Do you wake, go through your day, and go to bed thinking about all the “not-enoughs” about you and in your life? How’s that working for you?
Every day we think, on our own (as well as get hammered by others and the media), thoughts of how we don’t have enough or aren’t enough. How many of these kinds of thoughts have you had today: I’m not physically shaped “right” enough, attractive enough, financially set enough, successful enough, clever enough, creative enough, knowledgeable enough, confident enough, spiritual enough, empowered enough, physically or emotionally strong enough, and so on? What, today, did you think you don’t have or aren’t enough of? Were these thoughts new ones, different from ones you had yesterday and, perhaps, the day or days (weeks, months, years) before, or more of the same?
Einstein said, “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” None of us use our imagination, that is, entertain thoughts of not-enough because we enjoy it. We do this because it’s the model we grew up with and live with, are spoon-fed daily, so to speak. Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Though this makes sense to us when we consider it, and definitely works better than the long, drawn-out inner and outer battles we’re accustomed to, it can also feel counterintuitive, like going against “the norm.” We’ve been conditioned not to do that; we’ve been conditioned to be like everyone else so we can fit it. (I comment more on “fitting in,” in a moment.)
Any form of not-enough thinking usually puts us into a scarcity mindset. And this bumps right into Law of Attraction’s “like attracts like.” This mindset invites all manner of “like” into our lives: more fearful scarcity thoughts that feel as though they’re actually happening in that very moment (because our body doesn’t know they aren’t), more scarcity experiences, more of the very things we don’t want more of, and especially, don’t want to feel.
Something we forget when in the midst of unpleasant emotions is that the more we feed them with our thoughts, the more they multiply or amplify in quantity and quality. The very thing we need to do, on all levels and as soon as we’ve given some time to honor what we feel, is calm ourselves, which also feels counterintuitive because of the models we learned and copied. Researcher and author Brene Brown defines calm as “…creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.”
Part of what’s contributed to this not-enough or fear about not-enough mindset being such a challenge to move beyond is that others have “suggested” (or insisted) that unless we and our life experiences are super-sized, we’re just ordinary, and that ordinary is bad. But, is it really? Some, if not nearly all, of our most cherished moments and memories are the ones those “others” would consider ordinary. We’re told we must live extraordinary lives; and we nod in agreement, hungry to be labeled something other than that bad word: ordinary. Extraordinary means outside the usual. Are moments truly extraordinary in themselves, or are they extraordinary because of how we perceive them? Just as one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, so it is with determining how ordinary or extraordinary moments are: it’s as individual a determination as we are individuals. This means you could view every moment as extraordinary, or not.
What kind of strain are you under right this moment because “they” (meaning anyone who isn’t you) don’t think you and your life are super-sized or extraordinary enough, and you believe them? What would you have to do to make your life fit their requirements? So many are overworked, overscheduled, and exhausted because of this. Even worse is that we’ve allowed ourselves, from our not-enough mindset, to consider being stressed in these ways a symbol of how worthy others should deem us, or how we are to measure our self-worth, which, in this model, more often than not, never measures up and never will. Anxiety happens because of this.
We are designed to cope with moments of anxiety, but as intervals that happen to us all, not as a way of life. When anxious, we are triggered in one of two ways: we over-function (become overly active and micromanagers) or under-function (become less competent for a period of time). What would assist both responses is to re-mind ourselves about how much there IS to appreciate, before or so we can respond outwardly in ways appropriate for us. We hunger for more so we can escape feelings of not-enough, when the reality is that more appreciation of ourselves, what we have, and what we can do would not only feed that hunger, but provide a feast for us, with dessert! And it wouldn’t provide just one feast; life would be an ongoing banquet we partake of.
What might you find if you let go of a scarcity or not-enough mindset? You might discover what enough work, enough rest, enough play, enough spirituality, enough physical or emotional strength, enough knowledge, enough money, enough of anything is for YOU – in EACH moment. Because each moment is the only one you ever have. Do you have enough or are you enough for the moment you’re in, and only that moment (as opposed to a future moment you can build toward), is a question that would serve you. If you ask yourself this question in each moment, more often than not, you’ll find you are or do have enough to be or do what you choose to or need to in that exact moment.
