Ever feel like you spend a whole lot of your life wondering if you're enough?
Smart enough? Rich enough? Successful enough? Good looking enough? Present enough? Popular enough? And that's not even getting into the crux of the physical stuff.
It really can be completely consuming if we let it! And it's rooted deep in the narrative of our lives. What we heard as teenagers; what we were told as children; the voices of our parents, preachers, teachers, and peers. And then it becomes the stories that we tell ourselves about just about everything. It really can be overwhelming...
I really haven't met anyone who feels complete and self-assured all the time. And I don't think we ever will be if we see ourselves in terms of some set of random, external measures. I'm reading Brené Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" at the moment, and I understand how deeply entrenched we are in some sort of shame shitstorm most of the time. Second guessing ourselves about everything from whether we are partnering and parenting well enough, to how we should or shouldn't have sent that last WhatsApp to a friend we've been bumping heads with, to why on earth we could possibly have asked that ridiculous question on our last Zoom conference call!?
We lie in bed late at night ruminating over our weight, our job titles, and whether the bank will finance a new car so that we fit in at the company parking garage. The insanity is that most of us are doing this most of the time, comparing ourselves back and forth; giving ourselves ulcers and insomnia. And we're all making ourselves uptight, and miserable.
It's completely insane, exhausting and pointless when I think about it reasonably and rationally, fully engaged with the librarian part of my brain - the prefrontal cortex. I recently heard someone on a podcast describing our PFC as the roadblock in our brain - the party pooper of cognition. It's because it's the part of the brain that allows us to think clearly, consciously, and reasonably. It's also that part that apparently dampens spontaneity, creativity, and flying by the seat of our pants! But I could do with a little neuro speed check when I start catastrophising and careening towards worst case scenarios.
When we get into those crazy hamster wheel thoughts at 1am, it's exactly what we need in order to reinitiate reason and remind ourselves that we are indeed most worthy, and more than likely doing the very best that we can (given our current resources and situations). The last 18 months have most definitely been some of the most scary times I have experienced, and some days it's a fait accompli to simply get up, get dressed and log into my computer to face a day of virtual connection. Fear has been a constant companion. Fear of others and myself getting sick, or god forbid dying. And that's in addition to enormous financial stress and uncertainty about professional safety and security. So why on earth would I give myself a hard time for putting on quite a bit of weight over the last year or so!?
Never mind managing to keep food on the table and pay the bills. But also showing up for my clients and colleagues because that's what I do. But no, I choose to give myself a bruising wallop with the "not-good-enough-stick" because I had to buy jeans that actually fit. It's a little insane really and as I write these words the enormity of it strikes me again...because it is not in any way a measure of my "enoughness". Over the past months I have taken conscious steps to see myself differently and give myself a bit of emotional and spiritual wiggle room. What I have realised as we go through these crazy times, is that showing up and being authentic is enough. That being able to practice compassion and empathy when I feel depleted and under resourced is far more important than whether I wear a 10 or a 16. And I want to measure myself in terms of the things that are of value to me. Courage, authenticity, my relationships, my work, compassion, knowledge, and connection are what make me enough in my life.
Gratitude has become my constant go to when I start to think that I'm not enough. I am just thankful that my body has stayed healthy up to this point and that I am very close to getting my second vaccine without having too many moments of uncertainty. Because that body is a body that is more than enough. One that has stayed well, whose immune system has coped, and has not let me down even when I could have been much nicer to it at times. And as for the car I drive, and the cottage that I live in? The last year has taught me to take nothing for granted! I am enough because I have managed to persevere, as aligned as ever with the work that I do. Over and over again I have repeated a saying that was shared with me by a client that her sainted Aunty Pat would say, "Kyk maar noord en fok maar foord." And since I am also reading Angela Duckworth's book, "Grit", I consider myself pretty gritty and I am proud of that part of myself.
I've realised that so many of the ways we compare ourselves to others are moot. If you decide what makes you enough and then pursue that unapologetically with self-love, and -compassion, a dose of curiosity and a bit of adventure, then I believe that we will all feel a "moreness" in our lives. Of course, this is my idea of what it means to be enough and I am increasingly committed to this idea the more I integrate it into my life. I feel less conscious of the parts of self where I didn't always feel enough before because what I am doing is making these areas of development for myself. And also consciously choosing to spend more time focusing on what is working and makes me feel fulfilled and nurtured.
So before you start thinking that you are not enough, think about what this means to you in relation to where you are and where you have come from. Just because we are not where we want to be yet, doesn't mean that we're not on the right path. And I really hope that path is your path, not one that's been mapped out for you by someone else.