So anyway, long story short...I was sitting in a meeting at work, when my front-clasp bra came undone for no reason.
It’s like, what do you do under those circumstances?
There comes a moment in every woman’s life when we honestly wonder when we should upgrade to the old lady bra with the fifty-seven cast iron hooks in the back. You know those suckers won’t pop open in a meeting, and if they did, they’d become the Weapons of Mass Destruction everyone was looking for in 2003, taking out all innocent bystanders in a three swivel seat radius.
Might be worth it...I hate meetings.
And that was the exact moment when the weighty existential realization of how I’m not enough came upon me.
It’s never a convenient time to realize that you’re not enough, so it might as well have been when my bra broke.
Feeling “not enough” has its layers. Some of us feel the Not Enoughness sneak up on us at work. Some feel it parenting. Some feel it when they’re creeping on someone else’s Instagram life.
Collectively we feel we’re not smart enough, thin enough, mom/dad enough, friend enough, nurse enough, girlfriend/boyfriend enough, writer enough (ahem), and/or teacher enough. We feel we’re not enough on the court or field. We’re not enough in bed. We’re not stylish enough for our friends. We’re not rich enough for the life we thought we should have.
It’s really become an epidemic, with how small the world is, and the dating game is just a really good representation of it all.
Here’s the thing about dating: it’s the worst.
Being in a relationship is wonderful, at times. It’s the getting there part that leaves much to be desired.
Not to one-up everyone, but I triple-dog dare you to try dating while figuring out your sexuality, and then come out to an international audience….all in the span of about eight months.
What can I say, I go big or I go home with everything I do.
For me, dating men was a disaster from day one. I mean, in retrospect, it’s obvious that it would have never worked with any guy, because...well…#ImWithHer.
But in my defense, I always felt that I was never enough for any of the men I went galavanting around with. I wasn’t pretty enough, feminine enough, stylish enough, passive enough, dainty enough, laid back enough. I was too tall, have too much hair, too loud, too funny, my arms were too long (true story), my feet were too big, I drank too much, and ate too much DeFazio's.
I either had too little, or too much. I was never just enough.
Now, in what you’d think would be an easy transition, your Aunt Air had The Big Discovery, and, well, turns out that no matter where I go, there I am.
Not enoughness sticks with you better than Peter Pan’s shadow when it wants to.
In the lady world: I’m still too tall; I’m not gay enough - having not been gay for the required 27 years to be accepted into the herd; I have not worked in a coal mine; my uhaul was packed too quickly; I don’t have enough hair (in some drum circles); I only have two leather jackets; I don’t care about my astrological sign, or which planet is in retrograde; I only have one Indigo Girls album; I’m not femme enough; I’m not butch enough; I don’t often cuddle; I don’t wear enough makeup; I wear too much makeup; I’m not affectionate enough; I’m still too funny; I didn’t know that the average lesbian date lasts 3.5 years; and I don’t own enough flannel - and that one is an actual law.
I think my arms might be the right length on this side of the Forbidden Forest though, so that’s a plus.
This world didn’t come with an orientation manual.
I just feel like I’m not enough.
And look it, it's not just dating, and, thank baby Jesus, it’s not just me. Somehow, that weirdly gives me comfort.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard a mom say, “I’m not good enough,” I swear to our Most Venerable Lord On High, Hermione Granger, that I’d be able buy that condo I want in Altea, Spain.
At work I hear, “I’m not smart enough.”
With friends I hear, “I’m not stable enough.”
With guys I hear, “I’m not man enough.”
Why do we do this?
My vote is for comparison.
Everything is a comparison. Ev.Er.Y.THING.
Yes, we want to be the perfect one. We want the house and the car and the partner and the kids and the money and the status...but that’s just because we’re told that we should want that. We didn’t come up with those rules organically.
That’s how I found out that I was gayer than Liberace in a Speedo....I reevaluated the rules I was given.
We want to be envied. We want it so bad that we spend the measurable majority of our day envying at least half of the things in the world that that move, and all of the things that don’t.
Every other post on social media gives us a knot in our stomach because it’s someone else’s life and not ours. Everything we do is about what the neighbors will think.
And if you’re sitting in a break-room before work reading this, and you’re shaking your head “no,” I want you to think again.
