I Am Enough
I need to remind myself that I’m enough for the universe.
I used to believe that I’m not enough. Not for you, not for my family, not for my work. But as I look around me, I see that the people who love me believe that I am enough for them. My family says that I’m enough. My friends, by their presence in my life, tell me that I’m enough. My employer, by continuing to pay me, says that I’m enough. And the universe says that I’m enough, or I wouldn’t be here.
I have spent a decade or two mired in self-pity. I brought myself down with self-talk that criticized me, that pitied me, that made me less than the soup du jour. I can recall my self-talk when I was still mostly unaware of it and what it was doing to me. Phrases like “give it up”, “what was I thinking?” and “how come they have love and I don’t?” ran through my mind as a young and confused man.
I had friends that criticized me. I had friends that weren’t available to me. They were too busy. Back then, I didn’t have a girlfriend, wasn’t married, and I didn’t go out to socialize. I didn’t know what to do. I was very shy back then.
As a young man, I found myself looking for something to do, so I thought I’d check into night school. You know, where they take a high school classroom and fashion it into an adult school at night. I wanted to meet women then. I tried cooking class. I tried a writing class. I tried art class. But there was something in my head that would not let me open up.
Then I took a class called, “Don’t Be Shy”. That was it, I thought. I needed to learn not to be shy. And I went and I learned not to be shy. The class was run by a guy named Jason. Tall, red beard, curly hair. I just remember that as I took this class, I was started to become a tiny bit more comfortable with myself. I took what I learned there to heart.
I learned that he was a counselor. So I started counseling with him. I remember hearing him say, early on in my work with him, “I have the impression that you’re a man who can’t wait to jump out of his skin.” I think that was me. I didn’t believe that I was enough.
And through him, I discovered what counseling can do to help oneself. I had been trying to do life alone for a long, long time. I had a family waiting to help me, but they didn’t know what to do to help me. I had refused their help for years. Their advice would just bounce off my head, but Jason seemed to understand me.
My counselor helped me to see that there was hope and that I am enough. I wasn’t convinced though. He introduced me to 12 Step meetings and I went. But I wasn’t really serious enough about it to make it stick. Even after working with him for a few years, I still had problems, very deep problems, and very deep-seated fears of other people. I wasn’t ready just yet.
But I had found a crack in the wall that I had built between me and the world. I built that wall believing that I wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I had hit bottom that I finally realized that my beliefs weren’t working for me. So I went to meetings and socialized. I got a sponsor. I did the work not because I knew it would work, I did that work because I wanted to see if it would work. I decided to stop making predictions and to just wait and see what happens next. I began to really question my belief that I wasn’t enough.
With years of recovery work, I learned that I’m enough. I became aware enough to compare my thinking to my reality. I began to notice that I could recover from my mistakes. I learned that the lesson would be repeated until it was learned. That meant if I make a mistake, I get to try again.
I began to notice that my friends were forgiving of my mistakes. They even helped me work through my mistakes and they helped me see that some of the ways I was thinking were not working for me. They were helping me to shed the belief that I wasn’t enough.
My favorite example of their help came to me one day after a few minutes of bemoaning my latest mistake. My sponsor at the time said, “So…how long do you want to beat yourself up for that mistake? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? A day?”
“Um, 3 minutes?”
“You could stop now if you want.”
“Oh, OK. I think I’ll stop beating myself up now.”
And I did. When I beat myself up for a mistake, I was repeating and reinforcing my belief that I wasn’t enough. There was a subtle message underneath that belief: I am unlovable.
When we live with the belief that we’re not enough, the underlying message is that we’re not lovable. When someone finally told me that I was lovable, I didn’t believe them at first. But then I had to think that my mom loves me. My dad loves me, too. Even my sibs say that they love me when I talk with them. And my friends still answer the phone.
Once I got cracked with “you’re lovable”, I could see that my sibs loved me. I noticed that I had friends who loved me in fellowship. I started to believe that I was enough for them. It was hard for me to use the past sense, so I started with “I am lovable”. I started to notice that I am enough.
Even after decades of introspection, meetings, and helping others, I still have moments where I’m not really sure that I’m enough. That I’m lovable. But then I survey my surroundings. I notice that my mom and to a lesser extent, my dad are still in my life. I notice that I still talk to my siblings from time to time. I have friends that I talk to.
And then there is work. In American culture, work is not a place for empathy. It’s not the place to be vulnerable. And it’s easy for me to believe that I’m not enough at work. Other people got raises and I didn’t. Other people got promoted and they have better jobs. My manager hardly ever talks to me. It seems by design that I’m supposed to be envious of others and their supposedly better work lives. It seems by design that I’m not supposed to believe that I’m enough at work.
But I must be enough or there wouldn’t be a direct deposit into my bank account every two weeks. I must be enough or I would not have co-workers doubling over with laughter after hearing one of my one-liners in the office. I must be enough or they wouldn’t ping me in chat with a question about how to solve a problem. I must be enough or they would not allow me to help their customers. I must be enough or they wouldn’t give me their hot customers to work with.
From a physical perspective, I must be enough or I would not be here. The universe is always seeking a state of equilibrium, a state of balance. If I’m here, I must be needed by the universe to maintain balance in the universe. The universe needs me, or I would not be here.
So I thought about that for a while. Like for a few years. In my darkest hour, I had felt unloved, I believed that I was unlovable, I believed that I was not enough and yet, I’m still here. I am enough for the universe.