Anger, frustration, resentment, guilt. These are just some of the emotions of parenthood. Even spouse-hood and person-hood. I know. I’ve felt them. I’ve expressed them all and had very validating conversations in which I have formed deep bonds and friendships over these common experiences and feelings. I’ve been told, and maybe you have, too, that I am enough. With all the feelings I bring to the table. That who I am and what I choose to do with that is enough. Enough for myself, enough for my kids, enough for my spouse and my extended family and friends.
Maybe you’ve been told by a supportive and encouraging friend that you are also enough. You, just the way you are, are enough. Enough for your season and circumstance. Enough for now. Enough for your past and your future.
I’ve been thinking of this particular mantra of self-care, and even though it sounds positive and motivational, I think it also might be just a little bit too easy. It might even go as far as to be harmful.
Humor me for a moment while I explore this thinking a little bit more.
What if you’re actually NOT enough?
I know. That’s exactly the question I ask when I spiral down the guilt and frustration hole. Ultimately, that’s what I fear. Maybe you do, too. I fear that I’m not REALLY enough for anything or anyone in my life and I will end up, I don’t know, broke, embarrassed and alone forever.
So let’s sit with that fear for a minute.
If someone is telling me that I AM enough. That sounds sweet. Like a verbal hug. It deflates the fear or frustration of the moment and tells me that someone sees me giving my all. Nice.
But what if I don’t believe it?
Then I feel guilty for not believing in myself…enough. OR, I sit with the satisfaction that what I’m doing or how I’m coping is working, and I stop pushing myself to do or be better. OR, I think that I don’t need or deserve help. Then I stagnate and rot. Or I drown.
Either way, I’m kind of still stuck.
I want people around me who will encourage and guide me from a positive place. And I want people to recognize my efforts and my struggles and offer me a hand. I also want people to kindly point out to me, from a place of love, of course, when I’m being stupid or lazy or making excuses that hold me back. If you let me sit in the comfort of “enough,” I’m not sure I’m going to trust you to pull me out of the next funk.
So where do we go from here?
Here’s the thing. I’m honestly starting to tell myself, “Sara, you are not enough.” Which sounds harsh on the surface. But there’s more to it for me. The thing I’m starting to tell myself (and select others who might need to hear it in some way), is that no, I’m not enough, on my own. It’s that second part that might start to serve me better. Maybe it will serve you in some way, too.
We want to do it all. Have it all. Be all the things to all the people all the time. We have been fed this narrative that we CAN have it all. It just takes drive, balance, self care. But do we really want to do it all? Can we really have it all? We most definitely WILL NOT be everything to everyone, and certainly not all the time. Maybe we really just want to be ourselves, to be seen and valued for who and what we are, recognized for what we’re doing, and encouraged to grow in our own ways and our own time.
For me, focusing on using my strengths and talents and enlisting the help of other people who have strengths where I have weakness has been the best thing for me to feel like I am moving forward, growing and making progress with my business, with my family, friends and acquaintances.
I’m not enough… by myself. And I think that’s why I am surrounded by other people. People with unique talents, viewpoints, experiences and visions. Some of which I share, others I don’t. But I can be open enough to learn from everyone. As I engage people, as I hold their stories, as I reach out for help that — turns out — so many people are more than eager and willing to provide, I start to think that together, maybe we could be enough. If we move past the sound bytes and memes that seem surface nice but do not deliver the kindness we crave at our core.
I am many things. So many amazing, beautiful and awesome things to so many people in my intimate circles and in my wider community. I also want to be more and do more. But though I may have all I need inside myself to grow and improve, I may not actually be able to tap into my potential without some outside influence. In my story, that influence looks like God and the Holy Spirit, my spouse, my children, my wonderful, honest friends, my karate legacy community, other doula mentors and peers, even my clients and other brand new parents.
I am not enough. I do not have to be enough. I am incredible anyway. And I am not in this alone. I’m happy with my efforts and my work so far, but I’m not satisfied enough to stop asking myself for better today than I gave yesterday. And even if I fall or fail or have a rough season, I have more than enough love to make it through, to learn, grow and thrive when I come out on the other side.
So. If I tell you that you are enough, does it help you? What if I told you instead that I am here for you? To listen, comfort, encourage and do life alongside you for whatever time we have. What if I told you that I see how hard you’re working? I see how much you love your people. I see how they are thriving because of you — your heart, your actions, your behaviors that express your deep, deep love. Maybe that helps just a little bit more? Or in a different way? I wonder…
You are not enough…alone.
You are so much more than just “enough.”