“I Am Enough” Well, Sometimes

If you have friends, you have been sent one of the TED Talks of Brené Brown, the story-teller researcher who works on slippery topics–vulnerability, shame, being enough.

Stories are wonderful–we love them. But when we get to the part of bringing a story into our lives, we get into trouble. Suddenly, the story isn’t quite right anymore. It doesn’t fit your life exactly. Your life is different. That story is a little uncomfortable. So we abandon the story just when it would have done some good for us. Here’s what I learned when I explored Brown’s ideas of being enough.

When my coaching clients tell me they have no dreams, no goals, no ambitions they often present it like a fact that has always been true and will always remain true. When I peg that as the “I’m enough” baseline, they get nervous. Unhappy. Because they often feel they aren’t enough. What would it take to be enough?

We want to feel better than other people around us.  Which means we are allowing other people to determine who we are. Competition has made us this way–at school, we play competitive games and learn these rules as the rules of life. In the workplace, competition amps up and winning–the job, the house, the promotion–becomes the way we measure our satisfaction in ourselves. Among our friends, winning is getting the envious looks at the size 4 figure, the Prada bag, the BMW, the wealthy spouse. We define ourselves in the eyes of others. Nothing wrong with the Prada and the BMW, as long as you know they aren’t you, and that if you lost them, you would still have the essential you. (Reality check: if you lost the Prada, the spouse, the BMW, would your friends stay?)

It’s easy to lose sight of, then forget, our own values, our own dreams, our own goals. We replace what our heart yearns for with the prize we want right now.

When our friends change, leave, move on to someone else, we again feel we are not enough. Right here is the critical moment of rationalization. We choose to work on ourselves, or we choose to work on our acquisitions.

The harder truth to cope with is that we are enough every day. Everyone fails, everyone does dumb things, everyone wishes they could take something back. The real success stories belong to the people who get up again. The ones who brush off their values and won’t allow rationalization to tarnish them. Who push themselves to grow every day. To be enough every day.

Your “enough” can grow. That’s the point. A real trick is to allow your friends to be Enough today and grow to be Enough tomorrow, too. Not your Enough, their Enough.  If last week’s Enough feels tight, you have outgrown it. Luckily, Enough can grow with self-awareness.

-Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach who helps people deal with change and re-invention. In other words, who helps people grow into Enough.