They don’t seem like important or powerful words. Not and enough. But those two words can cripple. And I’m not even talking about when you look at your budget and realize that there is not enough. When it comes to our budget, those two words have power to force us into decisions that we would prefer not to make.
But I’m thinking about them more , well, in the realm of thinking. That tape that for many, if not most of us, decides to play at seemingly random times.
- You are not enough.
- You are not smart enough.
- You are not likeable enough
- You are not experienced enough
- You are not young enough
- You are not likeable enough
- You are not attractive enough
- You are not enough to matter
Now the thing is, there are areas where we are not truly not enough. I would love to play right field for the Boston Red Sox. However, I am not young enough, athletic enough, nor do I have enough hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball travelling at 90 mph. (well, probably not even 60 mph). Having some reality based “not enoughs” are helpful. No, you can’t do anything if you just believe.
But when it is negative, non-reality based ideas start playing in our head, they have the capacity to take us places that can shut us down.
As someone who is often accused of “living in my head,” I’ve had more than enough experience following many of these rabbit trails.
I start off with: “I’m not good enough at this thing that is really important in my life.”
To which I reasonably reply with: “Well, I could do this to address that!”
And that is when the flood starts:
- “Are you smart enough to do that?”
- “Do you have the money to do that?”
- “Do you know what people will say if you do that?”
That’s exhausting. No matter what you come up with, that voice in your head is a master at knocking down any idea you throw at it.
While I’m still learning to avoid travelling this road, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have been helpful.
1) Turn around
I was talking to a counselor several years ago and we were dealing with some specific thought patterns that were causing a lot of hurt. He compared thinking to taking a walk in a forest. You are walking along a path and at some point you begin to notice trees or other markers that are familiar. And you realise that this path goes some place that you do not wish to return to. Stop and turn around. Head in a different direction. You don’t have to keep going. For me, that was one of the biggest light bulb moments of my life.
2) Stop comparing your reality to other people’s press releases
When I am feeling not enough, all I need to do is flip over to Facebook, Twitter, or even worse for me, blogs of people who are in a similar field…and I will very quickly descend into that black hole. “Oh look, they are doing this, or that…they just had another amazing day…they just experienced this other thing that I would love to experience.” If only I was good enough, experienced enough, etc. If only I didn’t have the financial/family/relational/physical/etc. issues that I have to deal with, then my life could be that amazing too. What is wrong with me?
But what I often learn is that the night that they ‘instagrammed’ that amazing meal they had was also a night that they were struggling with a major issue of their own. The “greatest vacation ever” photos didn’t reveal the fact that they barely spoke to their spouse the whole trip. I have lost count of the church leaders I’ve looked up to for their incredible ministry in the past, who made made the news recently for things I would never want to make the news for.
3) Find your identity in Jesus.
A common response I find is to answer “not enough” with “if only.” If only I could have…if only I were more like…” Nothing like bringing in regrets to lighten the mood.
I just finished reading the book of Job the other day. I thought about that book a lot since we moved to Ireland. Not comparing our experience to his, but rather wrestling with this question,
“If you lost it all:
– your job
– your house/money/provision
– your reputation
– if your kids were struggling
– you fill in the rest of the list
But if you lost all of those things, who are you?
As a follower of Jesus, the identity question needs to be rooted there. I am God’s child. I am loved by him…regardless of any of those things that seem so important most days.
When things are going well, it is easy, and it feels good to point to all these external things and say, “this is who I am!” The thing is that they are fleeting. And when we’re grounded in them, and they leave, we’re end up answering the who am I question with, “not enough.”
It is only when our identity is based in Jesus that we can have the confidence to see “not enough” for the lie it is.