You Are Good Enough - And You Aren't Acting Like It
Cultural dichotomy. Pendulum swings. Left wing. Right wing. Extreme A. Extreme B.
This is how humans have behaved for centuries. We are wired to want to be told that extreme shifts in how we view our lives can radically change them for the better.
When one political party is in power and it isn't working, we swing as far to the other side as we can. And 8 years later, we do the same. When love doesn't work how we planned it, it often becomes hate. When dreams don't come true, they turn into nightmares. We embrace these radical shifts because we desperately want to, well... just feel like we're good enough. We want to feel like what we are doing in the world is working. We want to matter.
The most dangerous of extremes I've noticed in my generation actually directly address the issue of 'am I good enough?'. There seems to be two drastically different lines of thought in regards to that age old question.
The first is the self love movement. A well intended movement, it encourages people to acknowledge their inherent value, despite any adjectives or descriptors you could use to categorize them. The self love movement says 'I am enough, no matter what'. This line of thinking is prevalent in Hollywood - although it often comes across as disingenuous given the beautiful and talented are the ones who are praised in that industry - But that is neither here nor there. This way of thinking is also prevalent in the self help industry and early education.
The opposite line of thought is that of 'I am never good enough, and that's what drives me'. This way of thinking is rebellious. It starkly challenges the latter and almost implies that those who subscribe to the first theory are weak and ignorant. This movement is increasingly popular, particularly with young men, due to the popular teachings of speakers like Jordan Peterson and Gary Vee. While rebellious, this line of thought is also well intended.
With the amount of books, lectures, articles, and documentaries produced, biased toward each of these two philosophies, you would think one would stand out as the clear better way to live. The problem is, like with all extremes, each line of thought is drastically lacking in nuance.
Personally, I have had seasons of deep dives into each of these ways of thinking. I have woken up and recited affirmations, talked kindly to myself, given myself grace for mistakes, chosen what's 'right for me' above all else, and well... loved myself. I have done this. And there was a lot of good to be found in living that way. However, eventually, I found it to be a slippery slope into complacency. And I didn't like that. My system was broken at that point. So I swung the other direction.
I then began to subscribe to the teachings of what I like to call the 'personal responsibility coaches'. People like Jordan Peterson, Gary Vee, Tom Bilyeu, and Tim Ferriss began to change my life. I read the 4 Hour Work Week and 12 Rules For Life and for the first time ever, I felt as if I truly had control over my destiny. I meditated daily on my shortcomings, and embraced hardship to the point that I almost instigated it. Pain became my goal. If I could maximize the pain in my life, I could maximize my victory over it, and that would make me feel like I matter. As you probably could guess, this would eventually lead me to unbelievable burn out and poor sense of self. This system too, was broken.
So treating myself like I'm enough didn't work. Treating myself like I wasn't enough also didn't work. So what then? I found my answer in the book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible.
For those of you who are not Bible readers, bare with me. I assure you there is profundity in this, regardless of your relationship with Jesus. The author, Solomon, after all was alive before Jesus. This book of The Bible addresses the meaning of life. Solomon was given great wisdom by God, and is considered to be the wisest man that ever lived, apart from Jesus Christ. Solomon spends much of the first part of this book explaining how meaningless life is. He was very wealthy, had many wives, a beautiful place to live, and was very powerful, yet he couldn't seem to find any meaning in any of it. Ultimately, he arrives at one thing he believes to be meaningful.
“And this too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing - like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud - frustrated, discouraged, and angry.
Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life” - Ecclesiastes 6:16-18
Here, Solomon arrives. His ultimate conclusion is essentially that we are called to simply exist as we are made - to accept our lot in life, find joy in our work and in what we eat and drink. There implications to be made here, although it is quite simple really.
The only way to truly exist as we are is accept what we are, which is, yes... Meaningful.
We do matter. Each and every one of us. We are born with inherent dignity, significance, and beauty. The follow up to acceptance of what we are is to spend our lives growing into it, but we can't grow into skin we haven't identified. To acknowledge your intrinsic value is to be free from the need to be approved of. From there, your only responsibility is to live and walk in your potential with joy - to love your limits and to love the challenges before you.
So all of us, whether we know it or not are already good enough. The issue is not what we must be or do to be good enough. The only issue is that we live as though we are. Accepting your weaknesses as indelible fact is not living our your good enough-ness. Ignoring your talents and dreams out of fear is not living out your good enough-ness. Failing to take care of your body is not living out your good enough-ness. Doing your best, trying, seeking, and keeping your promises to yourself, as you would anybody you respect is living out your good enough-ness.
Ultimately, you matter. You do. And treating yourself like you matter will include having both grace and expectations of yourself. There is no either or. It is both. The degree to which you matter does not sit on a scale of your behavior. It's merely a fact. Your quality of life depends not on if you matter, but on if you choose to properly acknowledge that you do.