I’ve been seeing the phrase “you are enough” everywhere. On Insta. On t-shirts. On mugs. Hand lettered or in bold font. It seems that “you are enough” is the phrase du jour.
On its surface, I get and agree with the idea of “you are enough.” I think that for many of us, this phrase directs us to accept our imperfections and to stop striving to be people we aren’t. To stop comparing our realities with others’. To be grateful for what we have in this life, and for what our minds and bodies can do.
Frankly, I struggled with understanding why and how we need to keep hearing, “you are enough.” Are that many people – women, especially – struggling to accept that they aren’t living perfect lives? And does this phrase actually work to bring awareness to the reality that, hello, we’re all beautifully flawed and trying our best?
And, while I definitely feel and succumb to the pressure to be and do all the things, I also feel like me and my circle of moms have a healthy sense of humor toward the neverending pressure to seek perfection.
And then I had a revelation that made me understand why we need to hear “you are enough” on repeat.
My “enough” revelation
Post-revelation, this phrase means that we are enough absent whatever we do for others. Yes, it’s that revelatory.
In large part, my successes in life have been built around the fact that I provide and perform for others. In my professional life, I’m known for getting things done. In my personal life, I’m known for doing all the things. So, it makes sense that I built my identity around what I do for others.
That’s why it was so hard for me to understand what “you are enough” really means. I couldn’t see past how I defined myself to appreciate who “you” is.
Sadly, I think a lot of women feel this way. Our self-worth is defined by what we do for others instead of who we are as people. If you don’t believe me, pause a few moments to think about the following:
- What do you feel you contribute to your household?
- What do you feel you contribute to your workplace (which can also be your household!)?
- What do you feel your partner or kids contribute to your household?
- What do you feel your colleagues contribute to your workplace?
- What do you feel your friends contribute to your life?
If you’re anything like me, the answers to the first two questions revolve around your “services”; the fact that you take care of the laundry and the groceries and the birthday gift for the party, or that you never miss a deadline and say yes to every project.
And if you’re like me, the answers to the last three questions have everything to do with how those people make you feel, the ways in which they support you, or how you’ve learned from them.
Celebrating who you are
It’s time to start valuing yourself for who you are – for the ways you contribute that don’t have anything to do with what you produce. What do you like about yourself? Maybe you’re funny, creative, patient, great with numbers, or a bad### dancer. (I’m two of those things.) THIS is who “you” are, and you don’t need to do anything for others beyond be yourself.
With this revelation, I also thought about the ways I perpetuate a culture that values production over performance. How do I talk to my kids or coworkers? How do I acknowledge and show appreciation for those around me?
If you’re like me (again, I know, but I think I’m like many of you in this way!), you’re probably unintentionally reinforcing the idea that people’s value is based on what they do.
Here are some things you can do to promote others’ self-worth based on who they are:
- At work, try acknowledging or recognizing your coworkers for how they handled a project or a problem instead of the fact that they resolved it. Replace, “Thanks for attending that meeting, I appreciate your support,” with, “I was so glad you came to that meeting, your sense of humor really helped relax the vibe.” This demonstrates that you appreciate how your colleague’s unique personality aided the situation, not just the fact that he or she showed up.
- When you’re rewarding your kids, try to balance action-based rewards with personality-based rewards. For example, if you’re trying to encourage your kid to clean his room, also praise him when he’s affectionate toward his siblings.
- Tell your partner or friends what you like about them or how they make you feel. While it’s always nice to say “thank you” for a kind deed, for your friend or partner it can be even better to hear that their patience helps you feel more calm.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the production-oriented things we do can and should be acknowledged. My point is that we need to prioritize appreciation for who people are. It can be really easy to focus on results, but if we pay more attention to the process we can help others – including ourselves – feel valued.
The next time you see the phrase, “you are enough,” I hope you understand that this means that you can stop doing and just be.