Being Enough

September 29, 2014

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.