Alright, I’m going to speak up about this. Last night I listened to one too many guided meditations attempting to assist me in pumping up my self concept by advising I affirm “I am enough.” The camel’s back is broken, and luckily for ME, I’m a writer, so I can complain in silence, and at some length.
What’s wrong with it, you say. Well first, as is always politic, I will say what is right with it. If we use ‘enough’s’ meaning of “sufficient”, as in “I am sufficient”, ‘enough’ takes us nicely out of the running, as it were. It places us squarely in the middle; not too much, not too little. JUUUUUST enough. And there’s something kind of sweet about that, right? It’s a space where we’re not TRYING to be… anything. So in that regard, the statement could be very Zen, or Taoist, or whatever. It could be saying, “This is me. Take me or leave me.” From that perspective, it can be very grounding.
What’s primarily wrong with the statement is that ‘enough’ implies a psychological gradient, a scale. Apparently it feels like a perfect place on the scale for many; not too submissive, not too brazen. It’s the Goldilocks game; not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold.
BUT- if we apply a concept that involves measurement to our human experience, like a comet, it leaves a trail. The trail is the rest of the story; the rest of the scale. Playing with gradients involves the subtle possibility of slipping back down the scale, since the word is used in the meditation forum as assistance in elevating our mood, we assume. The comet trail includes as well, our compulsive assigning of “NOT enough”- to situations, to other humans, and therefore, to ourselves. It’s the old human comparison shopping game. Instead of applying a descriptor like red, or excited, or creative, or that overdone chestnut, ‘awesome’ (but ‘awesome’ is awesome!), ‘enough’ slips attempts at self love into the judgment zone, sometimes clanging the door behind it. We are caught in the bear’s bedroom, asleep at the wheel, and fear of “not enough” overtakes us again.
My other complaint about “I am enough” is that, if we are pumping up our self concept in the psychological sense, here’s where we’re at:
just a little over the line, in the “Serene, Pleased” area, as I feel it. It’s all about how you feel it, of course; that’s the word game, in short. Theoretically, somebody in the world is absolutely ecstatic, trembling with joy, when they tell themselves “I am enough”, rather than hovering right above the experience of fear. I notice the above designation “Positive Self-Talk” is pretty high up there. But what if your positive self-talk is about being just…. enough? And it comes not from yourself, but a recorded meditation? This spiral chart is someone’s idea, of course- I certainly would not accept it without reservation, but it’s good enough…;) It’s a scale…
To give enoughness credit, it is indeed often a step in the right direction- AND a socially acceptable one. For, as we conclude when we understand the phrase as implying measurement, my culture is not really designed for flat-out pumping everybody up. It’s more geared towards cream-of-the-crop hierarchy- waiting for certain folks to rise to the top, and then we 1% drinkers project our self love onto them; which means wishing we were somebody else. THAT projection activity is eminently acceptable, right? We watch for the successful ones to appear in our realities, preapproved by God knows who (social media?) with a stamp of excellence, and admiration appears. But ME? Hey, prove it, lady. Until you prove it, grovel, believe your are not enough. Wait for permission;“OK, now I can stop the internal feeling of ‘I am not enough’ for a while. Now I am allowed to say ‘I am enough’- until the next time.”
I am already at this minimalist point of I am enough; I aspire to more than that, and I’m encouraging you to do so as well. Apparently a fair number of adult humans in my society don’t have that going on; somewhere along the line they slipped into the deficiency pit. I am going to assume that this cultural kettle of rotten fish has any number of foundations. Because here’s the thing; I also assume that people are born into the “more than enough” zone, at the top of the emotional spiral above. I remember times as a child when I was bursting at the seams. I was way more than enough.
I am a parent, and I keenly feel for the task; I do not judge here. But at our childhood most exuberant, we probably encountered reactions from caretakers that was very easily interpreted as “You are too much”. Parents (and other caretakers) are often overwhelmed; parenting, in a sense, is often too much, in our society anyway. Plus, particularly in the earliest years of life, children are a bit like wild animals, and caretakers do indeed have to draw boundaries.