Part of this scarcity or not-enough mindset is competitiveness that has been conveyed to us as “Be like everyone else, but better,” as Brown wrote in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. This puts us into comparison mode; and comparing ourselves to others in order to feel we’re enough and to satisfy others first and ourselves last, keeps us in a frustrating vortex of never good enough. We are also frustrated because of the mixed message we receive: fit in AND stand out. And, we aren’t quite sure how to do both well and at the same time.
One solution is to let go of worrying about what others think or will. But this scares anyone trapped in the not-enough vortex. Who are we or will we be if the opinions of others aren’t our measuring stick? Who, indeed? Besides, it’s a risk for many to let go of concern about what others will think, because we risk revealing our vulnerabilities, which may result in being ridiculed. That can be a terrifying proposition. It isn’t our preferred way to stand out from the crowd. It’s also scary because, as the saying goes, “No man is an island.” By nature, and need, we are social beings who rely on others in many ways. To secure our place in whatever society, group, or family network we find ourselves within, we make every effort to fit in. Fitting in may mean denying your authenticity, your truth, that you’re enough or have enough in the moment you’re in, because one rule of “the game” is that, as players, we must always be discontent with who and where we are and what we have, and make enough noise about this so that others calling the shots can see that we really are in the game, really are trying to fit in.
The catch-22 here is that all of this is done so that we can one day feel content about who we are and what we have. The joke is on us in that we can choose to feel this way in any moment. The choice to feel this way is what opens the door for us to the banquet hall of life. We are meant and designed to go for more in life, but as experiences that help us appreciate ourselves and what we create and life even more, not so that others can or will approve of us, or to justify our existence or worthiness.
What would you and your day be like if instead of feeding yourself a steady stream of “not-enoughs,” you nurtured yourself with appreciation for who you are, what you have, what YOUR dreams and intentions are and your ability to fulfill them – for the experiences and how these expand and enhance you and your life in ways appropriate for you? You’d become your own measuring stick, your own approval committee, your own voice of reason and purpose.
In the “I am and have enough for this moment” mindset, you realize that if you have two dollars in your pocket and need or want to buy something that costs eighty-nine cents plus tax, you not only have enough, but extra. It isn’t wrong to know or feel that you’d also appreciate having five dollars or more in your pocket; but feeling you aren’t enough or don’t have enough because it’s two dollars at this time (even though it’s really all you need at this precise moment) can send you into the vortex. Enter this vortex every time or enough times, and you find yourself stuck in there. The only way to leave the vortex is with your thoughts, which is how you got there in the first place. Because even if you win the lottery, your mindset will still be what it is. You could have millions and still not feel you are enough or that you’ll ever really have enough. What you have is never, ever who you are. Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” the empowering ruby slippers have always been on your feet. All you have to do is click them together and believe, “There’s no place like home,” home being your authentic self that holds the power of choice for you and your life.
Brown wrote that she and her family created an “ingredients list for joy and meaning.” This was a challenge because the list initially had desired goals, accomplishments, and achievements listed rather than things like more family play and together time, time for real rest and relaxation, or time to nurture creativity. They quickly realized that the initial list was more about how to get more so they could spend more, not about how they could create more joy, meaning, and free time in their overscheduled lives. What would be on your list for joy and meaning, and what would you do to make it so?
Perhaps we don’t need to find better ways to manage ourselves within our anxieties about the not-enough demands put on us by others and ourselves, but a way to eliminate some of those demands so we reduce or eliminate some of the anxieties that have become second-nature. Perhaps it’s time for us to create a new model for ourselves, one that supports us just as we are in each moment, as well as our choices to expand ourselves and our experiences in ways meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful for us. A new model that embraces the priceless value of ordinary moments, as well as those that feel a bit extra special because of the experiences we had in them, and not just because of any tangibles that may have resulted. In this new model, we decide in each moment what enough means to us. We decide to appreciate who we are as much as we appreciate breathing. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer