Lately, I and several brilliant thinkers I am lucky to encounter have been discussing the idea of being “enough.” Some of us experience a sense of vulnerability around the idea that we’re not enough, or that we’re too much.
- I’m not smart enough, attractive enough. I’m not a good enough lover. I don’t have enough money.
- I’m too emotional, too damaged, too ugly, too stupid.
These experiences of deflation or inflation suggest that some part of us gets identified with this quality of being inadequate, somehow wrong, somehow not quite compatible or capable of satisfying our wants and needs.“Enough” means adequate to meet a want or need. Perhaps it’s not a sexy word. If I feel hungry, an apple might be enough to satisfy the hunger. If I feel lonely, a phone call to a friend might be enough to satisfy the loneliness. When this “enoughness” is not enough, we are likely disconnected from our true wants and needs. We can be so preoccupied with being “too much” or “not enough” that we miss the opportunity to have enough, to be okay as we are, to be satisfied. Perhaps instead of doing it to myself, I push it out on someone else.
Have you ever known or been a person who wishes desperately that someone would notice you and ask you out? Perhaps constantly thinking about it or telling other people that it’s all you want, to be found attractive and desired by somebody? Have you ever been asked out by someone, but not the “right” someone, and gone right back to that story that no one finds you attractive? It’s not about whether the person who asked you out is right for you. It’s about being fixated in this state of lack and not accepting the simple compliment of being desired by someone.
One thing that sets off my inner alarms is when someone seems frustrated with me and says they are wasting their time, or implies I am bad at my job. A little part inside wants to get worked up and upset. “Oh no! I’m failing this person! I need to fix this somehow!” When I give into that voice, I end up spending time and energy trying to solve a problem that is not mine, getting overwhelmed and frustrated, and doing a whole lot of work that does not get matched by the other person.
What feels better, respectful to both of us, is acknowledging that what I have to offer is not right for this person, and they might be better served elsewhere. This speaks from a place of knowing that what I have to offer has value but is not right for this person. I would be doing us both a disservice by trying to be what I am not.
This discipline of recognizing and honoring what is enough is growing in my life. I notice that there are many responsibilities and interesting opportunities that can become overwhelming when I want to do it all. The thread of “go-go-go” and “consume-consume-consume” in our culture feeds our sense of deficiency and teaches us that we will only be fine when we have the right car, the right house, the right body, the right partner, all these externals that never come into place the way we desire. When a problem comes up, a part of me refuses to let it go until it is fixed, which can leave me completely drained and distracted from the rest of my life. I am learning when to say, “enough, I will let this go for now and perhaps try again later.”
I recognize the desire to continue growing in knowledge and skill, the thrill of facing and mastering challenges, the urge to evolve with time. All of this requires willingness to go places that feel unknown, do things that are difficult, and move into vulnerability. The desire to grow can be nourished and balanced by this sense of being enough. “I am enough as I am, and I am growing and changing.”