The notion of not being enough is a menacing shadow that has cast a pall over most of my life.
When I was growing up, it went something like this:
I am not smart enough. I am not pretty enough. I am not tall enough. I am not popular enough. My boobs are not big enough. My waist is not small enough. My hair is not shiny enough. No one will ever really love me because I am just not enough.
In my early adult life, when I became a single mom, I was still plagued by many of the denunciations above, but add to that: I am not giving my son enough love, attention, discipline, material things, etc. And above all, I am not a good enough mom.
Later, when a thundering moment of clarity demonstrated that I could no longer drink like a normal person, and my world summarily crashed around my ears, my inner voice screamed, “You are not strong enough!”
All of this, as it turned out, was bullshit.
Let me be clear: This malevolent specter of “not-enoughness” didn’t originate as a result of my upbringing or family life. Both of my parents were (and are) loving, encouraging, supportive people. I was always enough for them, and they told me so often, in both words and actions. Unfortunately, none of that made me believe it was true.
I’ve come to realize that my predilection is innate. It may have been amplified by my shyness as a child, which made me an easy target for several incidents of bullying in school. (No doubt the glasses, braces and bad ’80s perm did NOT help my cause, but that still does not excuse other kids’ asshole behavior.)
Bottom line, I believe that I was born under the assumption that I could never measure up. That’s a hell of a burden to bear. Just sayin’.
About six years ago (coinciding neatly with the time I got sober), I decided, well … enough of this malarkey.
Through some hard work and spiritual soul searching. I came to a place of acceptance and self-love. I am happier than I have ever been. I work on being the best possible version of myself every day. There is nobody else like me, thank God. (The peanut gallery can shut it.) Most days, I truly believe I have enough, I do enough and I am enough. Yep, most days.
But I am all too aware that “not enough” will always be a ripe battleground buried deep in my psyche, with the threat of war imminent.
Case in point, here are just a few of the poisoned arrows I’ve been lobbing at myself lately:
You are not working hard enough. You are not making a big enough dent in your debt. You are not networking enough. You are not chasing new business enough. You are not worthy of this client or that client because you don’t have enough resources, experience, etc.
You are not exercising enough. Your body is not toned enough. You are not eating well enough. Your skin is not youthful enough.
You are not being social enough. You are not putting yourself out there enough. You are not being helpful enough. You are not open and selfless enough.
I have decided it’s time to throw up a shield against these nasty arrows, which is, simply: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE!
That, in a nutshell, has been the root of all my perceived shortcomings, forever and ever, amen. When I compare what I am doing, or what I’ve got, to someone else, I always see what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
The only way I can keep from wallowing in this shitpile of negativity is to downshift toward gratitude. Which is what I am doing today to stop this self-imposed assault before it draws blood.
So here goes … I am grateful because I’ve had a lot to celebrate the past few months.
For starters, as of March, I’ve been freelancing full time for two years. Let me just say that I am really fucking impressed with myself. I have not only been able to sustain an income that feeds me and keeps the lights on, but I’ve actually grown my business to the point where I have to turn down work so I can have a life outside of it. BOOM.
Here’s more happy news: My sweet son has managed to survive almost nine months of living on his own. I wrote about his move here. He also made it to his one-year anniversary at his job in April, which (if you know our collective history) is a huge deal. Not only that, he got hired at a second job last week. All in all, he is making some good, responsible decisions, and I would like to think I had a little something to do with that. I am certainly a proud mama.
Oh, and here’s a satisfying revelation: The pool opened this weekend, and when I checked my ass in the mirror on the way out the door, I found that (for 42), I still look pretty damn good in a bathing suit.
When I see all my gym friends posting on Facebook (it seems like some of them LIVE there), I feel guilty that I don’t go more than a few times a week. But you know what? Judging by my fitness level when I do go, my current schedule actually IS enough. More would be better if I want to take it to the next ass-kicking level, but THIS level is higher than I have ever been in my life. And that ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.
Speaking of Facebook, social media is the devil when it comes to unfair comparisons. I know that most people only post the good stuff going on in their lives, and there’s bound to be a lot of garbage festering under the surface that I don’t see. Still, it’s easy to feel sorry for myself as I scroll through posts of my friends out having the time of their lives when I’m on the couch with my dogs and a bowl of Cheerios.
But guess what? I was reminded this past week that while I don’t have an extensive posse of friends like I did in my 20s (many of those folks have grown up, grown out and moved away), I have a few incredibly close ones who love me and my company.
Oh, and hey, it has been MY choice to sit on said couch. All it would take is a little effort, and I could be tweeting up a storm about my adventures, too. Assuming I wanted to do that, which more often than not, I really don’t.
Truth be told, I love my alone time. I frequently prefer it. It doesn’t make me a loser if I choose Jason Statham on demand over a crowded party that would suck the life out of me. And just because I am not sharing about it all over the Internet doesn’t mean I’m not having fun. So there.
See? Life is good. Enough, all the way around.
I know I’ve written about this topic before in other blogs, so forgive me if I sound like a tape on loop. But I also know I’m not alone in the never-ending struggle against the phantom of inadequacy.
I hope that by keeping the conversation going, we can all knock it the fuck out. For good.
I’m in the ring, I’ve got my gloves on, and I’m circlin’. Watch out.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.