There are certainly adults who learned somewhere to keep swatting at their charges, literally or metaphorically, to keep them in check. However, even relatively gentle childhood boundary setting may well be interpreted by a child as “You are too much”, when what the caretakers meant was “Your behavior is too much”. Parsing our selves from our behavior is a maturity issue. So it’s pretty hard to get to adolescence, never mind adulthood, without feeling the downward drag of “You are too much” coming from the adults in the room.
But it’s good news, that this social glitch is common, for it tells us that the “not enough” experience is fodder for our personal growth trajectory. Growing up means getting over it.
Some children get fairly regular feedback that they are over the line; some get it very, very infrequently, but that makes the few times that it happens even more glaring. It doesn’t matter the when, where, why, the frequency or the intensity or whatever, though popular psychology would have it so. What matters is whether or not we figure out how to move beyond “enough” positions on an invisible and often arbitrary (cultural, subjective, situational) scale.
The obvious reverse, “You are not enough”, is the other way we learn to feel like crap about ourselves; the “You are not enough” in the sense of “You are not cute enough, you are not happy enough, you are not helpful enough, your grades are not good enough, you are not obedient enough” , and on and on. But nobody needs my insight on that; it’s straightforward as hell.
Interestingly, this “You are enough” thing is mostly a “New Age” (you decide what that means) affirmation, as far as I can tell. And, interestingly, there are a lot of very psychospiritually sensitive folks in that cadre. AND since their proclivities toward emotional sensitivity and love and peace and all that good stuff are stronger that numerous others, they may have felt blasted by the “You are not enough” light-ray gun more often than some of their peers. It’s difficult to be the cosmic one, watching people beat each other up (or beating you up) and thinking, “Am I absolutely wrong here????” Existential confusion sets in.
This existential insecurity on the part of those who are born focusing more on love and light can be due to the fact that the rest of the tribe seems to be associating worthiness with DOING. This association is a real twilight zone experience for some of us, since self worth and accomplishment seem often to be apples and oranges. Folks in high accomplishment positions seem to often be lacking in compassion, for example.
By associative logic, then, if I wish to express more-than-enoughness, it means I must DO MORE. This is a bigtime issue for me, people, just because I am CAPABLE OF DOING MORE. Anybody out there get this in their life? I am capable of doing more because I have plenty of talents or interests, and I AM WILLING TO DO MORE. A very dangerous combination, full of slippery slopes. It’s one of the angles of the “prove it” game.
I don’t have a lot of specific memories from my youth, but here is one; me at my grandmother’s house, a place where people were not as ambitious (willing and able) as myself about cleaning and organizing. And, when I volunteered to do something ambitious one day (repairing drapes, maybe?) my much beloved Gram gave me one of the few pointed pieces of advice she ever offered; post-Victorian in nature, of course. She said “You should not let on that you can do things, Deedee. Or else you will get roped in to helping people all the time. Act like you are helpless.”
From one angle that means, act like you are not enough! Maybe we really can’t do something, and that’s a fact. However, that is different from summoning the FEELING of “can’t”. How much of playacting “can’t” before I believe my own gambit? I don’t know, because I was unable to follow her advice. Instead, like Cinderella, I eventually learned to say “No” sometimes- without engaging the feeling of “can’t”. A word which, when described as “helplessness” on our emotional spiral above, is pretty far down the scale, hovering not too far above the suicide zone.
As an associated complaint, I will briefly (well it ended up not being all THAT brief) ask that we drop the word ‘deserve’ from the English language. It’s another word that lots of spiritual teachers continue to use, because there is no healthy substitute, I assume. It’s crossed off my vocabulary list because it implies that someone EARNED something. At its core, it’s understood as a punishment-reward event. Of course most folks don’t think of it this way, but they do APPLY it this way, however unconsciously. If we are “good”, including stuff like putting up with “bad” people, working hard, keeping our noses clean, being self-sacrificing, etc. we deserve “good” things, which includes, of course, what we think we want (meme above).
This conditioning game says that if we are “bad” (“selfish”, greedy, lazy, angry, etc.) we will get some “bad” stuff, including, of course- NOT the things we want!!! Then we’ll assume that if we are not getting what we want we must not be doing the good thing, and will work harder to be “good”. AND the roulette wheel spins again… or the spiral.
