What “I’m not enough” really means

How would you define enough?


You could probably list several ideas: “I’d be good enough if…I lost X amount of weight, I actually committed deeply to my spiritual practice, I was in my ideal relationship, I didn’t snap at my kids, I made more money….”


Defining “enough” has been a BIG theme for me recently and also one that I’m watching come up for other people in my life. Just last week a friend of mine recounted how she struggled finding something to wear because she was afraid that others would see her as she saw herself. That same week someone very close to me shared how she was jealous and caught in a comparison competition. And then, to top it off, someone in one of my classes remarked how they felt like everyone was laughing at them – that they were “that” person in class.


It’s easy to be an outsider to someone else’s “not enough” story and to see through the bullshit. It was easy to look at my friend and admire her body and wonder what the hell she could be worried about, or to see past the story my close friend was creating. It was just as easy to see beyond the fear story the person in my class was carrying because I knew they weren’t “that” person – in fact, they are one of the hardest working people in class. It’s easy to see through the bullshit when it’s not our own and that’s because we entangle our identity and worth into the enough stories we tell and we create those by asking one very small, seemingly insignificant question: Am I?


When it comes to enough, we often ask:

  • Am I a good enough mother (or father)?
  • Am I a good enough daughter (or son)?
  • Am I a good enough friend?
  • Am I a good enough employee (or employer)?
  • Am I wealthy enough?
  • Am I successful enough?
  • Am I smart enough?
  • Am I pretty enough?
  • Am I good enough?


How many of those ring true for you? How often does questioning enoughness involve Am I? And, even if you had those things in question – even if you had the success, the magic weight, the approval of your mentor, the money – would that really make you “enough”?


Walk through this with me…let’s say someone makes plenty of money and is the “perfect” weight and is deeply committed to their spiritual practice and never procrastinates (many of the things we tell ourselves would determine our own enoughness)…how do you know for sure that those factors make her “enough”? Or, what if she does all these things but also yells at her kids. What then?


I’m sure you see the point I’m getting at – enoughness is essentially undefinable. The boundaries are loose and impermeable.


But even knowing this isn’t (dare I say?) enough. I’ve known for quite some time that I can’t measure my worth by where I’m teaching, how much money I have, what the scale says, whose approval I’ve got or even by the amount of people in class. But knowing that hasn’t stopped me from feeling bad, from attaching a story to the evidence I’ve got in front of me, from creating a story about how my worth is somehow intricately tied to the nuances in my life I can’t control.  What I’m seeing is the more I ask, Am I…, the more I find myself at the buffet table of enough hustling for my worth – and the more I do that, the more afraid I am that I’ll never find or get the enough I’m hustling for.


Afraid. That’s really what I’m saying when I say, “I’m not enough.” Saying, “I’m not enough” is really fear talking. Now it might show up for you as procrastination, overachieving, avoidance, comparison or even jealousy – it might manifest by throwing yourself into your work, hustling or going into victim mode – but no matter how you cut it, it’s fear talking. It’s fear saying, “Before anyone can call me out or identify my inadequacies, I’m gonna do it.” It’s fear declaring, “I put it out there first, so you can’t take it away from me.” And more than being afraid, more than the feeling that comes alongside saying, “I’m not enough,” is the inaction. Fear is inaction. It keeps us from making choices, changing direction, taking risks or even asking different questions because we’re afraid we’ll make the “wrong” choice. And so we continue to ask, Am I? Am I? Am I? finding reasons to stay in our same patterns and stories.


Fear will always have you ask some version of Am I? but asking Am I? to measure your worth is like trying to count every grain of sand. Simply put: it’s impossible, not to mention one that will rob you of fully experiencing your life. But, even though you can’t count every grain of sand, you can know that vast quantities exist on beaches you can’t even see. Just because you can’t see the evidence you think you need, just because you can’t “measure” your worth, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it’s dependent upon those external things.


The question for us to ask is never Am I? because the answer is always I AM. But, in order to come back to the I AM, in order to come back to our personal power and not be driven by fear, we must ask a different question: Do I? When we ask, Do I do enough? Do I know enough? Do I give enough? we can objectively look at the situation and our role in it. This allows us to step back into our personal power and make choices that align with our values. In other words, we get a choice. Do I know enough? No. Ok, do I want to know more? Yes. Ok, what’s my next best step? Boom. No personal worth. No qualitative value. Just yes or no. Just choice. And that’s power we can run with my friends.


Saying “I’m not enough” is a universal story we tell. So, the next time you find yourself tempted to go into “not enough” or any messages that are its close cousins – any time you find yourself tempted to ask, Am I? or create a story out of asking Am I? – STOP. Literally stop. Whatever you’re doing. And take a pause. Research shows that the life of any emotion is only about 90 seconds; unless of course we feed it to which it will just grow stronger and last longer. So when a feeling or story comes up that you don’t want to stay in, the best thing to do is stop and interrupt that state. One of my favorite ways to interrupt whatever state I’m in is square breathing. Square breathing is where you breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, exhale through your nose for four counts, and hold your breath for four counts. And what I love most about it is all you’re doing is breathing and counting, counting and breathing. For me, because I’m so intently focused on breathing and counting, I can’t also be feeding the enough story and without emotion to feed it, that feeling eventually simmers down (enough) for me to ask, Do I? Do I want to feel this way? Do I give enough? Do I laugh, play, smile, celebrate enough? And if not, what’s my next best step?


This week put the power back where it belongs: in your hands. Spend less time searching for your enoughness (trust me, the buffet table is right there) and spend more time noticing where you are. Spend more time noticing how it is you feel when the story comes up so that when the enough comes up, you can interrupt the bullshit and get back into actions that align with your values.