I recently read a book of essays called Enough, by Shauna M Ahern. In it she spoke of her own journey from chronically feeling like she was not enough, to realizing her own wholeness, as well as her journey from always striving for more (money, success, achievement, etc.) to realizing that what she already had was enough.
It’s kind of a radical story. A woman coming to decide her weight doesn’t determine her worth, a successful food blogger letting go of a site and a mailing list she spent a decade cultivating, and an entrepreneur deciding the hustle simply wasn’t worth the cost to herself and her family. It’s almost anti-American to step away from the cult of productivity and striving for success, and instead choose to live a simpler life.
It’s inspired me to think about where in my life I need to say “enough!”
And what about you? What’s an area of your life where you can let up the reins a bit and relax into where you are, instead of always straining for more / better / next?
Perhaps it’s your relationship with your body, a place where many of us are never satisfied. No matter how good others think we have it, or how much “progress” we’ve made, there is always another area of concern, a new part of ourselves to obsess over and criticise and try to wrangle into submission in some way.
Or maybe it’s money. We certainly live in a culture that tells us more is always better and enough is never really enough. Even if you’re comfortable and safe and all of your basic needs are met, so many of us imagine that true happiness and freedom lie just out of reach, and if only we had just a little bit more money, all of our problems would be solved.
It could be your career. That’s something I hear from a lot of people I talk to. You’re happy where you are… for now. But what’s next? And when will you get there? And what will that timing mean, relative to your peers?
Our bodies, our bank accounts, and our careers are some of the top ways in which we compare ourselves and compete with others, so it’s no surprise if these ring true for you.
For me, my sense of not-enoughness is mostly related to my career or other ambitions. Sure I have more clients than ever, but do I really have enough? And yes I’m writing and sharing once a month, but is that really enough? Sure my coaching makes an impact in my clients’ lives, and my writing touches people here and there, but am I really doing enough to fulfill my purpose in the world?
It’s like I have the belief that when I arrive in the magical land of enough, I will feel differently. I’ll feel safe. I’ll be able to relax and enjoy my life.
That’s the great lie we tell ourselves. That external achievements or gains can ever make this feeling of not-enoughness go away. This is also the great lie told to us by our productivity obsessed, consumerist society and the beauty industry and all the other industries that thrive off of making us feel unworthy, then offering us products and services to fill the void they’ve created.
In other words, there’s a lot of noise we need to shut out if we’re committed to recognizing our own wholeness. Noise from the external world, and plenty of noise within our own minds as well.
For many of us it feels unsafe, scary even, to sit back and actually feel good about where we are.
It’s uncomfortable to allow ourselves to feel satisfied and grateful. For many people that feeling of contentment is so unfamiliar that it’s immediately followed up by the fear of being blindsided. We’d rather be constantly anxious than ever caught off guard.
I don’t have all the answers, unfortunately. I don’t even have most of them. But one thing I will say is that gratitude can be a powerful antidote to this feeling of not-enoughness. Stepping back and being grateful for what we already have, instead of discounting it or taking it for granted, is a good start in acknowledging the fullness of our lives.
In a strange way, having a recurrent foot injury has made me much more grateful for my own body. Sure I’m perennially disappointed by my thighs, but I sure am glad I can walk! Each time I manage to go for a hike or run to catch a traffic light without pain, I’m filled with gratitude for the simple privilege of being able to move.
Another helpful practice is simply to notice that scarcity voice when it comes up, and to name it. Oh, there’s that not enough voice again, telling me I’m not thin / successful / productive enough. Notice the voice and name it for what it is. Notice how it feels in your body when you get hooked into that voice. Decide if that’s a voice you want to continue to listen to.
Comparing ourselves with others is another thing to pay attention to. It’s something we all do constantly, and social media certainly isn’t helping any of us break that habit. So try to notice when you’re getting into comparison mode and choose whether you want to continue down that track. As Theodore Roosevelt once wisely said:
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
There is joy to be found in realizing that we are enough, just as we are.
Wishing you joy, and a reprieve from the striving,