On being enough

I never feel “enough.”

I convince myself I can always do more, be more, think more. Nothing I do is ever good enough for me.

I’m not strong enough.

I’m not thin enough.

I’m not smart enough.

I’m not career-success enough.

I’m not fast enough.

I’m not friendly enough.

I’m not mindful enough.

I don’t sleep enough.

I don’t eat healthy enough.

I don’t write enough.

I’m not fun enough.

I don’t participate in group activities enough.

I don’t learn enough.

I don’t drink enough water.

I don’t show gratitude enough.

I’m not first place enough.

My perfectionism is almost debilitating. When I finally reach a point that I once thought was enough, it still isn’t enough. Before I reach enough, I’ve set a new bar. It’s higher. It’s another color. Sometimes, I’ll think to myself, “What’s the point if I can’t get to enough?”

There are two concepts I’ve been exploring lately: self-esteem and self-concept.

Self-esteem:

Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect

You could argue I have low self-esteem insofar as my abilities are concerned. I have the self-respect to stick up for myself and protect my best interests, on the other hand. But when it comes to writing, racing bikes, work, yadda yadda, I lack confidence in my abilities and self-worth. Just the other night I was talking to an acquaintance who called me out on my attitude toward racing.

We were talking about my A races and goals for the 2019 race season.

“I don’t think I’m good enough to podium at Boulder Roubaix, but that’d get me the upgrade points if I could.”

It slipped out of my mouth and I didn’t realize.

He called me out for not believing in myself and trusting my training. And throughout our conversation, he continually pointed out my negativity and lack of confidence. I didn’t believe I was fast or strong enough.

Actually, he said I had potential. I interpreted that as, “you’re okay.” I thought to myself, so I’m not Cat 2 enough. He said he would love to coach me. I didn’t think I was coachable enough. I also couldn’t afford him. I didn’t have enough money. Enough. Enough. Enough.

I struggle with self-worth. A lot. Sometimes, I consider myself the penny on the ground. You know, it’s the one you see heads up, ol’ Abe lookin’ up at you, but you walk around it, because bending over to pick up a penny just doesn’t seem worth it. People actually throw away pennies these days because of their perceived value. We all, and I think women especially, question our worth to ourselves, and especially to others.

My problem is that while I have shitty self-esteem, I still make goals; I still work hard to achieve goals; I still think there’s a chance to get what I want. Meanwhile, I’m over here like, “Well, I’m not fast enough, but let’s look at races I have a chance at….”

Self-concept:

An idea of the self constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others.

Because I think I’m slow, fat, and weak, I essentially see myself as a slow, fat, and weak racer. I think, therefore, I am.

I think I’m slow, therefore, I’m slow.

I think I’m fat, therefore, I’m fat.

I think I’m weak, therefore, I’m weak.

When I don’t think I’m enough, I’m giving that signal to others. They treat me a certain way depending on how I see myself. That means the asshole who thought it appropriate to reach over my hands, to intercept the flowing water to rinse out his cup, while I was washing a dish, didn’t see me. He didn’t think I was enough either. If he considered me a force to reckon with, mother fucker wouldn’t have pulled the ol’ reach-aroo.

This incident happened last week and I’m still ruminating. I never think these things will happen to me because I assume people are generally well-behaved until I’m proven wrong. The way we carry ourselves not only affect us but the people with whom we interact. People will treat you the way you allow. And because this guy thought it was okay to do that, to treat me like I was invisible, automatically, I thought, “I’m not seen. I’m not enough to wait for.”

After the consult call, I sat at my desk for a moment, thinking of ways to change my attitude about myself. I’ve read books, I’ve listened to podcasts, I’ve done things to help with this shitty view of myself, but it still pervades my thoughts. I wondered how I got to this point where I think I’m worthless. What’s happened in my life to cause me to feel like I’m not enough? That I don’t bring value to my life and other’s lives.

I googled “increase self-esteem” because obviously, I didn’t know how to do it. And there’s always an answer on google – whether that be helpful or not.

