Glennon Doyle Melton’s Our Sacred Scared series inspired me to really examine my greatest fears. What’s my greatest fear? I don’t know. I’ve had many. They were all great (and not in a good-great way, but a big-great way). They were all debilitating. They all created layers of Not Me. Through the years I’ve worked really hard at peeling those layers off. As a kid and young adult, I used to feel really, deeply inadequate about everything about me. It was paralyzing. I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough–it’s a bitch to suck at math and science, and be Asian. There’s a lot of explaining to do. I was afraid I wasn’t funny enough. I was afraid I wasn’t pretty enough. Wealthy enough. Socially appropriate enough. Cool enough. Fast enough. Obedient enough. Fun enough. Laid-back enough. Capable enough. Skinny enough. Likeable enough. I have always been afraid people just wouldn’t like me in a general sense. As in, I was simply a bad person, and people would figure that out and just not like me. I would be rejected.
So I coped by posturing and pretended to be someone everyone would like. I lived the first two-thirds of my life feeling like a life-size cardboard cutout–a shell of a person afraid of people looking behind the cardboard to see what was really there. And I added distractions so people couldn’t look too closely. I didn’t eat a lot so the cardboard cutout would look skinny and pretty. Thank God I eventually got hungry enough to eat. I drank a lot because it turns out people like drunks. Until they get older and messier and haggard. Thank God I knew when to rein the drinking in. Mostly. And I made fun of others a lot because it turns out people think sarcasm and cutting people down is funny. Thank God I’ve since learned it’s just mean, and I can be funny in other ways.
The other Not Enoughs–I’ve learned to accept each of these issues as non-issues. I’ve learned there’s never Enough, and I’ve come to peace with most of them, most of the time. There are certain triggers still (like thin women, or people coming to my house, or reading other bloggers), but I’m usually able to breathe through those moments and regain perspective. I’ve learned these Not Enoughs aren’t about me personally if I choose to stop comparing myself.
But the one I haven’t really stared down yet is the general Likeable Enough one. I think I’m afraid that if I end up dying without a long-term, committed relationship, then it’s proof to the world, and to me, that I wasn’t in fact Enough. That it’s Life’s way of saying, “See? I told you, you just weren’t Enough. Sure, you were kind, and you recycled, and you contributed to both society and the economy. Sure, you inspired people and made some folks happy. But see? I told you all along, you just weren’t Enough. No one loved you enough because you weren’t Enough. You were sufficient, subthreshold, fine. But not Enough. We liked you enough, but we didn’t love you Enough. Thank you for playing the game. You can go home now.”
I’ve never put words to this fear. But I think it’s lived inside me since the day I was born. It drove me to try to be perfect in everything I cooked and baked and crafted and decorated and touched. It drove me to get married. It drove me to destructive and unhealthy relationships. It drove me to work 60-hour weeks. It drove me to be early for everything and judge others for their tardiness and imperfections. It drove most decisions in my life until about 10 years ago. I don’t act on that fear most of the time now, and when I do, I can usually recognize it fairly quickly and put a stop to it. But I’m not sure what else to do with it.
This General Likeable Enoughness that I lack–I realize, as I am writing this, it blankets me through the interactions of daily living. I’ve put to rest many of the demons. But it’s the collection of them all that create this general sense of not being liked or accepted. I have always wanted membership. I’ve always felt like the kid on the outside looking in–sororities, religions, cultures, communities. I’ve never felt like I fit in. I feel like I’m not good Enough to be offered membership. Take writing as an example–I feel like I’m not a real writer, because I “just” blog. But I also feel like I’m not a real, bona fide blogger. I feel like when I show up where ever it is I want to be in life, I’m still a fraud. Even when I get my foot in the door, I don’t really belong there–I don’t really deserve it.
