When Enough is Too Much
Written by: Becky Bey
“Enough is a decision, not an amount.” Alison Faulkner
Several years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a national women’s leadership academy. The academy was a year in length with three in-person gatherings in Washington DC and monthly conference calls in between. The academy accepted 25 women each year, selected from all over the country, all at the top of their fields, all “achievers,” and all seeking to be better leaders. I could write an entire novel about this experience. Instead, I’ll tell you what I couldn’t have possibly known then, but what I know now, that this was a real turning point in my life. It was the first time I contemplated the question, “What is enough,” and maybe more importantly, “Who decides enough?”
At the time I was selected for the leadership academy, I was at the height of my career. I had a respected title, was established and was “known” in the community and was doing what was universally considered meaningful and important work. I was meeting all the expectations of my boss and my colleagues and then some. In short, I’d made it! I was successfully adulting! I was also working 60-hour weeks, neglecting my marriage and my friends, and treating myself as an afterthought. And still, I never really felt like I was doing enough.
In my constant quest for personal and professional growth, in what felt like the endless need to prove myself and do or be more, in my never-ending quest to please everyone all the time because I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing anyone, I was losing. Outwardly, you would not have known. I was a total badass, slaying dragons and managing it all with what appeared to be ease. On the inside, I just kept thinking “I’m too young to feel this old and tired.”
It was in this space that I approached one of the end goals of the leadership academy; the development of a leadership standard; a succinct mantra and reminder of how we each wanted to lead moving forward. After much consternation, I walked away with two: “My best is always good enough AND I’m the determinator of my best.” and “Stay in your own lane.” (The second of these is an entirely different challenge I’ll save discussing for another day).
It’s almost 25 years later and what I’ve discovered is we’re ALL struggling with some version of what is “enough.” How often have you felt inadequate? How often have you juggled work, partner, kids, exercise, eating, and travel only to feel like you’ve failed at all of it? How often have you gauged your worth or your success by how busy you are? How often are YOU last on the list of priorities? How often do you neglect your own needs (or won’t even admit you have needs) to ensure everyone else’s needs are being met?
Even after those 25 years of contemplating “enough,” I find myself sometimes catering to other people’s expectations, their timelines, their needs and only as an afterthought wondering where what I want or need fits. But I’m getting better and I’ve spent significant time seeking out wisdom and resources. I share a few of those with you here. Consider them additional tools for your personal journey.
- Very few of my thoughts on this issue are original. If you’re looking for true experts, I would recommend Anne Lamott, Rob Bell, Sarri Gilman, Coach Colene and a wonderful site on Facebook called Ravenous Butterflies. These are all readily available resources you can find by typing them into Google or, if you’re interested in a cup of coffee and more conversation, contact me. I could talk about this stuff ALL DAY!
- Stop judging your worth by what you accomplish. “We tend to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first for us to BE. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.” (Thich Nhat Hanh). P.S. If that’s not a mic drop sentiment, I don’t know what is! Be okay with being still.
- Memorize the following: “I am enough!” You heard me. YOU ARE ENOUGH! We are ALL enough. It doesn’t matter if you’re binge-watching Netflix, slaying dragons, or making the bed. You’re enough just as you are. I know you don’t believe me. I don’t believe me some days. So I’ve adopted the practice of starting and ending the day with a moment where I stand for just a second, feel my feet on the floor, take a deep breath and actually say, “I am enough.” Hokey? Yup! But also highly effective if you do it regularly.
- What would it look like to treat yourself as enough and as the most important person in your life? I would guess you have almost no issues spending time and money on your kids, your partner, your friends, your co-workers, or your pets. When was the last time you took time or spent money on you? Don’t panic! If you’re not accustomed to this, you don’t have to start extravagantly. Start with baby steps. Take 30 minutes a week for yourself. Read a book, take a power nap, have a drink with a friend, close the door and sit in silence. Whatever gives you joy and is solely for you. Do that and hold it sacred. Trust me, the world will keep moving and no one will die without you for 30 minutes each week. (Which, by the way, is almost as scary as if it did since so many of us find our value in being indispensable and irreplaceable).
- Grace changes everything. Like most things that are meaningful in life, this is a process, not a result. Show yourself (and others) a little grace. “The one thing you leave behind is how did you love? How did you love?” (Shinedown).
Enough is a decision, not an amount. Here’s to having, being, and knowing you are enough.
Becky Bey, Government Relations Specialist KLJ
(MAFE member since 2016)