there is something really great waiting for you. All joy. HF


    • Thank you HF. You pretty much nailed this one. It is physical and mental in this case. I can’t just ‘walk’ from something that I have put so much time in to. But I know mentally I need to look forward to something else. I think I am in the ‘adapting’ phase. And I’m not opposed to it….but still one foot where I am and with this self admission…I have lifted my other foot to start the journey on to something else. Thank you for the encouragement and the joy. 😉


  6. You are so wise and amazing. I particularly love this thought: “Every finish line I’ve ever seen has plenty of space behind it so you don’t run smack in to a wall.”


    • Paulette thank you so much. I am always humbled when everyone writes such positive things. I wrote this hoping to get this thought in my head, write it down, and fully accept it. Because I can’t just sit here with it anymore. Thank you thank you.


  7. You never cease to amaze me with all of your talents and hobbies! You certainly have the spirit of a little kid….which is very good! You are open to so many possibilities and activities! You constantly inspire me!


    • Awwwww….how lucky and blessed am I to always have such positive feedback! This post was not easy for me. But I figure I need to face it, deal with it, and MOVE. Thank you so much for making me feel good. 🙂


  8. Reblogged this on LifeRevelation and commented:
    I am not a martial arts aficionado, nor in all likelihood will I ever be, but reading this post made a connection. The path he is following is the same path we all follow at some point in life. For me it was guitar and a few businesses. I was okay, passable, and could get by, but definitely not great and I found myself with a decision to make. Do I concentrate on the fact I couldn’t go further or look at how far I had come, then set out in a new direction? After a few false starts, I got the hang of it and started down a different road…be encouraged!


  9. I stopped at green belt with my martial arts for “practical” reasons plus I realized I couldn’t handle the sparring bit. Your post reminded me of something I learned times and times ago and which I need to remind myself often…God made me good enough to be who He wanted me to be – I just need to figure out what that is. 🙂 We live in a world where being different and unique is no longer celebrated but frowned upon. Kudos to you for being you and sharing your chatter with the rest of us. We all need reminding every now and then.


    • Mary thank you for taking the time to read AND comment. I appreciate this. I like your reminder “God made me good enough to be who He wanted me to be – I just need to figure out what that is.” And, as you, I am always trying to figure that out. I wasn’t born with the passion and wisdom of always knowing what I want to do. Maybe my life is supposed to be about figuring that out, and maybe my life is about never truly knowing “one” thing which is why I am so fascinated by many many things…. and that might be what my passion is? Fully appreciating and being in awe of other’s passions? I don’t even know this yet? Still working on the figuring it out part. 🙂


      • lol I think that is our purpose in life…there’s a verse in the Bible about God hiding things so men can have the joy of figuring them out. I forgot what it was exactly. So I think we are doing just what we were meant to do. Figuring our lives out. Hahaha…


  10. Congratulations on deciding your life is fine the way you want to live it. I recently read an article and subsequently an excerpt from this book, Good Enough is the New Perfect, which addresses the same thing. It’s point is not to settle for mediocre, but rather to prioritize and be comfortable with the choices you make. This was a great post and a great example that you set for your daughter.



    • Thank you Nancy, for the feedback. I will check out your link. You seemed to have fully understood what I was getting at…I don’t want to be mediocre, so prioritizing and getting comfortable with what I need to do to be the best “me” is what I continue to work on.


      • I went back to work when my daughter was six weeks old. I learned early on to be comfortable with what was good enough and what wasn’t. I think it’s great you got to the level of black belt that you did, but it also makes sense that you’ve decided to not go on beyond that. You accomplished what you wanted and don’t need to do more than that.

        I posted on a similar theme here:




        • I will continue to “do” my martial arts, I really don’t want to lose the education of it that I have. Some day I may return to teaching. At least my grandchildren, if given the opportunity.

          I find value in the movement of it and the retaining of it.

          But yes, moving on and letting go of that “next step” is something I have to do to be healthy.


  11. I don’t know much about martial arts … though it seems to me that one of the things that I have heard others say, is how martial arts combines both the body … and the mind.

    Perhaps you body cannot continue on at the pace you wish it to … but the mind can yes?

    Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have traveled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity. – Stephen Hawking


  12. This is very inspiring. I agree with what Harper said. We have to keep pushing ourselves and stretching and learn to adapt. It’s not always easy, but we weren’t meant to be stagnant. That much I know.
    Thanks for this great post!


    • Oh I fully agree, we get kind of stinky if we are stagnant. Yes? 🙂 Thank you Lisa. I really appreciate you telling me it was inspiring. I truly write what I know, and the only thing I know is what is in my head. Which surprises me when someone then writes it is inspiring. Thank you so very much.


  13. Oh, where did you find me? Your post is so on target – martial arts? No, that is not me, but I did enjoy the masterful way you tackled the subject of accomplishment. I have no regrets for the things I have and failed, because that gave me the encouragement to try again only in a different direction.

    Enjoyed the post.


    • Thank you Ray’s mom. I appreciate your feedback! I do enjoy “tackling” things. This one was very difficult for me. I feel okay about it. But it still feels….odd. Hard to let go. But working on other things so that helps. 🙂


    • AMEN!!!!! And we are fast discovering that the sky is limitless! I just watched something that said that ‘we’ cannot possibly comprehend the size of our universe, galaxy, or existence that holds possibly millions of universes!!! Try to imagine that limitlessness !! 🙂


  14. I love your self portrait, Colleen! And I love how you ended with ‘do something.something else’

    🙂 You’re so good with raising such varied topics, always interesting, and always giving a piece of yourself.

    Daniel graded blue yesterday, he told me how it crossed his mind to give up but he “just knew I couldn’t”. He was in it, then and there and would not remove himself until he won. He did 20+ rounds. So yes, what IS it that tells us we’re not good enough, indeed…


    • Thank you Noeleen!

      I am so glad that Daniel had that thought of giving up, because he then had the courage and stamina to not give up. Congratulations to him! I know some of my worst moments came to points where I “considered” giving up, then told myself I could not, and I must go on.


  15. Well to me Martial Arts means respect and discipline.
    I have trained in different Martial arts now for well above
    20 years. I have seen tons of people come and go but one thing that
    I have noticed happens to be the respect and discipline that’s changed those peoples perception of life.
    Small children that have started which have been on the wrong side of the tracks, always in trouble and no idea how to respect other kids. Place them in a controlled environment with discipline and fighting and they soon start to understand.
    Martial arts is a great technique for youths and adults to get rid of their aggression without hurting or bullying anyone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.