Do you ever wonder if you are “enough?” Good enough, organized enough, smart enough, patient enough, spiritual enough, educated enough … fill in the blank … enough?
Do you worry about blending family, work, social demands, church demands, political involvement and self-care? Do you ever wonder if you make a difference and, if not, why bother? In a world filled with innumerable ways to compare ourselves to others, we can find innumerable ways to “come up short.”
You are not alone.
The world is changing in many ways. Some good, some bad and some what we make of it. The world we are moving into will be more and more driven by connections, not the industrialization of mass production. In fact, one might say it’s a new economy — the economy of connection.
Seth Godin, author of many books including “The Purple Cow”, “The Dip” and “The Icarus Deception” suggests that as we move away from the “mediocrity of the industrial age,” what will matter most are traits like trust, permission, remarkability, leadership, stories that spread, humanity, connection, compassion and humility.
Too often, those who excel in these traits are also afraid. Afraid to step up, afraid to speak out, afraid to rock the boat. And, they are often plagued by imposter syndrome, that sneaky little voice that tells us we are not enough, that we are frauds and that we don’t belong.
We stop ourselves and in our hurt and unhealthy tribalism, we try to stop others as well. Women can be notoriously vicious to other women. Just think of the “Mommy wars” and you will know what I mean.
Whether it’s business or politics or family or education or religion or nonprofit work or any other sector, I think the reason we often stop ourselves can be put into four categories.
First, we ask, “Am I enough?” or “Who do I think I am?” Author Marianne Williamson penned a well-known quote sometimes attributed to Nelson Mandela.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine.”
So shine on, my friend, shine on.
Second, too often we ask ourselves “What will others think of me?” When I was younger – a lot younger – I wanted to “fit in.” Blend in, really. Don’t get noticed. Keep my head down. That hope was shattered when my second child was born disabled and I knew our family would always be “different,” always stand out in some way.
We want other people to like us. Totally normal. But don’t let fear of not being liked by all stop you. I have many friends who can give a fantastic presentation, receive 101 positive comments and one negative comment and what gets focused on? The one negative comment. We need to learn to move past that. Take the feedback, filter it, look at it, own your portion of it and move on.
Third, we wonder “Is it OK?” Is it OK to have an opinion? Is it OK to stand out? Is it OK to disagree? Is it OK to be involved in politics? Is it OK to have a career and a family? (Although truthfully, most men don’t ask themselves that question.) Is it OK to speak up when I feel like I am the only one who feels this way?
Of course, the answer is “Absolutely.” First of all, you are probably not the only one and you speaking up with give others courage to as well. Second, even if you are the only one, you can still go out and make a meaningful difference. Remember Maggie Kuhn’s wise advice: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” You can do this.
Fourth, we too often engage in the false dichotomy of “either or” and not “and.” I can either be a mother or have a successful career. I can either be involved in political activism or be active in my church. I can either be for the Second Amendment or be for reasonable gun laws. Embrace the and. None of us is so narrowly focused or defined that we are only one thing. We are many things and often at the same time. Isn’t it lovely?
So yes, you are enough. You have something to offer this world no one else does. We need you.
Holly Richardson is, among other things, a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. She is grateful for the many “ands” she has enjoyed in this life and is looking forward to more.