A common belief expressed in my discussions with students, with friends over cups of coffees, and at family gatherings is that somehow one is not ‘enough’. Through anguished voices, I’ve heard so many talented, beautiful, amazing people mutter “I’m not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, wealthy enough, tough enough, important enough, generous enough, engaging enough, attractive enough…”
The list of ‘not enough’s’ is unfortunately endless. And while it seems absurd that, for example, a gorgeous woman might express that she thinks she is ‘not pretty enough’, it is also understandable that she feels this way. We are pressed, particularly in consumer cultures, to feel like we need to continuously improve upon and/or optimize ourselves in order to feel like we are living a viable life–moreover so that we might feel ‘happy’.
Inundated with make-over television shows, cosmetic surgery advertisements, and celebrity tabloids, we are pressed to believe the fairy-tale myth that maybe one day if we try hard enough and we consume enough, that we will become enough too.
At the same time, these messages of ‘self-optimization’ mixed with the lure of fame and fortune are producing the belief that we are somehow ‘not enough’, and thus need to keep investing in becoming more (or less in the case of diet and fitness products and services).
But it is not only our consumer culture that presses us to think we are ‘not enough’. The belief “I’m not enough” and the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, self-consciousness, and self-loathing that come with it, maybe reinforced by people in our lives, either in the past or present.
“You need to be tougher out there, boy,” says the coach to the 12-year-old footballer. “You’re not tough enough.” As a man, he grapples with his emotions of past sexual abuse but becomes increasingly upset with himself because he is not being a ‘real man’ and he is not ‘tough enough’ to continue to conceal his pain any longer.
The internalization of the belief ‘not enough’ can be integrated into even more passive ways from the people who love us the most. The little girl who looks in the mirror and screams, “I’m so ugly! I hate my hair because it is not straight enough.” Her mother looks nervous and embarrassed while twirling a piece of her own curly hair.
But can we ever become enough? I would argue, a definite Yes, and an inevitable No.
If you are comparing yourself, for example, to an image that you’ve seen in a film, on TV, or in a magazine, then the answer is, No, you will never be ‘enough’. Why? Because that image that you are trying to emulate does not exist in the human form. It is two-dimensional and you are not. And, it has been altered, ‘enhanced’, and positioned by marketers to make you feel like you are ‘not enough’ so that you might purchase that product.
Understanding that you are ‘enough’ depends on how you compare yourself with everyone else (real or imagined). You need to be willing to face the reality that regardless of how much ‘enough’ you try to become, there will always be someone that is more than you, and importantly, less than you.
You are you–and as cliché, as this may sound, you are enough just the way you are. Try to focus on what you have, rather than what you do not. Make a list of all those qualities of yourself that you know are good, impressive, important, heck, damn awesome. And, don’t just focus on your physical characteristics but on what qualities do you possess as a friend, a lover, a mother, a father, an uncle, a sister… Look at this list of qualities, and perhaps you will begin to see what others see of you–that you are more than enough.
So, enough with thinking you’re not enough and enough with all those feelings of self-loathing and insecurity. You are more than you realize. You matter because you exist, hence, you are alive, you have a life worth living–a life to feel happy about.