Beware the deceit that comes with telling ourselves that soon, we'll be __________ enough.
It's easy to fall into this trap. Into thinking that once we're smart enough, we'll get the job. Or when we're sexy enough, we'll get the girl. When we're skinny enough, we'll be happy, when we're brave enough, we'll set the record straight, or when we're ready enough, we'll decide to start a family.
Adding an adjective to our primary human task of being enough for ourselves is heaping extra work on an already full task list. The daily routine of breathing and moving and working and loving is full enough; why run ourselves ragged with expectations too great for us to live up to?
For a very long time, I lived into the self-created myth that I had to be good enough to...well...you name it: speak to large crowds, be the right kind of dad, earn someone's love or respect, grow a company, belong, manage others, be deserving of accolades or praise.
This pursuit came to a screeching halt recently when a friend asked me what I meant by "good enough." She wanted a definition. After all, if that was my standard, where exactly was the bar set, she inquired?
Opening my mouth to answer, only silence remained. I couldn't define it. I couldn't articulate exactly what it was I was chasing. Surely if I'd spent so much time trying to grasp a particular benchmark, I could at least define it. Otherwise, how would I know when I'd arrived?
This is what I hear about extremely wealthy people (I'll let you know if it's true when I become one). I hear that even if they have millions upon millions in the bank (or billions, even), they want more. There is a continual chase for as many dollars as possible because the moment they have more than they have now, they still desire more. The finish line of rich enough just keeps moving.
"How silly!" I smirk to myself as I run my life's race, blind to the fact that my own standard of "good enough" is also staying two steps ahead at all times.
When I travel and sleep in a hotel, a new ritual I've developed is one I track on Instagram with the tag #hotelnotes. I write a short note of encouragement or challenge and leave it in the nightstand. I photograph this note and remark where it can be found. A few other travelers have caught on and contributed as well.
My hope is that knowing how isolating and lonely travel can be, perhaps at the right time someone will find a note and remember that they aren't alone. That they're on the right track. That they have what it takes to keep going.
Here's the first note I ever wrote:
Enough. No adjectives necessary. Adjectives are meant to enhance and embellish. But here is the exception to that rule.
Enough is enough. When you add to it, you actually end up with less. Here's what I mean:
- Good enough devolves into a lifestyle of performance, hiding your true self from any one you meet.
- Thin enough devolves into the pressure to eat less and less until you develop a disorder.
- Rich enough devolves into a career where income is the goal, rather than meaning or community.
- Ready enough devolves into a lifetime of waiting on the sidelines, rather than jumping into the fast paced game that is living.
- Smart enough devolves into hiding in books or measuring knowledge via someone else's testing, rather than by your ability to be out in the world, sharing conversations with those you meet.
- Old enough devolves into determining your qualifications based upon an arbitrary number, and not upon your fitness to lead.
- Young enough devolves into letting someone else have a shot, even if your youthful vim is perfect for the job.
And on it goes until we're paralyzed, watching everyone else work and play and love and move. We think they're __________ enough, but really all they are is enough in their own minds. They're enough to themselves and this enough-ness equates to confidence that bosses and partners and media and friends pick up on, are drawn to, and which forms a point of connection.
The Three Marriages
I just finished reading The Three Marriages by David Whyte. Actually, I devoured it. Whyte's position is that in a full life, each of us has three marriages: to someone else, to our life's work, to ourself. Regardless of formality, understanding who we are in these marriages can determine the health of each. But, most importantly, we can be committed completely to each (and should be) without them detracting from the other. And the more fully we understand each, the more successful we'll be in all three.
By completely understanding ourselves (the good and the bad and then living in tension with these two), we are equipped and able to understand that enough is enough, and that good, smart, ready, or sexy enough is actually a distraction from who it is we are and who it is we must be.
The chief pursuit is to be ourselves. Not a __________ enough version of ourselves, but our full selves.
Whyte writes, "Like a good relationship, a good work followed by a goodly amount of time always opens up our own character: our virtues and our many, many flaws; a good work like a good relationship always eventually asks us to be bigger than our own wants and desires, to see ourselves in a much larger context than the self that thought it had gained everything it wanted to keep itself safe."
Trying to be __________ enough makes our world smaller. Just trying to be enough makes it bigger than we thought possible.
My friend, the one who trapped me in my "good enough" myth, sent me a copy of The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It's a reminder I'll keep close by to shock me out of my slow march downward toward __________ enough.
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
And then she concludes:
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
As leaders, lovers, parents, entrepreneurs, children, and citizens, we have to move beyond using adjectives as excuses. Instead, let's use our very truest selves as reasons to get moving, to get going, to get changing, and to get living.