You are enough.
Right now, at this very second, you are enough. I’ll go one further – you are actually far more enough than you’ll ever need to be.
Enough what, though? And enough for what?
Capable enough of handling whatever life happens to give you.
The worst week of my life
Since you asked, it was the circumcision that hurt the most.
But that was just one of the three painful things that happened to me one week in September 2009, a fortnight into my first semester of university.
So first, as I said, a surgeon cut off my foreskin. It had been in the calendar for a couple of months, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant, or the physical recovery any more pain-free.
Then a few days later, as I lay in bed dopey from the codeine and feeling altogether sorry for myself, my Grandma died. I couldn’t travel with my family down to Ipswich – I’d have only been able to mope about in pain there rather than in Sheffield – so they left me on my own. But what choice did they have?
And whilst all this was going on, my girlfriend told me – bravely, I should add – that she wasn’t feeling good about our relationship since I had moved away, and that it might be best for us to not be together. Perhaps any other week, I’d have handled that conversation with a calm, cool detachment. Instead it just about destroyed me.
Not a great week.
I went to counseling
Life went on, as it tends to, but the events of that week left me feeling like I was losing my mind.
The closest metaphor I can give is this: I felt as though just a few weeks earlier I had been happily hanging out on dry land, but now I lost at sea, treading water just to stay alive.
I found out that Leeds College of Music offered a counselling service. I didn’t expect miracles – I didn’t expect anything, to be honest – but I was desperate enough to give it a try.
And it’s funny what, with the passing of years, you do and don’t remember. I can remember the specific melody almost every line of dialogue in Friends is spoken with, yet I remember just one of the conversations I had with my counseler. But it was a biggie.
My mortal fear of the word “no”
How I got onto it, I’ll never remember, but I started telling the counseler one week about how when I was a child I was really scared to ask my parents if I could have my tape on in the car.
I would be sitting in the back, often sandwiched between my older brother and sister, wanting desperately to ask if I could have my tape on, but deathly afraid of hearing “no.”
Basically, I was afraid of was that if I took the plunge, and asked – which I had built up into this big thing in my head – and for whatever reason somebody said “no,” that that ‘no’ would destroy me it would be more than I could handle.
My solution, generally – my “best bad choice” – was to not ask. I opted instead to live in a kind of “Schroedinger’s Tape” situation, where I was both allowed and not allowed to have my tape on, where I both heard “yes” and “no”, and never had to risk actually asking.
Now, for context, this was not because my parents were mean and would never let me have my tape on. In fact, I was very often allowed to have my tape on. So I brushed it off as just one of those silly kid things. But the counseler got me to keep on talking about it, and as I elaborated more and more, I started to see that this might not have been something I only did with the tape in the car, nor something I had grown out of.
It might in fact have been the very way I had related to everything and everyone in my life for as long as I’d been living.
You’ve always been enough
Though it felt like a fierce shove, what the counseler had gently guided me towards realising was that I’d been telling myself quite a destructive story for perhaps my whole life.
“If they say ‘no’, I won’t be able to handle it. I will crumble before them and be destroyed. I am not ‘enough’ to handle it.”
It sure would have been nice not to have go through a circumcision, the death of my Grandma, or a painfully disintegrating relationship to end up counseling in order to realise the story I’d been telling myself wasn’t necessarily true.
But c’est la vie.
The more I’ve thought about this in the years since, the more untrue I have found it to be – the more certain I have become that there has not been a single moment in my life yet that I genuinely couldn’t handle. Where I wasn’t ‘enough’.
There have been plenty where I didn’t feel able. Where I didn’t feel I had enough inner resources for whatever the moment seemed to require of me. But after ten years of searching, I still haven’t found one where it was actually true.
I urge you to look for yourself
Yes, I urge you.
Because whilst I don’t think many people had such a specific fear – of not being allowed their tape on in the car as a child – I can’t believe for a second that I’m the only person here who often feels like they can’t handle life.
And if you do look into your own life history, I think you’ll find the same thing I found.
You’ll find moments where you felt like you didn’t have enough strength or fortitude or willpower, you’ll find moments where you were convinced you were about to crumble under the pressure, you’ll find moments where you lashed out at someone, moments where you lashed out at yourself, and most of all, you’ll find moments that you feared not being to handle well in advance, only to end up handling it after all…
But try as you might, I don’t think you’ll find a single, solitary moment where you truthfully were didn’t handle it, one way or another. You might have fallen short of your high and exacting standards, but there has never been, a moment which required of you more than you already had inside, and there never will be.
“What does this moment require of me?”
Questions beat statements.
No matter how vociferously certain well-meaning authors champion them, I hate affirmations. The fact is that for me, repeating “positive” phrases to myself gives me the willies. I can say “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better ” til the cows come home, but every time I do, my mind is going to reply “No you’re fucking not.”
When I feel a certain way, saying something that contradicts that feeling just causes cognitive dissonance. I feel a fool. What I like to do instead is ask myself questions.
If you feel overwhelmed, and as though life doesn’t have your back, and as though everything is just too bloody much…
Ask yourself: “What does this moment actually require of me? And do I have it?”
I cannot oversell the pain I have felt from feeling like I wasn’t enough. But the saddest thing is not the pain – pain goes away. The saddest thing is that 100% of the time, it was a complete lie. It was totally unnecessary.
Perhaps today is the day that you realise you’re enough. That you’re more than enough.