Monday, September 29, 2014

Being Enough


Have you ever felt that somehow, you just weren’t quite enough?

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of worth and of being enough, because I’ve been feeling inadequate. No matter what I do, it never feels like enough. And if I’m not doing enough, then I feel I don’t “deserve” good things. It’s not a happy way to live. I feel like I’m required to give and produce constantly before I can receive—be worthy of—love and respect.

I know part of this feeling is tied to money. I’m not earning right now, though not for a lack of trying. I have several essays out in the world awaiting judgment, and I’ve applied for several jobs in the past six months and have been met with silence. When you hit enough walls, you begin to doubt your worth.

In my head I know that my worth is not contingent upon what I earn. I contribute to my family and the world by giving love, support, encouragement, and even physical labor. In my head, I know that I have worth just because I’m alive. But…

I still struggle.

Here are some things that help me, and might help you if you suffer from the occasional feeling that you’re not enough:

Examine the concept of “enough.” Who determines what is enough? Is it the same or different for each person? Does doing “enough” equal being “enough”? Quantifying “enough” is treading dangerously close to the slippery slope of perfectionism and all the craziness thereof.

Do less, counterproductive as that may seem. It’s possible to set too ambitious goals for the amount of time I have. The constant failure to do everything on the to-do list, even if it’s unreasonable to expect to finish, makes me feel inadequate. I’ve taken to putting time estimates next to my to-dos so I can see if I’m packing the day with 15 hours of work. I’m now making a core to-do list with the most important things on it, and I’m limiting them to just a few each day. I’m going to give myself credit and a reward when I complete them. If I want to do more, that’s fine, but I can quit and consider my day productive if I’ve done my core to-dos.

Stop comparing myself with others. I am who I am, I do what I do. I believe what  teacher Jim Tolles wrote in his post, “Feeling Like You’re Not Enough”: “You are. I won't even say you are enough because that kind of statement presumes that in someway you could ever be ‘not enough.’ This is an absurdity. You are as you are. That is perfect in the sense that you don't have to validate your existence or your ability to be, receive, or give love.”

Be honest with myself. It’s true: sometimes (though not always) feeling not good enough is an indicator that I need to do something different, learn more, try harder. If my work doesn’t get accepted, it may be because it isn’t quite good enough, humbling though that is. I know I’m not the writer that I want to be yet, and I must keep learning, experimenting, writing, in order to improve.

Treat myself the way I would treat another. I wouldn’t criticize or put down a friend who was feeling inadequate. I’d offer support and encouragement. I need to be kind and gentle with myself because I know I’m doing the best that I can.

We in the U.S. live in a culture of more, better, faster, higher. A culture based on doing and tangible achievement rather than the more amorphous concept of being. I want to value myself just for being myself, no strings attached, no expectations to meet. And that just might be enough.

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7 comments:

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Kathy - I think many of us suffer with these thoughts from time to time. Perhaps the comparison trap you mentioned is one of the biggest factors. Why do we humans think we need to measure up to others or even have what others have...so silly. Maybe when we grow really old we will find that true wisdom is not in the having or doing but in the being.
Anyway dear friend...your blog always draws me in and makes me take careful thought to the issues of the heart. You are a great writer. I am sure good things are coming your way. In the meantime "You are certainly more than enough"! Hugs

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Debbie--Thank you for your consistently positive and uplifting comments! Your encouraging words mean so much. I think this is a common trap we all fall into from time to time...I'm just feeling especially bogged down right now. This, too, shall pass.

Sketchbook Wandering said...

Oh, yes, I do know this feeling. I sometimes wonder if it has a little life of its own as it comes & goes, not related to externals, though it tricks me to think it's about externals..It comes less as I age & it's getting used to hearing me when I tell it to leave me alone. Just so you know: I love your blog, it enriches my life so much.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Rita--Thank you so much for your kind words. That's exactly what I hoped my blog would do for someone.

I've heard several people say things like, "As I get older, such-and-such doesn't bother me as much"--one of the benefits of getting older. I can see this happening to me already, and hope it continues!

Cheryl Gebhart said...

Dear Kathy, I'm so sorry you're dealing with these feelings right now because of course you ARE enough! Since I'm late in reading this, maybe some of these feelings have already passed. I hope so. Even though I don't comment on every post, I read your blog faithfully; it's one of my favorites both to keep up with you as my friend and because you are such an insightful writer. You always give me something to think about.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Cheryl--Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I'm very happy to be your friend, and also that you find the blog beneficial enough to follow regularly. Feeling "enough" is something I deal with from time to time--probably like most people, especially women. The feeling will pass (has already passed, at least for now).

Cheryl Gebhart said...

I'm very glad to hear the feelings have passed.