There are reasons we never feel like we are doing or being “enough.”
In this recent post, I talked about shifting from the “Am I (doing/being) enough?” framework to a framework of “Is what I’m doing useful?” and “Am I continuing to learn and grow and get better at this?”
This week I want to talk about WHY we are so attached to the “am I enough” framework,” as a way to help us shift away from it.
The idea that we need to continually examine whether what we are doing is “enough” is deeply rooted in capitalism (which assumes our value as people is in what we can produce), and in American individualism and the related idea that it is our job, as individuals, to “fix” things – including things that are entirely beyond our ability to control/fix (which is nearly everything).
It is also deeply connected to perfectionism, which leads us to continually feel inadequate, saps our energy and confidence, and distracts us from the important stuff.
It is also important to say that “enough” and “perfect” are always culturally defined in ways that are biased toward certain ways of being in the world, making them even harder to live up to for folks who are not dominant shapers of those cultural norms.
In our culture, those norms use whiteness, maleness, thinness, able-bodiedness, being neurotypical, and having wealth, among others, as qualities to measure ourselves against when asking “am I (good) enough?” or “am I approaching perfection?”
And, because “perfect” is not achievable by anyone (thank you, Audre Lorde, for your naming of the “mythical norm”), it harms all of us, including the folks with identities that are more aligned with those asserted norms.
Measuring ourselves – and others – against this impossible standard gets in the way of our being able to:
See and appreciate our gifts and what we are contributing, every day.
Stay curious about what is working and what’s not, what’s actually in our power as an individual, and what requires collective action to change.
Ask for help, and offer it.
Make mistakes and recover from them, so we keep growing and learning and getting better at contributing in the ways we want to contribute.
Work collaboratively and well with other imperfect people, who are also never going to be “enough.”
Rest when we need to, so we can persevere over the long haul and keep doing the hard work.
As I asserted in the last blog post, we will never feel like we are doing or being “enough.”
We need to find a different way to measure success.
To reprise from that blog post, I suggest we try instead:
"Is what I'm doing useful?" and,
"Am I continuing to learn and grow and get better at what I want to be able to do?”
Those questions can take us into curiosity instead of blame and judgment.
They can invite us to dig deeper, and to release unrealistic expectations in favor of prioritizing where we can be most impactful.
And they can build our sense of ourselves as competent and capable of contributing in useful and important ways.
The world – and the people we care about – need that from us.
And, we should all want that for ourselves, and each other.
How is this landing for you? I’d love to hear in the comments.