Show me someone who hasn’t been plagued with self-doubt sometime or the other? Many go through a lifetime of struggle in order to find their true worth. Often, ‘enough’ is never enough and they keep chasing the external successes hoping that the internal feelings of self-acceptance will follow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
So, why is it that we feel obliged to ourselves for having to earn our self-worth? Some might run after that fat pay cheque or an expensive home; for others, it might be a much-sought-after promotion or losing weight – whatever it is, there is something elusive that lies beyond our present, where we have to reach, before finally knowing that we’re enough!
I don’t know about you, but I have been there before, plagued by self-doubt, worried that I’m not ‘enough’. Not once or twice, but countless times. I’ve had moments when I’ve hated seeing my face in the mirror because I’ve felt inadequate as a person in a given situation. I must admit I have been harsh on myself. Very harsh and unforgiving too. I’ve spent years feeling that I should have been different than I was. I should have been more successful, more talented, more confident, smarter, more disciplined, more organised and so on. Feelings of “not being good enough” created a lot of stress in my everyday life and a feeling of inadequacy that only grew stronger with time.
When we relocated to India almost nine years ago, I was on the brink of collapsing, as I struggled to juggle home, freelance work, and a demanding three-year-old child. Almost overnight, we found ourselves in a totally different environment with a very different way of life. As a mother, more than anything else, I found myself inadequate, having to look after a child who was an extremely fussy eater, prone to falling ill all too often, and who was now beginning to show signs of behavioural issues that were beyond my capacity to handle. I was eager to start full-time work but the situation at home made it impossible to do so. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life and I was constantly doubting my own capabilities as a mother, powerless against problems that were overwhelming, to say the least.
Earlier, I had only had fleeting moments when I doubted my capabilities—but now, I had no doubts that I was in no way ‘enough’!
It was around that time that I came across Winnicott’s picture of the “good enough” mother who was a three-dimensional human being – a mother who was under pressure and strain, full of ambivalence about herself, both selfless and self-interested. One who was capable of great dedication yet was also prone to resentment at times, which was only natural, if you’re overwhelmed with too many issues to handle. She was not boundless. She was real.
It took me some time to digest what was going on around me. But Winnicott was a god-send! What I realized, over time, was that I had been measuring “enough” in all the wrong ways. Enough isn’t about what I do or don’t do, what I say or don’t say, or even who I appear to be; being ‘enough’ is simple –it’s about who we are. This knowledge, in itself, was life-saving and life-affirming for me. It freed me from the bondage of my inner perfectionist and allowed me to make room for my imperfections as a way of coping with the crises in my life. It was easy to accept one is ‘good enough’. It made me realise that support was a key ingredient to shift from not feeling like you are enough, to knowing you are.
Each moment I loved my child, I was enough. Each day that I woke up, went about my daily tasks and took care of my family, I was enough. On the odd days when I didn’t feel up to it, and gave in to feeling inadequate, I had to keep affirming this truth, over and over again.
Notwithstanding occasional screw-ups and misfires – I now found it easy to accept myself more openly with all my flaws and could see how that was going to help my child to develop a sense of self and the ability to understand and forgive himself and others. It is fine to struggle, and this struggle doesn’t take one away from being inherently normal or enough. It’s part of our humanity. Dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems and relationship issues are normal life issues that we all face as part of the human condition. We are not crazy or bad or inadequate. We are only human.
It helped me realise that even when we are feeling overwhelmed, irrational, confused and emotional, we are still normal and ‘enough’. We are all works in progress and nobody is perfect.
Our problems in feeling inadequate often lie in the fact that we over-identify with the externals in our lives — our looks, our clothes, our homes, our job titles, our education, our relationship status, our bank balance, etc. Focusing on these externals is a recipe for feelings of perpetual inadequacy as perfection is unattainable and sometimes enough is never enough, because of the constant comparisons with another.
I love Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion that we must detach from our ego and focus on our essence —our true self. That’s when we can realise that we are already perfect, lovable and enough just the way we are.
I started by forgiving myself if I made a mistake, and celebrated that I tried. I chose to love myself, even when I handled a situation poorly. When I started to shift my thoughts, I started to see my life transform. I looked inside myself for love, support, and acceptance. When I started to see myself as worthy, I found situations, jobs, and relationships that empowered me.
‘I am enough’ – These three words are simple enough, but the meaning is very often dismissed. If people insist we need to attain that status, ignore them. We are enough just the way we are.
Each one of us is unique and that alone sets us apart from everyone else. We need to accept that and embrace it. Let no one’s opinions or words make us question our self-worth. On certain days, when we tend to question who we are, let us know that we are enough, no matter what!
Trying to be what others want us to be is one of the most tiring experiences. Being ourselves requires far less work. It helps us find our voice. In the end, we do not need to be with anyone to find the other “half” to make us whole. We already are. We are enough!
Are you happy being who you are? When you try something and fail, do you give yourself credit for trying? How do you cope with a bad day?