Do you ever feel like you will never be enough? Oh, let me tell you, I do. I’ll never be thin enough, smart enough, a good enough lawyer (my day job), a good enough wife, stepmom, sister, daughter, and friend. Not to mention I will never be a good enough housekeeper, decorator, or weed-controller (seriously, they grow like twenty million feet overnight). Whew. That’s a lot of never good enoughs, huh?
We don’t come into this world thinking and feeling like we will never be good enough. But the thoughts and feelings take root and grow (much like those pesky weeds) throughout our lives. Our culture is excellent at promoting the never good enough feelings. Just look around and you’ll notice, if you have not already.
Maybe it’s a decision, or series of decisions you have made that turned out to be mistakes. You think that because of those mistakes, you will never be enough. No one will ever truly love you or even just accept you. I used to feel that way. I have been divorced twice and married three times. Never in my life did I think this would be my story, but it is. For years I was embarrassed and ashamed of my story. Despite the roughly 50% divorce rate, I still felt a stigma attached to me because of my twice-divorced status. And I was twice-divorced before the age of 33, mind you, which made my story infinitely worse. For years I embraced my singlehood and vowed to never again marry. I think somewhere deep inside I believed I couldn’t “do” marriage. I wasn’t enough to have a successful marriage. Well, I don’t know what defines “success” in a marriage. Some days I think I am successful, and others I know I am failing miserably, but what’s important in my opinion is that I have finally found myself in a place where both parties are 100% committed to the marriage. So that, to me, is success.
But just because I am in a committed relationship does not mean I don’t feel like I am not enough. As I mentioned, there are some days I know I am failing, and it’s in those moments that the never enough-ness settles in deeply. These are the moments that shame threatens to take over and take me down with its nastiness. These are the moments I feel unworthy of love and belonging. I am not enough and I never will be enough – for my husband, for my own expectations, for my friends and family who know my story, for those I have yet to meet and tell of my story. This is when I sink low.
And I sink low when I fall into the comparison trap. I try to stay away from social media as much as possible. As I mentioned before, I quit facebook a few years ago, but I still remember what I often felt when I scrolled through my “friends’” posts and saw perfection and more perfection and nary a whiff of real life. I avoid pinterest for everything but scrapbooking ideas because the beauty and perfection that fills the screen is often just too much for me. It fills me with anxiety – not just because I find it visually overwhelming, but because you’ve got to be kidding me, people have the time and energy to make all of those perfect (and often complicated) creations???
But I get caught up in food blogs, the occasional Instagram account, and the messages that are rampant while browsing the internet, watching TV, and reading magazines. It takes a LOT of self-talk to stay out of that I-am-not-enough black hole.
Brené Brown talks about this never enough-ness is her book, The Gifts of Imperfection (and lest you think I receive anything in return for mentioning Brené and her books, I can assure you that Brené Brown does not know I exist – but I will confess it’s my dream to meet her someday. Her books have helped me tremendously, and I want to share because I know they can help others, too). This concept is referred to as scarcity. Scarcity can take different forms. Brené explains this by quoting author Lynne Twist’s writing in The Soul of Money. Lynne writes that one form of scarcity is the mindset that we do not have enough time, sleep, money, etc. Many of us wake up every day thinking these thoughts and setting ourselves up for not having enough – for not being enough – throughout the day, and then we go to bed feeling inadequate because all we can think about is what we did not accomplish, what we do not have, and where we are lacking. But the form of scarcity to which I am referring, and which Lynne also addresses, is what I consider to be more of an emotional scarcity. And that is what I experience when I think, and consequently believe, that I am not enough (not thin enough, not smart enough, not good enough). Scarcity = inadequacy. Has anyone reading ever experienced that? Well, as I mentioned above, I certainly have and do, so all of that rang true to me.
But I have to admit that what came next in the scarcity discussion kinda irritated me. Brené says we need to let go of the scarcity mind-set and choose a mind-set of sufficiency. And here is where it gets tough: sufficiency is not about having more, but about recognizing that we are enough. By recognizing and embracing our enough-ness, we can dig ourselves out of the deep dark pit of never enough.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not (which is why I feel irritated). Especially when we fall into the comparison trap. I am actively working on shedding myself of my scarcity mind-set, and one way I try to do that is by telling myself “I am enough.” I will set this as my intention in yoga, and repeat it as my mantra throughout the day… when I remember to do so, that is. It takes a lot of practice, and is an active process. I can’t just wish myself into I am enough-ness. I also try to shield myself from my personal never enough triggers. Staying away from social media, not picking up those magazines with perfect airbrushed models and celebrities on the cover, avoiding watching TV shows that depict “reality” that is anything but. And not comparing myself to others in my life with whom I interact who appear to have it all together. I have no idea what lies beneath, so why would I waste my time convincing myself they have so much more than I do?
I also have tried to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. I know I am a great cook and baker. I know I am a great friend. I know I am smart (although it took about 34 years for me to actually say that out loud and not feel weird). I know I am fit, and more importantly, healthy. I know I am a beloved child of God.
I know I am enough. But when I am fighting with my husband, feeling like a terrible step-mom, just binged on chocolate, haven’t returned a friends’ call or text, or am behind on work promised to a client, it’s all too easy to sink into the never enough-ness. That is why I believe it takes constant work and checking in with a therapist, a great “self-help” book, close friends or family with whom we can share these vulnerabilities, and a lot of prayer. Setting an intention or daily mantra, while it may sound hokey, works. The messages we invite in inevitably come out… in some form. I have found the best thing I can do is to fill my mind, body, and soul with as much positivity and reality as possible.
I think the battle of never enough-ness will be ongoing in my life. I do not think I will ever completely overcome those feelings that creep in from time to time. But, as I said before, it is a process. I know I am improving, and as long as I actively work on squelching the negativity and ingesting positivity, I believe I will begin to feel more and more that I am enough.
What do you do when you start to feel like you are not enough? Do you have a mantra, a prayer, or a meditation that you repeat to yourself or offer up? Do you call a close friend and share your vulnerabilities? What has worked to help get you back on the path to I am enough?