• Sarah Hickson

You are Enough: Exploring Why You're Not Convinced

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Last night I was sorting through files on my lap top and I came across this blog that I had written about 2 and a half years back. I never got around to publishing it, probably because I felt like I was being too honest and therefore felt too "vulnerable." Re-reading it now however I felt like it was something that I wanted, or needed rather, to share with you because the more I step outside of my comfort zone in following my passions, those dreaded feelings of not feeling enough always creep back, no matter how illogical I know those questioning thoughts are (I should have titled this blog "The Musings of a Perfectionist" ). If this experience is something that you constantly struggle with, I hope that you find comfort in learning that you're not alone. We all have our own version of a story that questions whether or not we are able to measure up in comparison to others, yet while we're stuck in it, it can be so consuming and debilitating, right? The truth is, no one is harder on ourselves than we are. To heal ourselves away from that awful feeling of inadequacy, I believe, begins with opening up and being honest about it, which is exactly what we did when I attended the event discussed below. Once I realised that a room full of women experienced the same feelings of "not enough" as I did, I immediately felt more connected to others and more compassionate towards myself than I ever had before.

August, 2015

There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

(Leonard Cohen)

Do you struggle in feeling good enough as you are?

I bet you weren't expecting a blog opening to pack a punch so quickly.

At first the question seems simple enough yet its answer requires you to dig deep. If you put everything about you and your life into the equation, considering your friendships and relationships, your role as a parent, your attitude and behaviour surrounding money and success, your performance at work/school, and then your feelings towards your own appearance, intelligence, strengths and weaknesses - ultimately your whole sense of self worth as a package, you may find the power of this question to tap into areas that immediately feel uncomfortable and confronting. If the answer was yes, the emotional weight behind your honesty makes this question difficult. You may even feel lonely and isolated as you ponder your own personal story of “not being good enough” and the honesty of your answer.

Perhaps you will find comfort in me telling you that it’s something that I've struggled with for most of my life, as did a room full of women at an Esoteric Women’s Health event I attended in Prahan, Melbourne just a few weeks ago. The very topic of that event focused on exhaustion and how our modern way of living and its associated pressure of being everything to others is draining away our inner resources, leading us to feel exhausted and in some cases chronically ill. In small groups we were asked to discuss multiple questions that related to the topic, e.g. what are we doing/how are we living that is exhausting our mind and bodies, what ‘props’ are we using to combat our feelings of exhaustion, e.g. sugar, caffeine, alcohol, instant gratification via social media.

Going deeper…

As the day further progressed, and the deeper our discussions became about how we were feeling honestly, it was both moving and humbling to discover that every single one of the one hundred and fifty plus women that filled that room felt the same painful feeling that I thought plagued myself alone, “I’m not good enough as I am, at what I do, in what I look like, in what I have, in what I know. This feeling of unworthiness was the driving force behind us leading a life feeling overworked, overcommitted, overwhelmed, yet still we were dealing with our perceived inadequacy and in turn ashamed of being so flawed. Then, like sitting in a confessionary we became even more honest and open as we discussed the social masks we tend wear to create a persona of what we think others want to see, a persona of what we think they will accept, like the modern super woman who is fully capable of handling full time work, motherhood, her friendships, relationships, exercise regimes, etc, hiding who we really are underneath the surface. We came to realise that holding up armour was too, in turn, exhausting.

The impact on our health…

When it comes to health, from a holistic point of view, you can imagine how damaging and inflammatory continually operating from this sense would have on your body, mind and spirit, essentially running yourself into the ground at the mercy of your health in order to feel ‘good enough’ by our modern cultural standards (or the expectations that we put on ourselves). When you take this lifestyle into consideration, the behaviour towards food it tends to create (mindless eating, binge eating, sugar cravings) and its disruptive influence over our entire biochemistry (hello high cortisol levels), is there any surprise that chronic illnesses such obesity, depression, anxiety disorders, autoimmunity, cancer and chronic fatigue now plague our healthcare system, costing us billions of dollars every year?

And it’s not just women…

Of course when I discuss feelings of unworthiness I am not referring to them as exclusive to women alone. All of us, men, women and children, are biologically wired with a longing to belong and be loved, with rejection being one of our deepest human fears.

Of course, the media and advertisers know this well, with television, magazines, newspapers and social media all being filled with advertisements that appeal to our unconscious feeling of not being enough, digitally manipulating us with a vision of beauty and what being perfect looks like, giving us the impression that perfection is something within our reach, only if we owned this, changed that. Of course, we will never measure up because perfection is merely just an idea, it isn’t real. To be utterly truthful and blunt with you, to be human is to be flawed.

Exploring vulnerability…

In her incredible book Daring Greatly, social researcher and TED talk sensation Dr Brene Brown explores the topic of human vulnerability and explains that our feelings of lack stem from our culture of scarcity, stating:

Scarcity is the “never enough” problem. The word scarce is from the Old Norman French scars, meaning “restricted in quantity” (c. 1300). Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs and wants. What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it. (p.26).

In its essence, to not be “enough” leaves us feeling vulnerable of rejection - a feeling that is so uncomfortable, painful and exposing that we spend our lives filling and then covering the void of inadequacy so we don’t have to consciously deal with it, yet this is often at the sacrifice of our authenticity, of living a life that is meaningful to us.

In great detail, Brown eloquently challenges the myth that being vulnerable, of being real is a weakness, arguing that vulnerability is instead a great strength that requires courage at the risk of rejection.

“As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armour; we used our thoughts, emotions and behaviours as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realise that to live with courage, purpose and connection - to be the person whom we long to be - we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armour, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen (p.112).

The human journey, changing route…

In my own moments of struggle, of darkness, I tend to write poetry as a creative way to navigate through my own painful emotions surrounding circumstances that are, or were, seemingly outside of my control. A personal form of my own healing therapy, I have been engaging with writing since I was 6, and poetry since I was 12.

Recently I had been looking over what I had written, particularly in my mid twenties, a time where, as I like to call it, the dreaded quarter life crisis took hold, powerfully challenging my sense of worthiness by critiquing who I am, who I'm becoming, what I've achieved, what I haven’t, where I’ve been and haven’t been, how much money I have, where I'm living, my love life, or lack of, and the direction my life is heading. As I read over my writing it was very clear to me that during that time, my struggle with feeling adequate was very real and confronting. Riddled with anxiety I had briefly shut myself off from the world as I struggled to cope, using food and alcohol binges to numb myself away from the pain.

With what I know now, it was interesting to read over what I had written during those moments of deep emotional despair, this time from a place of worthiness and self-compassion.

If only I had known back then that my deep sense of lack was actually not unique to me, that my fear of not being good enough in one way or another was also felt by the same people that I was comparing myself to. And if only I was taught that there was strength and courage in my vulnerability, of risking failure, rejection and finances for following my own path and choosing to live a life that was meaningful to me, even though I wasn’t sure how it would manifest at that point in time (pursuing my passions has always been a big trigger of the 'not good enough story" for me).

Then again, if I change my perspective and look at it differently, if I didn't know those dark moments of pain, suffering and anguish at all, then I wouldn't have learnt to appreciate the power of my own inner light, that is, once I had figured out how to switch it on. Now, whenever I get caught up in those crippling thoughts I remind myself of the Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi Sabi, based on Zen Buddhism, which encapsulates imperfection as part of beauty. It teaches that what is beautiful in art, in nature and within ourselves is not in exclusion of our flaws, but because of them. You and I are enough, just as we are.

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