We all worry about what other people will think of us...that’s actually not the problem. That’s the evolutionary part which kept us in tribes for so long. The problem is that our software hasn’t caught up to the hardware. It’s not 10,000 BC, and we don’t necessarily have to worry about surviving a winter in the wilderness alone.
That primal fear has been replaced with stuff expansion: that pair of boots you just got, or the overly expensive gym you just joined, or the designer glasses you just bought...it all feeds that Not Enough monster that has an insatiable appetite.
We believe Not Enough when it talks to us so loudly. It must be true because it’s voice is so forceful.
We want every effect to have a cause - and when we can’t find one, we make one up. Diabetes must mean you’re fat. Depression must mean you’re weak. Heart disease is because you don’t exercise. And the feeling of Not Enough must be because it’s just true. We don’t stop to think that these things are not accurate, or at least over simplified.
I wish we just used Not Enough at ourselves alone, but we project this on our people, which just perpetuates the cycle. If we’re not good enough, we’re sure as shit not going down alone in that sinking ship. We all claw at the nearest person to take them down with us.
Here’s what it looks like: you feel like crap about the way you look, so you look at your partner (or worse, your kid) and say something like, “Really? Are you wearing *that*?”
Not Enough is a real jerk. And it hurts.
Not Enough is a finger wagging in your face telling you, sharply, how much of a screw up you are. Not Enough pushes you back into the dirt when you fall, and tells you to figure it out on your own. Not Enough is the use of fear as the cattle prod with which we think we owe our successes. We don’t see that we succeeded thus far despite Not Enough’s rhetoric, not because of it. It’s the bully that we fear, and it’s loud enough to make itself sound like Truth.
But it’s not Truth.
Truth is a soft voice. It’s gentile. It’s the encouragement to take one more step forward. Truth, (or God, or Grace, or whatever you need to call it) is the voice that puts your face in it hands, gently wiping away the tears from your cheeks and saying that it won’t give up on you. Truth is inspiration. Truth is laughter. Truth is the permission to put aside the knife that we’re holding to our own throats. It’s permission to let go of the shame and the fear and the judgements and the self-flagellation, and to look at failures as stepping stones.
Truth is where the work really begins. It’s where we can keep beginning again every time we fall.
Not Enough is the assumption that we aren’t ok on our own - that we take up too much space in the world, and that we need to be made small again.
What if the assumption was that we are beautiful, and that we fit in exactly where we are right now, and that it’s ok to keep bettering ourselves as long as it’s us we’re trying to better...not an abstract idea from the internet?
I think it’s Anne Lamott (#LoveOfMyLife) that says that your own mind is not a neighborhood that you want to walk in alone at night. I would add that you don’t want to take a stroll on the internet whilst binge eating donuts either.
I gather that a lot of us think that something is wrong with us - that we have demons that haunt us, or that we’re just “F*@#ked up” (see prior blog on this phrase) because we feel so terrible about ourselves.
Brothas and sistahs, I’m here to tell you that your “demons” are not what you think.
Your demons are just a little kid in the dark part of your mind, huddled in a corner afraid to death of rejection and judgement. It just needs a gentle hand on the back and for you to say, “It’s ok, thank you for protecting me, we’re ok now, you can go to sleep.”
I’m serious. It wasn’t my idea, trust me. I’m not that creative. Just try it next time some shit thought pops up. Thank it softly and move on to something else. You’ll be as surprised as I was to find that the thoughts start to quiet after a while. It’s weird.
And if you think that is one hippie thought away from braiding your armpit hair, then at least say something to a safe person in your life.
I am #blessed with people in my tribe who very literally hold my hand when I’m crying in a car on 4th St at 1am. I have people in my life who will hear me when I say, “I need you to not respond, I hear myself, I just need you to listen to my Not Enough crap.”
We need to say all of the reasons we think we’re not enough out loud. It’s like a magic spell sometimes. When we say aloud those things that swim in our brains like parasitic amoeba, it releases their hold on our fear. We feel freer, more able to see The Truth a little more clearly. There’s a lightness to letting go of holding ourselves hostage.
And….and I think this goes without saying, really….there is a lightness to walking, head held aloft, out of a meeting you didn’t want to be in, with people you didn’t want to be near, with your bra completely, and irrevocably unhooked in the front.
Light, free, and probably illegal in Alabama.