What does it mean to be enough? To have enough?
Enough is one of those ever elusive human experiences and when we are not careful, it is an experience we may never reach. At least not for very long. (1)
In fact, “enough” is usually not even something we consciously take time to define for ourselves.
I was once on a train heading to NYC from Connecticut. I came across two wealthy younger boys from Long Island who were going to graduate soon. They asked me what I did for a living and since I have a nontraditional working life with intermittent periods of seasonal work and then periods of leisure (no work), their next question was how much money I made. I told them.
They scoffed, “That is not enough! I need to make way more money than that.” Mind you at this point I had already made enough money to live in 3 different international cities, buy and run a rental property, and thus was able to meet even beyond my basic needs for food and shelter.
I then asked the brown-haired boy, “Well, how much is enough money for you?” He could not answer me. He tripped over his words. Then he said, “5 million. I want to make what my Dad makes. 5 million.”
This is the perfect example of how children mirror the beliefs of their parents. Children, even those in their early 20's are like little sponges, absorbing the ideals that are important to their parents. Of course this makes sense as parents are the fundamental and primary benchmark from which children derive meaning and life values from.
But this story begs the question…is the search for enough a red herring? Clearly, that young man did not share his original thoughts about what enough money was. He had never even considered the notion of what enough would be for him before!
Without taking the time to explore what enough means to us, we can become like greyhound dogs at a race track, running around in endless circles throughout our entire lives. Always pursuing this or that. Continually banking our hopes for feeling permanently fulfilled on the next goal….then when that doesn't work, the next goal…the next person…the next xyz.
But like the dogs who chase a squeaking bone in circles with the intention to catch it, the promise of “more is better” will always be ever-so-slightly out of reach.
How often do we get seduced by this ideology in own lives?
We think, if I only make more money, I will have enough. But sure enough, we get a raise and a promotion. This results in a temporary feeling of satisfaction but then we create a new idea of what enough is. We create a new salary goal. (2). Furthermore, instead of having more money left over at the end of the month with each subsequent raise, most people just increase their spending habits, so their monthly savings and cash flow stays similar (3).
So what does this have to do with the relationship between a parent and child?
Because the feeling of lack not only applies to our physical resources, but to us as people. It is so incredibly common to feel “less than.” We feel that only if we get a hold on our depression, become a better parent, or become better at yoga or meditation than we will be enough.
But, what if it doesn't work that way? What if we got it backwards? What if the experience of enough is generated before the personal growth and outside achievements?
For you to see the enoughness in your child, it is helpful to see your own enoughness. Your own worth.
This is because the tacit assumption of not having enough, not being enough also manifests in the way we relate to others. When we believe we are not enough and constantly need to acquire status, material objects, knowledge, etc. our children instinctively pick up on this.
They begin to associate their own worth with outside achievements such as good grades or whether or not they scored the winning goal. In fact, “not succeeding in life/being a failure” was one of the top five fears of teenagers (4).
There is a misunderstanding here. Many of us think being critical of ourselves or our children provides motivation or helps in some way. That being overly critical drives us or our children to do better, so we can reach the promise of security, of being enough…someday.
The pioneering work of Carol Dweck in Mindset debunks this notion. She shows the real world impact and results of a having a “fixed” (i.e. a perfectionist attitude towards oneself) mindset vs. a growth oriented mindset. It was the growth mindset that was found to increase motivation and productivity, not the “tough love” perfectionistic mindset!
“In the fixed mindset it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough just to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away… After all, if you have it you have it, and if you don’t you don’t…Beyond how traumatic a setback can be in the fixed mindset, this mindset gives you no good recipe for overcoming it.” — Carol Dweck
Enough in action
In conclusion, when two human beings, a mother and a daughter for instance, are both relatively secure in themselves. When each feel like they are enough. That they are valuable and worthy for who they are today, it is amazing the amount of understanding that manifests.
There becomes less and less of a need to defend one's ego or prove the other wrong. Instead, mother and daughter are left with greater compassion and a greater likelihood of having mutually beneficial growth-oriented mindsets which foster greater learning, problem-solving, and personal achievements.
Of course, we all want the best for our children. We feel it is our duty to guide them so they “succeed” in life. And there may be a place for a firm hand and firm words at times.
Yet, there comes a point where modeling the experience of enough serves your child better than any praise, punishment, or advice. If your daughter is struggling in college with her biology final, rather than reaffirming how important this course is to her career, perhaps guiding her to her innate sense of “okayness” (i.e. enoughness) is better suited.
To explore the intention of enough and how you can manifest more of it in your personal life and in the lives of your children check out these articles:
Or better yet take our 30 Days of Love Challenge with your children and really experience it for yourselves during the 30 days!
Being enough is not some undefined eendpointto get to, it is a starting point! It is a starting point for success. It allows us to ask questions, make mistakes, and thus accelerate our learning and improve…instead of writing off certain ideas, activities, or experiences due to a fear of failure (i.e. not being enough).
**For more info on Carol Dweck's work click here