Enough. I’m on an Enough kick lately…the notion of being Good Enough. Having Enough. Being Enough. It’s all wrapped up in the concepts of Shame and Worthiness. We feel Shame when we believe we’re not Smart Enough, Thin Enough, Competent Enough, Young Enough, Wealthy Enough, Cool Enough, Martha-Stewart-Crafty Enough, or Whatever Enough. We feel inferior to Imagined Others (you know, Everyone Else, or Normal People) and that we’re not worthy to sit at the table with them or be seen as equals.
It happens to the best of us, and each of our triggers are slightly different. But we all get struck with pangs of fear and we react to quell that fear and anxiety. To prove to the world, and to ourselves, that we’re Worthy and Enough.
This happens every day–mothers scramble to bake brownies and set up craft activities for school events when there’s really not another free minute in the day. Because they feel great shame and guilt that a Good Mother who Loves Her Children would certainly do these things. All the other Good Mothers are volunteering and chaperoning and frazzled, thus I am a Good Mother too.
It happens in ordinary, mundane moments that make up the days. A parent we know through school is a difficult man to have a fun and casual conversation with. He takes every opportunity to show how smart he is. In some instances it’s really interesting and adds to the conversation. But when each interaction feels like a competition and that he’s always trying to one-up you, it gets exhausting, And not fun. And just plain irritating. He is a smart man. He is also a kind man with good intentions. Just irritating as hell.
I felt bad thinking negative thoughts about him. Sometimes I feel I shouldn’t avoid him as much as I do because he is overall a good person. I tried to think about what this was really about–it’s too easy to write him off as a conceited prick who is full of himself. It struck me that it’s about Enough. When we don’t internally believe we are Enough, we posture and pose and strut our stuff to show the world how Enough we are. We get some positive reinforcement and do it more, for more positive reinforcement, and it’s a vicious cycle of relying on externals to fill our internals.
He wants to demonstrate just how smart he is. So he does. A lot. But it’s too much. If he believed he was Enough, he wouldn’t need to show anyone he was Smart Enough. Eventually, someone would figure out he was Smart Enough–probably Smarter than Enough. But here’s the kicker–it doesn’t even matter if he’s Smart. Whoever he is, However he is, is Enough. But he has to believe that.
I had a nasty habit of always wanting to be right, getting the last word in–I win! Showing that I am smart and competent and know what I’m talking about. (Confession, it’s not really a secret: I still do this sometimes. Shhh….) And it would be under the guise of being helpful. No, no–that’s not the correct way to hang a picture on the wall, THIS is the right way. No, no–your financial decision making is not wise, you should consider THIS plan.
I’ve learned many lessons of late. One is that I’m Good Enough so that I don’t need to show people that sometimes, every now and then, I really am right. I know it, and that’s enough. There’s value in not sharing every thought that runs through my head. Another lesson is that when I connect with a person, it’s the relationship that trumps being right. These connections range from store clerks to co-workers to friends to intimate partners. I want to support and nurture the person. I want to be kind and gracious and giving. It’s not about winning. It’s not about being right. It’s about validating the person’s dignity. In the end, how ever the person self-determines his life to unfold has nothing to do with me.
I can pick the battle of showing the correct way to hang things on the wall. Short-term goal is that it stays put and is level, and the house looks good. But at what cost? If I “win” then that means he “loses.” If I am Right, then he is Wrong. Do I really want to leave people feeling that way? I can also keep my mouth shut and let him do things his way, and support the outcome and person. Long-term goal is connecting with the person. Nurturing the relationship. Demonstrating the value of the person. Showing that he, and how he thinks, and what he does, is Enough.
I’ve found Grace in this new (for me!) way of navigating the world. I’ve always been struck by people who do this easily in their relationships and interactions. There’s a Stillness to their being. A Kindness. A Gentleness. They just Are. Because they let me just Be. Grace. Is Enough.