If I could tell you one thing today, it would be this: You don’t have to be anything more than you already are in order to be enough.
The first time I remember really battling feelings of inadequacy was when I became a wife and mom.
I had insecurities like anybody else, but overall, I was a reasonably self-assured teen and young adult. Outside of my parents, I didn’t have anyone to be “enough” FOR.
But once I had my own family, I found myself needing to be enough FOR THEM.
I’d hold my baby’s head in the palms of my hands, his body not even the length of my lap, and think—What if I’m not enough for him?
What if I can’t raise him the way I want to?
What if I yell? What if I can’t help him with his math past the fourth grade? (Spoiler alert, that was totally the case.)
What if he leaves our home with emotional baggage because of the way I parented him?
It was scary to have someone to be enough for.
The Pressure of Striving for Perfection
It was the most real pressure I’d ever felt—far more real than the pressure of a state tennis tournament, a final exam that my grade for the semester depended on, or the money I needed in order to pay rent. Those suddenly seemed like nothing compared to the pressure of raising a human.
The Hamster Wheel of High Performance
So I did what I’d always done: I focused on performance.
I read the parenting books, had deep conversations with my husband about how we wanted to raise our kids, and I got to WORK.
When I couldn’t breastfeed like I’d hoped, I pumped around the clock for as many months as I could. When I broke my knee cap clean in two while carrying a baby in my belly and a toddler on my hip, I didn’t even see a doctor, because I told myself I’d be fine and reminded myself I had more important work to do.
I bought the art supplies and made the toddler crafts. I took the kids to library story time, did the Mommy & Me swimming lessons, and hid vegetables inside their food.
I turned motherhood into a SPORT. An activity I could be graded on. (And I dang well better be getting an A!)
What If We Trade “Perfect” for Real
But after a few years of this, I found myself (unsurprisingly) exhausted.
I started to doubt whether my performance-focused motherhood was really giving my kids what I wanted to give them most of all.
If I asked myself what I really wanted to give them, it wasn’t stellar eating habits or a deep and abiding love of books (as great as those things are).
If I could give my kids one thing, it would be the peace of knowing that they are enough—no matter what.
So maybe, just maybe, instead of hustling and pushing and wearing myself out trying to be the perfect mom, I should just REST in my imperfection and begin modeling a more wholehearted, self-accepting approach to life.
Maybe this, in the end, would be a million times better for my kids—and for me—than high performance ever was.
Parenthood, though, is by no means the only place where we experience the fear of not being enough. I feel it creeping into my thoughts in so many different areas, and I know from talking to hundreds of you that I’m not alone in this.
So if I could grab you by the shoulders today and tell you one thing, it would be the same thing I’d tell any of my kids: You don’t have to do or be anything more than you already are in order to be enough.
I hope the following list helps this sink in even deeper.
37 Things You Don’t Have to Do or Be in Order to Be ENOUGH
- You don’t have to fit into a certain pant size.
- You don’t have to look younger than your age.
- You don’t have to live in an Instagram-worthy home.
- You don’t have to be a perfect parent.
- You don’t have to have perfect kids.
- You don’t have to want more children (or have children at all).
- You don’t have to have marriage figured out.
- You don’t have to eat a certain way.
- You don’t have to exercise a certain amount.
- You don’t have to work outside the home.
- You don’t have to stay home with your kids.
- You don’t have to feel fulfilled by motherhood alone.
- You don’t have to achieve a certain job title.
- You don’t have to hit a particular tax bracket.
- You don’t have to reach a predetermined level of “influence” online.
- You don’t have to be the most productive person you know.
- You don’t have to have healed your childhood wounds.
- You don’t have to move through grief on anyone else’s timeline.
- You don’t have to have turbulence-free mental health.
- You don’t have to have “balance” figured out.
- You don’t have to have a 10-year plan.
- You don’t have to be a natural optimist.
- You don’t have to make friends easily.
- You don’t have to fit in.
- You don’t have to be brave all the time.
- You don’t have to stay close to people who have hurt you.
- You don’t have to enjoy time with people more than you enjoy time on your own.
- You don’t have to enjoy time on your own more than you enjoy time with people.
- You don’t have to stay as you’ve always been because it’s more comfortable for someone else.
- You don’t have to know your life’s purpose—or even your purpose in this season.
- You don’t have to have overcome your emotional buffers (eating, Netflix-binging, shopping, etc.)
- You don’t have to be so evolved that you no longer compare yourself to others.
- You don’t have to be invulnerable to what other people think.
- You don’t have to be free of self-doubt.
- You don’t have to feel things less deeply than you do.
- You don’t have to handle change well.
- You don’t have to always put everyone else first.
All the world needs of you is for you to be yourself.
More from Episode 31 of “Life On Purpose with Erica Layne”
Here’s what else you can hear in the latest episode of the podcast!
- Try-On Session: A segment where I propose a new thought you can try on for size. Today I’m sharing a much-needed message from Untamed by Glennon Doyle, The Memo That All Moms and Dads Should Receive. I hope it helps parenthood feel lighter for you.
- Self-Care Spotlight: Today, my very favorite self-care product—the Mindful Mineral Soak—a full-spectrum CBD product that smells amazing! Use code LIFEONPURPOSE for 15% off your first purchase (and to have the best bath of your life!).
Listen to the full podcast episode in your favorite podcast app or in the audio player below!
Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Overcast | Stitcher | Amazon
Show produced by Callie Wright
A Tool for Embracing Your Enough-ness
My free worksheet, 21 Questions to Discover Your Purpose, will help you better understand yourself, your purpose, and your… enough-ness. 🙂 (It helped me understand mine!) Grab it below!
I love this list. I need to save it and read regularly. At the moment not putting everyone else first is ringing in my ears. Thank you.
I’m so glad it resonated, Louise! Thank you for telling me!
The truth is every number on this list deeply resonates with me. To the point of nearly crying. It’s beautiful, I’m glad the Youtuber sueddu introduced me to your book. I have not purchase it yet but I definitely will. I just wrote it down on my notebook so I don’t forget. Thank you for such a wonderful list.
Thank you so much for the kind words, Louise! I’m so glad this rang so true for you. (And I’ll have to look up this youtuber!) Sending love!
Oh, number 26! All the easing up on myself, followed once I cracked that one!
That’s amazing to hear, Michele!
Amazing list, thank you thank you thank you!!!!! #10 I struggle with guilt of not “working outside the home” and I’m ruining the present moment. #18 grief…my mom passed away 3 years ago & it still feels like yesterday. Again, thank you for your precious email xo
I hope you can let that guilt go, bit by bit, Cathryn! Your contribution is no less, whether you’re outside or inside the home! And I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom. Best wishes in your continued healing!
I needed this badly. I’m going to print this out.
I’m SO glad it came at the right time for you, Erin. Sending love!
KIMBERLY E SUMMERS
29, 28, 30 are all standing out. 29 is probably slightly ahead–very slight.
Wonderful email today, so encouraging, thank you! They’re all wonderful and I relate over half of them, but I’m going back and forth between: 31- current emotional buffer I can’t overcome is morning coffee ? and 37- putting myself first often makes me feel guilty.
Thank you so much for all of these, but especially #30. I was just lamenting about this in my mind yesterday, and feeling like there is something wrong with me because I don’t know my purpose, like so many of my Christian friends, especially younger women seem to know these days. I was never motivated, energetic, or outgoing enough to follow my youthful dreams from 30-40 years ago, and that can bring tremendous guilt as I approach age 60 and still don’t know what I should be doing to fulfill my potential!
Sending so much love, Melanie! Although we often see purpose as something large and all-encompassing, I think often it is as small as offering a listening ear to friends or volunteering some time toward something you care about… I think when we look at purpose as a series of baby steps rather than a big flashing light on the road, we can find a lot of comfort. I hope this helps, and I’ll be thinking about you! -Erica
No. 26!!! How refreshing to know that I don’t have to be with anyone I’d rather not be with! THANK YOU!
From a mom who has lost her child. Make every moment count. Make sure they know you love them tomorrow is never promised.
I am crying and I REALLY needed to read it today. It ALL stood out for me, some for myself and some for others. Would you mind if I shared a link to this on my Insta profile, with a post about it? (I’m by no means an “influencer”, just a working/studying Mum with anxiety. I just don’t think I should do things like this without asking). Profile is @3_boys_mum
I don’t mind at all, Nel! Shares are always SO appreciated, as long as you don’t use the whole piece or choose not to attribute me, etc., which I’m SURE you wouldn’t do. Thank you so much!!
Oh yes, thank you, Erica. As women we nowadays face all those controversial requirements and still can’t win. It’s like trying to outplay the casino. If you stay at home – you’re boring, if you dedicate yourself to work – you’re a lowsy mother, if you don’t look like a Hollywood star – they call you invisible or ugly, if you do though there goes the slutshaming and so on, and so forth. The point is that we really don’t need to choose whether to fit in the social standards or become an outcast. I’ve come a long way to embrace it. I hope this list helps your subscribers comprehend it. As Chris Cornell sang – be yourself is all that you can do.
#30 with #27 as a close second. Two of my four have left the house and last 2 aren’t too far from it. After staying home and working way too hard at “parenting perfectly”, I now work outside the home to help with college costs. But taking all that time off the workforce, I’m no different than my 21 year old struggling with life’s purpose and making adequate money, even though I am college educated (she is not). And since I enjoy alone time more than hanging with friends time, I wonder why I don’t really have close friends. Many acquaintances, but no solid relationships (other than my husband of 24 years who has established career, established hobbies and established friends). It’s like I’m 21 all over again, but my body looks and feels otherwise ? I hear my “second act” could be even more amazing than my first, but I’m certainly floundering on direction and purpose.
#26 and #31 for me… easier said than done but it’s comforting to read. It gives pause to the pressure of “I must sort myself out”. #31 is a direct way of dealing with #26 for me.
All 37 items on this list!!! I am the first person to encourage and lift up others but I don’t do it for myself. I needed to read this today. Smiles 🙂