I’ve forged my own path and done things in life my own way, telling people I ignore convention and don’t jump on bandwagons. This has served me well for the most part. But I am still haunted by feeling inadequate because of my zip code, or my salary, or my running pace, or my religious convictions or lackthereof, or…
So I talk to myself. A lot. I try to breathe and remind myself that I am Enough for myself, and I try to practice being scared and brave, and practice doing hard things. I try to silence the other voices in my head–most of the time they’re merely whispers. And each day I do feel a little more Enough. But I wonder if there will ever come a time where I can confidently, and truthfully, own my Enoughness.
I think the key to owning my Enoughness is to own and love my fears. I think the ones that are still issues are the ones I continue to fight, to try to banish. I already know intellectually there’s never Enough, it will always be something. But I think I need to embrace the fears. Feel the fears, feel through the fears. Hold them gently, acknowledge they are parts of me. And because they are, I need to love all parts of me. I need to love these fears gently and give them space to be inside me and in my life. I need to be kind and forgiving to myself for having such fears, much as I would be kind and forgiving to my loved ones when they express their uncertainties.
And it is in this allowance and honoring the fears’ very real presence in my life that permits them to leave when they’re ready. Resisting them creates a tight hold and struggle, whereas loving them gently allows Grace to escort them to another space when it’s time. And it’s time to own the Truth of my Enoughness–that there will always be times of not feeling Enough, and that’s OK.
You are not alone in your fears. Every day I feel like I am not Enough and compare myself to those who seem to be Enough. I think this rings true for many females who do not feel as if they earn the right to sit at the big table. Men own it, we do not. Just yesterday I was talking to another attorney (male) and we were talking about the weekend and I mentioned that we are going to Wisp. He retorted that he just got back from Steamboat Springs. I then thought, if I were smarter, I could make more money and if I made more money, I could afford to take a yearly trip with my family to Steamboat Springs or buy the house I really want, etc., etc. Chin up!
Thank you for being with me in our Fears as we all remember to Chin Up and not take on these comparisons that we face daily!
Your words are so heart-felt, I think I feel your fear. Actually, your fears are our fears. We all stumble into this comparison trap from time to time, we get ensnared and entangled, and then we struggle to get out, sometimes still looking back while we stumble on, invariably stepping right into another comparison. We are real and raw and flawed and fabulous. We are just enough just as we are.
Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you for identifying, and empathizing, and being with me in our fears. It’s almost impossible not to compare something on some level, and I think the key to not getting stuck in the briar patch is to acknowledge kindly what you said–that we’re real and raw and enough and fabulous 🙂 Thank you always for sitting in these raw spaces with me.
It is only natural that we compare ourselves with others. We are highly-social beings who look for the best and the worst around us. We judge when we should probably just learn from examples. I just wonder why we always seem to focus on our own shortcomings rather than our strengths. It’s certainly interesting.
I think culturally as women, and doubly for me as Asian, we’re taught to be “humble” and not boastful, lest we appear threatening…I think it’s important we learn to take compliments, and not dismiss them as “thanks but…” or “oh that’s nothing…” etc. as a starting point of owning our strengths.
Yes, I am beginning to realize that I have always been a feminist, though I prefer being a humanist. It puzzles me that we haven’t come such a long way after all. Humility at the detriment of the self cannot be virtuous.
Yes, funny how I feel as if I was born independent and a feminist…I believe the movement has stalled because we need to reframe this from a feminist issue to exactly what you say–a human issue. We need the other gender to also equally care about the human condition, so that they too can be and feel and do all that we can too, and not be seen as weak or “other”–it is only then that both genders can thrive. It’s not about winning, it’s about individuals making decisions that work best for him/her, who does want to stay home with the children, who does want to work outside the home and make the same amount as peers, we need support from all genders for those issues and more… I also see it as more than humility–it’s made to sound like humility but it’s really dismissing oneself…
Yes, dismissing oneself! How rude is that? I sometimes put myself off, but I try never to dismiss myself altogether.
Additional proof that your mum did a fine job with building a secure and solid sense of self in you. Kudos again to you and her! I strive to be the kind of parent she is. I’m failing miserably 😉 Dusting self off, and trying, trying again 🙂
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