The first time I remember really battling feelings of inadequacy was when I became a wife and mom.
Before that, I’d been a fairly confident teen and young adult, and 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 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.
PS. Let me know in the comments which number on this list stands out most to you today!
Ready to Do Some Inner Work?
My free worksheet, 21 Questions to Discover Your Purpose, can help you better understand yourself, your purpose, and your… enough-ness. 🙂 (It helped me understand mine!)