The whole purpose to this game is to keep our eye off the ball of our own self love quotient. If we are busy monitoring the good and bad game, which can mean constant scorekeeping, we give our energy over to that. Also, the monitoring of the good and bad in life, the reward-punishment scale, is overseen by… whom? After childhood, I mean. Seemingly someone… or something… else… hmmmmm…not sure…maybe I’ll try that other religion…. How very very NOT USEFUL. Since if I think there is some sort of hard line oversight that is not internal, I have no power over my own life, strictly speaking. Plato’s advice is intended to relax our conditioned focus on good and bad, so that we can move into self responsibility. Can’t get started on THAT project too soon in life, if I am any example.
If I am busy with the good-bad game, I have to constantly look around like a rabbit on the run to see where I am headed next. Whether I am in the reward zone (God) or on the road to perdition (devil) where I don’t (or won’t) get what I want. In that NORMAL neurotic way of life, expectations abound, and betrayal and disappointment therefore lurk around every bend. Life is a mine field. A self perpetuated scam. AND, this game can be subtle as hell; you don’t have to be acting it out as in the cartoon below. It mostly goes on in your head- and your emotions.
It is very easy to see that this reward-punishment rule is not what is actually happening in the world, right? Because very bad things happen to very good people, and the reverse. Of course religions might assign some anthropomorphic entity to the oversight, and call it God, and then we start whining about God. Which is fine. For them. I like all major religions, personally. Though the original point is easily forgotten. Since any social organization is just a gathering of spirits, it’s not the organization’s fault if reward and punishment ends up predominating. People always make a church or temple or whatever, their own. If we waste our time monitoring everybody’s deservability factor, there’s less energy available for remembering why we walked in the door. Oh well!
“Deservability” very much supports the “not enough” experience, as it is CONDITIONAL. Whenever we get into conditional rewards, it’s a hopeless mess. We won’t get solid with “I AM MORE THAN ENOUGH. ENOUGH IS NOT EVEN APPLICABLE TO ME. I AM BEYOND SUCH MEASUREMENTS. DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME ABOUT ENOUGH, UNLESS YOU ARE REFERRING TO A COOKIE RECIPE, OR HOW MUCH GAS IS IN MY CAR.” “Enough” is plain old pathetic. And notice I did not say “We CAN’T get solid…”
Well, as always happens when I am working through a piece like this, “enough” reared its social conditioning head with full force, which often happens in the film world. Viewing the film Second Chance last night, there it was.
The film offers us the portrait of a woman who is upping her game- in the materialistic sense, mostly. Of course. But her self esteem/emotional level is involved, in the form of self confidence. I liked it well enough to watch it because one of the themes is the worth, or lack thereof, of a college education. So, the tendency for resumes to require classy higher educational references, in corporate America. And the possibility for some well educated folks to actually offer nada in the workplace. The main character is bucking the system here. Also there are some quirky characters. I like that.
So protagonist Maya goes through makeovers and troubling permutations and subplots, to land in a bar talking to her ex boyfriend about why she has a hangup about parenting. (Spoiler alert) She was ashamed, because she had gotten pregnant in her mid teens and given the child up for adoption. And, in a (to me) spectacularly anticlimactic response, the clown tells her “You were always good enough.” What??? “GOOD enough”??? Run the other way, Jennifer Lopez!!! If you can run anywhere in that tight skirt and heels! Speaking of skill sets, that particular one appears to be a requirement for actresses under the age of 80 these days. Learning to run in heels and tight skirts, I mean. Hopefully their contracts have good insurance for tripping and breaking your ankle on the job.
Admittedly Clown Man did raise the mood some, according to our emotional scale above; Maya’s shame is depicted hovering around in the helplessness area. So thanks, little buddy… but no thanks. I’ve got better things to do than catching the tiny bones you throw as though they were some sexy grey leather Furla briefcase. When it comes to ‘deserve’ and the ‘E’ word, enough is enough. Get thee behind me, and begone, I say!
As tag to this little bitch session, the trailer for the new Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron comedy… here because there is a reference to Seth’s character being “too much”:
May you always know that you are WAY more than enough, no matter what you do! And if someone is talking the “deserve” game, just smile, nod your head, and imagine the fine day when the concept is no longer needed. It’s like this: