I’ve heard it a thousand times before, but never really fully understood it — this idea that the fear that you are not enough is really, deep down, a fear that you are just too much.
But now I do. I’ve understood this before,
but now I am understanding it in a whole new way.
It’s no mystery where this fear comes from, we are taught to be small and selfless and quiet. We are taught to eschew our needs in the favor of others. We know we’re supposed to put our oxygen mask on first, but we just can’t stop heaving it on the one next to us who needs it ‘more’.
More than me.
That’s what we mean. They need it more than me, because: I don’t need. I don’t give myself things until everyone is served. I’m fine. I’m perpetually fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. And as soon as I notice that I AM receiving things…things I’ve wanted, things I’ve needed, things I’ve worked my ass off towards for years… I must immediately cast it off and find new ways to give it all away.
In the immortal words of Wayne & Garth: “we’re not worthy! we’re not worthy!”. Except in this case the presence of greatness you’ve found yourself in, is actually your OWN.
And we’re not comfortable with that.
Not at all.
Because it threatens the structures we’ve been taught to uphold, it threatens the belonging and external acceptance we’ve worked SO HARD all our lives to achieve. In our families and our friend groups, and society at large.
For me, my body, or rather, my thoughts about my body, are so often a powerful clue for this particular struggle that’s all too real, and always helps me find the key to what I’m really looking for. This happened recently when I attended an event, and as my monkey brain was busy the whole time condemning me for not being thin enough, I asked myself (as I always do) what that not being thin enough MEANS?
It “means” all kinds of things to that monkey mind, it means myriad things about weakness and control. But here’s the meanings that stood out to me this time: it means you’re indulgent and self-satisfying.
Notice your reaction to these words.
Isn’t it interesting what dirty words these seem to be? You can almost feel them scrape against your insides. You can actually feel yourself wanting to hurl them from your being.
As I did for all the years of my eating disorder.
I hurled indulgence and self-satisfaction from my being.
And when that was done, I did it with diets. I did it with exercise. I did it with work. I did it with the care of others… I did it with ALL THE THINGS. I hurled them from my being. So I could remain those dirty words opposites: controlled, abstinent and selfless. For the record, synonyms for indulgent are: considerate, kindly, permissive, tolerant, and gentle. God help us if we are such things to ourselves! The horror!!
But this is how we’ve been made to think. This is what we’re conditioned to believe, despite the headlines telling us to reach for the peak, shoot for the stars, and slay, slay, slay, slay… the sub-text has instructed you otherwise.
The truth is I’m not comfortable getting oxygen. It’s much more comfortable giving it away.
Because it means I’m a woman of worth.
My worth is in giving my worth away.
This is what I’ve learned.
This is what we’ve all learned as women. This is what we’re trying to un-learn.
And it’s the hardest damn work of our lives.
Now this is not to be confused with philanthropy. When I really came to grips with the immense privilege of my life, it was clear that the only thing to do with that gift is to pay it forward, in whatever means available. But that too can become a thing that is never quite enough when we’re coming from someplace empty, instead of someplace full.
So as I sat here this morning, wrestling with these things, and feeling once again I’m not enough… not doing enough, not being enough, not giving enough… I recognized, really recognized, that it really IS a fear that I’m too much. Because otherwise that voice wouldn’t be constantly telling me to be less, to be easy, to be small (in all the ways we’re asked to be those things).
You see I, like so many of you, had lost my “muchness” over the course of my life, but as the Mad Hatter phrased it to my dear heroine Alice: I’m me, and I’m “much muchier now“.
To put it simply, I am realizing I’m bigger than the confines of what I’ve previously allowed myself to be. But this doesn’t look grand like the way we tend to think of it, it’s small ordinary things that feel so huge.
It can look like success at work, being a different pants size, changing jobs, making more money, eating different foods in different ways, speaking up, saying no to things you mean no to, saying yes to things you mean yes to, it can look like holding holding up boundaries, like going new places, and like receiving instead of only giving.
It looks like doing your best with the voice that will inevitably come up when you do begin to let yourself receive, the one that insists that you hurl it all away from you…. that you go back to small and needless, stat.
The world would be more comfortable with us that way. We would be welcomed with open arms that way. We would belong, and it would be safe and good, and we could just slip right to sleep in that comforting embrace.
But I just can’t do it anymore.
I am too much.
I want too much. I need too much. I’m just. too. much.
Too much for that old paradigm.
Too much for a world who wants its women to be quiet.
Quiet, selfless and small.
My monkey brain might translate that smallness into pants size, but my heart knows what it’s really about. It’s about the “rules” of what I’m allowed to be, what I’m allowed to have, what I’m allowed to receive…
and I’m breaking those rules.
So I’m asking me, and I’m asking you, what would happen if you truly, madly, and deeply accepted your muchness? Your too-muchness? And the whole super-muchy lot of it?
I’m not sure, but I suspect that’s when we’d finally be
Let’s stop hurling it away from us.
Let’s let it all in, and then we’ll see what’s up.
I have worked with so many amazing and powerful women business owners over the years, and the one thing I can tell you for sure is that this not-enoughness issue is there at every level, regardless of whether it’s a first year business or a multi-million dollar operation, it just shows up in different ways for different people at different times.
How to know you’re enough is maybe just to keep taking tiny steps each day that make you feel “too much”. With each step you take you leave behind the old paradigm that made you believe that total bull in the first place.
And before you know it… you’re not too big or too small,
you’re jussssst right.
Just right for
just who you are.