We wake up in the morning. We stretch, rub our eyes, and from that moment on we try. We try to work hard, be a generally decent person. We try to achieve our goals and set new ones. We try to communicate our feelings, disperse our time and energy around to the people who want or need it. We try to make others happy. But still, at night, when we’re pulling back our covers to get into bed, we wonder: Was it enough? Am I enough?
Short answer? Yes. It was and you are enough.
But why do you still feel so… not enough?
I have thought about this question a lot. This question comes disguised in many different costumes.
One costume is feeling like you didn’t work hard enough because there is still work piled on your desk.
One costume is you don’t make enough money to buy a house, to apply for a loan, to join this club.
One costume is feeling like you didn’t do enough because so-and-so is still mad at you or still isn’t ready to commit or XYZ.
One costume is feeling like you’re too little, too late because someone died or moved or ended a relationship before you had the chance to say something or become someone.
One costume is feeling you’re not sexy enough because you didn’t get selected to be the girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband or, possibly, you were cheated on.
One costume is feeling you’re not intelligent enough because you didn’t get the desirable SAT / MCAT / LSAT / whatever-test score.
It’s hard to deal with the messages we’re being told (without being directly told) by this “enough” idea.
The word “enough” is hard to pin down. Its definition, “as much or as many as required,” still leaves it quite vague. Required by whom? Required for what? Required by when? Required in what form? Why required? If I don’t meet the requirement, am I nothing but “below what is required?”
Everyone from colleges to banks, from parents to spouses, from bosses to colleagues will show you and count the ways that you are not enough. It’s absolutely no surprise that we end up feeling exactly the way we’ve been told to feel all day long, for years: you are not enough.
I grappled with this for years. For me, it started in the ballet studio. No matter how hard I tried [forced myself] I didn’t have the feet, the hips or the spine for ballet. It took me 25 years to realize that my passion for ballet and my tireless willingness to pursue ballet was enough for me. That would be my complete ballet story. Was it enough to be a principal ballerina in New York City Ballet? No.
Many times [most of times] we gauge what is enough by the standards set by organizations, committees, forces outside of ourselves. We accept that they have the power to tell us who we can be; for what style of life we are eligible. But that is their story, not your story.
The answers to the question, “When will what I’m doing be enough?” are:
- When you say it is enough.
- When you’ve reached when they say it is enough.
The power, then, belongs with you to decide how the story will go. You do this by deciding who you will listen to. In that process of writing how your story will go, there are some truths that need not be overlooked.
You already are enough and you decide when enough is enough.
If you want to grow, grow. If you want to rest, rest. If you want to work to meet a standard set by someone else, challenge yourself to meet that standard. But separate the external standard (the work, the number, the guilt) from your personal worth (your intentions, your strength, your choices).
If you’re having a hard time deciding on a standard and how that applies to your life (not your worth):
- Ask yourself: Who set the standard? Why is it in place? Do you agree with the integrity behind that standard? If yes, then you’re working toward a performance goal. Something measurable, something concrete.
- Ask yourself: How will I know when I’ve reached enough? If it’s a number, then it’s clear. If it’s something subjective, then identify something that will help serve as a limit or sign for you.
- Ask yourself: Does working toward this stand make me feel empowered or diminished? If you’re feeling good about it, you’re in a good space. If you’re feeling lousy, that could point to things such as: you aren’t ready, it isn’t for you, or you’re not interested/invested.
- Ask yourself: What parts of me identify with this standard and what parts of me are standing outside of this standard? Who you are and what you’re asked to do are separate things. You decide where You will stand. You decide what’s important, what counts for you and what matters.
- Ask yourself: What is this standard counting? Every standard has to choose what’s important, that is how they know what to measure. For example, buying a home counts your ability to prove you make a regular income. Dance auditions look at your level of technique and your approach to artistry. For your story, you choose what counts.
These questions will help clarify for you what you’re feeling about a standard, where you are within that standard, and if you are interested in that standard guiding your time, energy and efforts. Remember, you are the being, not the standard.
I won’t sit here and pretend like standards have not shaped my life. They have. But they stopped making me feel like I’m “not enough” when I placed the power behind my own perspective and not someone else’s.
Standards are outside of me. They become either a goal I choose to work toward, an identifier that something isn’t for me, or a reminder of what I care about. I am and you are enough to decide if that standard is for you or something you should walk away from. You choose how you want to spend your time, energy and efforts and rest in the comfort knowing your presence and your intentions are enough regardless of what standard you’re dealing with or the result.
Your worth is not set or established by someone else’s standards. You are enough.
Your time and your energy is for you to decide how to spend it. That is enough.
If you are doing what you can, that is enough.
If your heart is behind your mission, that is enough.
Enough does not equal perfect, and it’s difficult to reconcile our idea of perfection with what we are capable of doing. But who you are and how you choose to spend your life is enough. Who I am and how to choose to spend my life is enough for me.
At the end of my life, I hope to be sitting by someone I love, holding their hands; to smile and say, “Enough.”