A friend recently confessed to me he felt like a failure in almost every area of his life.
The pressure of balancing his job, his marriage, and role as a father exposed how he felt like he continually came up short. He felt raw, exhausted and so far from the person he wanted to be. No matter how hard he worked to do right by all his growing responsibilities, the end of the day would always leave someone disappointed — even if it was his own quiet inner disappointment. Everything seemed to be saying you're just not enough.
That's a hard place to live, like soul crushing hard. If you've found yourself here before or are here now, please know this…
You are not alone.
As parents, this is an especially difficult spot because in all other spheres, we still have access to honest adult conversation and feedback to start working through the problem. But in a parent/child relationship, this isn't the kind of conversation we can or even should have anytime soon. The limited scope of feedback we get from our kids tends to flare up our insecurities without the insight to help us move beyond them.
When it comes to our children, no one measures up to their own expectations of the kind of parent they wanted to be. It's one of the reasons why we are so sensitive to the judgements of other parents or susceptible to making our own judgements of others — there are too many of us disappointed in ourselves.
Maybe you set out to let your kids play outside more, do screens less, eat healthier, be kinder to others, get better sleep, or take out just one kid on Saturday mornings and those things haven't happened the way you thought. Maybe you've taken the time to plan and make sacrifices to meet those goals and yet — daily life still got in the way. We can get stuck by thinking of all the good things we aren't doing.
We can bury ourselves in good intentions.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where our lack is exploited, rather than dealt with sensitivity and insight to foster growth and healing. We are bombarded with advertisements intentionally deepening this void and promising there is a product that will fill it. We are so desperate for acceptance, we settle for conformity instead. And then we actively shame or at least feel shame for anyone who doesn't fit inside the lines. As the work of Brené Brown has identified, we live in a shame culture. Without proper self-care, our good intentions and high expectations of ourselves become weapons of shame and we internalize all these messages in the heavy little phrase, you are not enough.
I call bullish—. What is enough anyway?
Let's think this through. Without a clear definition, the bar of expectations will always keep moving so we are always under it. If you meet or exceeded them today, the unquestioned assumption is you can do even more tomorrow. This happens all the time in businesses, families, everywhere. These unrealistic expectations are not ever attainable. They are killing us from the inside out. If we want to give our best, we must throw off this subconscious weight.
Being enough is just showing up.
No other intentions or expectations necessary, just show up. Be present. Physically, mentally and spiritually — be present. Let go of anything outside this very moment.
Got another load of laundry still yet to do? Let it go. Thinking about a deadline for next week? Let it go. Remembering a time you missed the heart of your kid in a moment of frustration? Let it go. Got high hopes for doing something amazing this week with your family? Let that go too.
Stay. Right. Here.
Wherever you are, just give your family a few precious moments of your full and undivided attention. That's it. That's enough. Maybe the reality of your current circumstances, demands and responsibilities mean this only happens 5 minutes a day. Is it enough? Absolutely. Let me say it again. Showing up is enough. When you are present, you are your best self. This is how you give your best to your own life and everyone in it.
You. Are. Enough.