While on my exercise bike, I surfed onto the second half of the film “Crazy Rich Asians” which I had sort of avoided because I told myself it would be trite and silly. And then all of a sudden I found myself sobbing.
The future mother-in-law tells her potential daughter-in-law, while taking the girl’s face in her hands, “You will never be enough”. However there is a turn of events, inner events really so that there is a shift that changes everything. And wow my tears kept flowing. Why was that? Where did that come from?
It hit me hard that it was about the feeling of being enough, and it hit me that my sobbing had to be about me. I cried the hardest when the shift came, when the loving and appreciation came into existence. It was the crying of regret about my own experiences of feeling like I was not enough, and the yearning and sense of possibility of feeling differently in the present.
I know I’m not alone here, in that there are so many people who sacrifice their truest selves to live up to expectations that make them strangers to themselves. It is the hardest when early experiences were filled with shaming and being made to doubt and compare, and then the outside world echoes those sounds of harshness.
This can be especially hard for those who walk to a different drummer than the rest of people who seem, at least on the surface, to march strictly and without question to the political correctness police of the day. In the nightmare (and boon, I know) of social media, comparisons and experiences of being left out or behind the social spectacles and events that seem to matter can be sudden and cutting.
The problem becomes a bit like bullying: just because a bully talks or hits louder or more forcefully and sounds smarter doesn’t mean he/she is right. But when bullying echoes the pains caused by earlier assaults of the mind or the body, self-doubt is more pronounced. And when the social scene echoes the not being known or understood or respected and validated of earlier days, the sense of not being enough seems absolute. It can be like hearing voices—messages confirming either that you are not good enough or that nobody will ever understand. All the while there is no room for real learning and growing, because the doors to real honesty and sharing have been closed. The atmosphere becomes too crowded with the noises from inside, noises that often say it is better to settle for relationships that are relationships in name only. They become “better than nothing”, because in one’s fantasy, they keep the prospect of being alone forever at bay. Doors are closed and nothing new can happen.
None of this can be fixed by a mantra only, as far as I can see. The inner experience, and what it feels like, and where it comes from, or where it seems to come from, are like living cells that need to be owned and witnessed in the present even if they were not in the past. In addition it’s easier to feel we are not enough, as in not worthy of attention and dignity for our wounds, if they don’t qualify for obviously and trendy injustices that can seem to diminish and even humiliate the suffering that is not publically noticed at a given point in time.
A good number of the people I’ve seen in therapy are drowning in the sense of not being enough. People in their mid-thirties, for example, may not be attached to a love partner while their friends are married with children. Why aren’t they married or having an easy time finding people who in some ways might make good company or friends, as a start? I have found that so many people are looking for ways to fit in, in styles that don’t match who they really are. It becomes a series of lies in order to please or placate or seduce people they may not even like. There is, as suggested before, the tendency to feel inadequate for feeling lonely because it “must be me” is the common refrain.
And we need to be careful here again. It is all too easy for therapies or mindfulness techniques to advertise easy ways to feel strong and authentic with steps that skip over a person’s layers of inner fears and hurt. Being known in the present is not a solution to pain from the past but it can be a consolation and the beginning of new possibilities of reclaiming the right to refute the external or internal voices of relentless negativity.
Being enough doesn’t mean getting a free pass on growing up, and becoming accountable for coping with conflicts and with life challenges. It is just that if we don’t get to what stops us from feeling like we are enough, we will take to constant absorption in self-loathing, in fakeness or in blaming other people as the knee jerk reaction to hating our own experiences of vulnerability.
Even though I didn’t mean this to be a political blog, the connections invariably come to me. And as such, my thoughts go to our current state of affairs and how we are so polarized. We are so divided, also because some of us hide the feeling of not being enough by demonizing other people.
As of now I can’t see anything more important than tackling this epidemic, so perhaps we could care enough to empathize, and to heal—each other, our world and ourselves.
#On being enough
#Crazy Rich Asians