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I remember thinking when I was a child that no matter what I did it would never be enough. If I got 98 out of 100 on a test my mother’s focus would be on what I got wrong.
Someone else might have stopped trying but I only studied harder, thinking that when I got to that magic 100 I would finally be what my mother wanted me to be. I would finally be enough.
Thinking back, my sense of enough-ness didn’t have much of a chance developing in the chaos of the alcoholic family. Instead my sense of self-worth became inextricably linked with external achievement. As a child that meant school and grades. As an adult that meant striving for success in the business world. And yet, even as that success succeeded my wildest dreams, that feeling of being not enough lay sleeping under outward recognition and accomplishment, waiting for the smallest mistake to wake it up.
“Enough” And Self-Worth
ENOUGH. If you look up the meaning you’ll see that synonyms are sufficient, adequate and even abundant depending on how the word is being used.
Yet somehow this word originally used for quantities of things – “is there enough?” – became a measure of self-worth, a measure of whether or not you (and me) were sufficient or lacking.
Your Goals & Getting To “Enough”
Like me you may have had many outward goals for getting to enough. Your enough might have looked like a certain amount of money, or a certain house. It might have looked like getting married or having children. It might have looked like you after you lost those last twenty pounds or got a gym-defined body.
The catch-22 of chasing the externals of enough is that you never reach your destination. Instead you remain haunted by that voice that suddenly whispers in your ear “you are not enough.”
Perhaps you are thinking you don’t have that voice. But most likely you do.
Twelve step programs are filled with people who have used compulsivity and addiction to try to quiet that voice, only to find their addictions made the voice grow so loud that nothing but complete surrender to something greater would drown it out.
The Link Between Shame And Feeling “Not Enough”
The voice that whispers ‘not enough’ is the voice of shame, one of the most powerful emotions.
Researcher and author Brené Brown, Ph.D. says shame ‘tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical health, addiction, sex, aging and religion.’
So most likely you have experienced shame – and most likely in some way you believe you are not enough.
What gives shame so much power is that often it remains hidden. You might not speak of it. It’s easier to pretend that you don’t suffer from the ‘not enoughs.’
The way to forever abolish shame is to bring it out of the shadows into the light of day and speak what you feel. When you do, shame loses all its power and you find that you are not alone; that everyone understands shame and feelings of unworthiness.
You find that no one grew up in the perfect family; that every family is dysfunctional in some way; that everyone struggled with criticism and comparison and still does.
And you’ll discover that being perfect is not the answer; it’s just a symptom of the loss of self.
So where is the secret door that opens into the land of ‘enough-ness?’
Like all great magical doorways, the entrance lies within and you are the only gatekeeper.
See if you can feel what the energy of enough is. To me it is a sensation of fullness, of contentment, of completion and peace. Finding the sensation of enough-ness in the body is important because the emotion of shame is often first felt in the body before you become aware of what is happening.
Sit, close your eyes and see yourself in a situation where you know you are enough. Feel that feeling in your body. See how you hold yourself; notice your expressions; notice your energy and state of mind.
See if you can step into enough.
If you can just step into it even for a brief moment how does your life change? Who are you when you are enough? What is possible for you? What would you attempt that you don’t dare to attempt now?
To step into enough you have to let go of a lot of expectations you have about yourself and other people. You’ll have to let go of the need to be perfect. You’ll have to release fears of making a mistake. You’ll have to be willing to give yourself some unconditional love.
The truth is that you were enough on the day you were born into this life.
Your worth is inherent, part of your birth-right. You have always been, always are, and always will be ENOUGH.
And that expression of enough-ness that you brought in to the world at your birth remains unique, invaluable, unrepeatable and an amazing expression of love at work in the world.