I may never feel like I’m enough. This could be something that’s part of me. Who knows? But there are things I can do to silence my perfectionism. If you’re right there with me, reading this like, “That’s me. I’m feel you,” then hopefully, one of these things will help.

I try to practice gratitude.

Being grateful for things helps me remember what I do have. So much of enough-ness relies on lack. When you realize you’re not lacking as much as your monkey brain is trying to convince you, your sense of enough changes. Maybe I’m not fast enough, but at least I have a strong body to allow me to race. I have a friend who has Muscular Dystrophy and when I helped him around in Japan, every day I thought about what my life would be like if I was him. Sure, maybe I’m not fast enough, but at least I can ride my bike.  

When you’re grateful for your current situation, you focus less on the shit you don’t have.

I make a list of accomplishments

I try to remind myself of things I have accomplished when I don’t feel enough. Like surviving brain surgery, earning my master’s degree, moving to Ireland, publishing a book.

When I run out of big things, I list little things. Anything I can think of to distract myself from feeling like I’m not enough. I also try to remind myself that I’m imperfect, even though I’ve accomplished a number of things. We’re all imperfect. Perfection is a made-up concept, kind of like self-esteem and self-concept. We’ve created these things as society. We’ve placed a value on certain things as a society. And we continue to value standards that are frankly, bullshit.

When I don’t have confidence, have courage.

Rarely, do I have the confidence to do whatever it is I’m doing, but I have courage. It’s like what Susan Jeffers says, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” A lot scares me: falling off my bike, breaking bones, not being able to see, spiders, snakes, talking in front of people, speaking with someone important, going to events where I know no one, the list goes on. I’ve always just done things regardless of how scared I am. I don’t allow fear to control me. At least, for the most part.

I totally fake confidence. We all do from time to time. I try to boost myself up before the scary thing and look at the situation as objectively as possible. Racing my bike at high speeds next to other fast women creates the potential of falling. How will I minimize that potential? I avoid sketchy situations during the race. I back off or ride away from a swervy rider. I only take risks that won’t send me to the hospital because 1st place isn’t worth a broken collar bone. I’m nothing special. The women I race against are thinking the same thing, but they too have the courage to show up.

Try to like yourself if you can’t love yourself yet.

I’m my biggest bully. You know how they say, “talk to yourself like you would a friend?” I’m so not my own friend. I’m worse than the kids in 4th grade who used to make fun of the moles on my face. I’m still insecure about them because of Derrick.

I’m trying to work on talking back to my thoughts. This isn’t weird at all. Instead of taking my thought at face-value, “I suck. I didn’t hit those numbers in this VO2 Max interval set. I’m not going to be a fast Cat 3,” I question them.

“Why do I suck?”

“Because I’m not hitting numbers.”

“Well, why am I not hitting numbers?”

“Because I have weak legs.”

“Why are they weak?”

“I don’t know. Because I’m not working them out enough.”

“Why am I not working them out enough?”

“Well, I do work them out 6 days a week, so…”

“How can I work them more efficiently?”

The conversation continues until I can no longer come up with answers or questions or someone walks in on me. When we continually question our thoughts, they’re usually not justified or true. I question everything. Ask my husband.

I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself, “I love you, Jessica,” or something to the tune of love. Society doesn’t make it easy to love yourself with all the shit we’re constantly bombarded with that tells us, “You’re not good enough right now, but if you buy this thing, you will be.” You buy the thing, believing you’ll be enough after that and you’re still thinking, “I’m not enough.” It’s this self-fulfilling prophecy of never being enough, for ourselves, for each other.

And if a woman comes into the room with confidence, with self-worth, with a positive self-concept, oh, you already know the way she’ll be described: “Oh, look at Susan, walking in here like she owns the place.” It seems like we’re always in a lose-lose battle. We’re told to have high self-esteem, confidence, that “we’re worth it,” but if we have too much, then we’re a bitch.

I’m going to work on being an acquaintance with myself first and hopefully, one of these days, I’ll love myself the way I deserve.

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