When You Are Enough Doesn’t Resonate
For any number of reasons, we might find ourselves in a place where we feel we are not enough. We fail at a new endeavor. We don’t win the deal. We feel unable to do a thing we want to do. The call to action doesn’t land well. Our jokes don’t get a laugh. People don’t do what we want them to do. The list of ways to feel not enough is endless.
I recently had some insights around this that created a huge breakthrough for me. It came through as I was journaling about something else entirely, and it rocked my world so much that I have to share it with you.
You may want to cozy up. This is a bit longer than usual.
The Fear in Asking for Help
For all of us, asking for help can feel like we are saying I don’t have enough capacity to do this on my own. Whatever “this” is in that context and in whatever way we define capacity in this moment: focus, attention, patience, clarity, skills, etc.
For me, there is one particular place where I have long struggled to ask for help. Like many people with ADHD, I often find it helpful to have a “body double” to do certain tasks. It’s not about capability or intelligence. Sometimes I need someone to keep me on the path of focus. Other times I need to bounce ideas off of another person so I can flush it out and move on.
I recently asked a friend if he would come over to help me with a project. Specifically, I needed him to sit with me while I worked on a few discrete tasks.
The fact that I could even muster the courage to ask my friend for this help was huge. It does not come easily.
Despite my ability to ask for (and receive) his help, this came with a huge side of not enoughness. And shame.
I’m 43 years old. I graduated from two Ivy League universities, with honors. I’ve had success in a range of disciplines. I can get myself out of bed every day, go to the gym, meditate, write and publish to my blog, and do all the things… and for certain task I need a babysitter to keep me on the path.
In the moment I felt this, the messages telling me you are enough rang hollow. They did not resonate.
Thanks to my commitment to engage in deep inner work, I’ve cultivated the capacity to sit with my shadows, distance from my thoughts, and see the bigger context. I was able to detach enough from this to know that, like all beliefs, this was just a story. And all stories are lies.
In my deep bag of tricks, I have several tools to help me reframe this and believe that I am enough. I pulled them out and got to work.
Listen for the Truth
One of the things happening here is the real, but not true paradigm.
It is true that in how I exist in this moment, I am enough.
It feels true that in asking for help, I am admitting that I am not enough.
These feelings exist within me at the same time. This is conflict.
I know, in a deeper place, that this second thing is not actually true. It is real, but not true.
Also, I know it’s a story. And all stories are lies.
There are other stories I can tell.
What’s true is that we all need help in some area, so, on some level, none of us is enough on our own. What’s true is that in how I exist in this moment, I am enough. Also true is that it is human nature to need community, collaboration, and belonging. So wanting those things doesn’t mean I’m not enough. It means that I’m human.
I also see that the point of reinforcing you are enough is to accept that wherever I am, and whatever my capacity, it is enough.
And yet that feeling of I am not enough still feels true to me.
Assign a Different Meaning
Our interpretation of something is tied to the meaning we give it. We can shift our perspective by giving something a different meaning.
Asking for help can mean things other than I am not enough.
I am giving opportunity to someone else to exercise or grow their skills. I have more fun when I collaborate with people I like. Delegating gives me leverage. Collaboration helps me grow faster. Having my friend come over gives me time to connect with my friend. He gets a behind-the-scenes look at my work and the wisdom that I’m getting ready to share more broadly.
I can see the alternate meanings that don’t mean I am not enough.
What happens when you do this and you see the other meanings but you still return to the belief that you are not enough, in whatever capacity?
Reinforce the Belief of I Am Enough
Many of my teachers suggest reinforcing the mantra of I am enough.They mean well, but this trick can be dangerous, for two reasons.
In this moment, the mandate to believe I am enough creates cognitive dissonance.
For some people, the belief that we are not enough is deeply embedded in our neuro-programming. The reason we struggle to embrace our enoughness, no matter how much we repeat it, is because we don’t believe it in the deepest levels of our nervous system.
It takes time and repetition to work its way to the core levels. In the meantime, the mantra of I am enough is contradicting what life is showing us:
You’re struggling on your own. You need help. By definition, you are not enough.Our nervous system will not consider what it knows to be false. As Tony Robbins says, one of the strongest driving forces is the need to remain consistent with our own identity.
And if you have deeply embedded programming that has reinforced, from early on in life, your belief that you are not enough, then you have an identity around being not enough. Even if it’s not at the surface of who you are, it lurks there, waiting for its moments to remind you.
Getting rid of this identity is the work of a lifetime. And in a culture where the pursuit of more and better is held in the highest esteem, relinquishing this identity is like swimming upstream while carrying weights on your back.
To embody the belief that I am enough requires a stealth operation that rivals the sneakiness of not enough. Trying to force yourself to believe I am enough when your body is telling you that it’s a lie is counterproductive.
The Second Arrow
The constant hammering of the messages telling us to believe we are enough, while well-meaning, creates a dynamic that says feeling like you are not enough is bad. It says that when we feel like we are not enough something is wrong. We need to fix it by reinforcing that we are enough.
I can see the stories I am telling. I can create a different meaning around asking for help. I know that I should feel like I am enough.
Feeling like I am not enough is bad. It’s not the path of self-love. It’s not the path of empowerment and oneness and self-efficacy and self-worth.
This triggers what Tara Brach calls “the second arrow.”
The first arrow is the thing we feel. When we believe that what we feel is bad, or wrong, then we turn on ourselves. Now we feel bad for the initial feeling.
If we don’t catch ourselves in this process, it will continue. Next, we will feel angry at ourselves for feeling bad about the initial feeling. And so on. Before you know it, you can be playing full-on archery with yourself, shooting arrows until you’re down the deep hole of the spiral of shame and self-aversion.
This is not the sport I want to play.
Making a Shift
The benefit of having cultivated the skill to sit in the empty space and see this as it unfolds is that I was able to catch myself before the archery game.
This is when I realized that maybe we don’t have to try to shift the belief or the meaning.
What if it’s true that I am not enough?
And what if that’s ok?
The Path of Acceptance
The stealth way to eviscerate the belief or fear that I am not enough is to not eviscerate it. The path is acceptance.
You feel like you are not enough? Great. Accept it. Move it to the front of the room, so you can see it.
And love yourself anyway.
Even though I feel, in this moment, that I am not enough, nevertheless I still love myself.
True self-love does not come from the belief that you are enough. It is unconditional. When I can accept the feeling of not enough and love myself anyway, that is real self-love.
When we can love ourselves exactly where we are, without needing to feel that we are enough, we gain strength to resist the race in pursuit of more. We can acknowledge our worthiness for love while still pursuing a path of growth. We can reach out to ask for help when we need it without feeling shame.
This allows us to live, create, and serve others from a place of fullness, rather than trying to fill ourselves through our service.
The Virtuous Cycle
This has a profound impact not just on our own self-worth and self-esteem, but on everyone around us.
How we feel about others is a projection of how we feel about ourselves.
When we can love ourselves even when we feel that we are not enough, we can love others for who they are, without needing them to be more. When enoughness is no longer a criteria for giving and receiving love, we all can feel love and belonging, no matter what.
The Truth: You Are Not Enough
The truth is that we are not meant to go through life alone. There is no animal in nature that survives on its own. None of us is enough on our own. Each of us needs help in some area.
We can resist this, with futility and frustration, or we can accept it for what it is, and realize that enoughness is not a prerequisite for love and belonging.
You are not enough. And you are still loved.
How does that land for you?