“I am not good enough.”
Sounds familiar? If so, you are not alone. You are sharing these words with many other people living in this world of ours, including myself and many of the high-achievers whom you look up to.
We wake up every morning holding a yardstick in our hand, one that serves two purposes. First, to measure ourselves. This yardstick is unlike any that you have seen – it stretches long and far into the infinite. You never really know when you have reached the end, or whether you even will, because that nagging sense of insufficiency is still stuck on you even as you achieve more and progress along your own yardstick of measurement. Second, to beat ourselves up with. You beat yourself up internally over a wide array of reasons – for making mistakes; for doing or not doing something you should not or should have done; for not doing more; for being unproductive… the list goes on.
In the achievement-oriented environment that I grew up in, I have learnt since young that there is a need to constantly prove myself to someone else or to the world before I can be considered worthy and enough. My country of birth, Singapore, for example, has been a status of achievement and progress over a very short period of just one generation. Imagine that! How impressive! Indeed, we walk around trying to impress others, to prove ourselves to our bosses and even to our friends. This served us for a while, especially in our development as we were growing up, but we are now finding that it is not a sustainable way of being and living. It has taken root at the expense of our sense of self-worth and compassion.
Or maybe, you don’t do that to yourself. Instead, you do that to others. You judge them based on their achievements (or lack of), or you feel appalled at how someone can be so incompetent or ignorant. If you are constantly measuring someone else like this, chances are, you have not been very compassionate to yourself either. You subconsciously do the same thing to yourself, and that someone else is merely playing the role of a mirror in your life. How would I know? Been there, done that.
Quoting Dr. Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection:
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
It can be scary to accept that you are enough, because it overthrows the conventional way in which we have been measuring the worth of our lives by. It is stepping into an unknown space. The point here is not to dump your textbooks, fire your boss, go into a meditative state for the rest of your life, do nothing, and feel good about yourself. The point here is to first be worthy, regardless of whether you or the world think you are, and then go pursue your success. Not the other way round.
More and more, people are caring less about the things that you can list down in a resume. People are searching for meaning in every aspect of their lives. Is it by any chance that almost every other person you meet is engaged in some form of activities in the likes of yoga, meditation, arts, etc.? The bestselling books nowadays are titles that were once-upon-a-time labeled as ‘self-help’ books, and more companies are branding themselves as meaningful places to work and providers of meaningful products and services. This is a shift that we cannot ignore.
Take care of yourself first, and then go save the world.
So, how do you measure your life’s worth?