Good Enough

This post is longer than usual. So sit back and relax or read a little at a time or print this out and take it to bed. I am going to get a little "coachy" and inspirational on you, but there is good, practical reason for it. Here it goes: My 2-year-old thinks she can do anything. When I asked her what she wanted to do this summer, she replied that she would like to go "paragliding" (We had seen paragliders the previous weekend). When I tell her that she is a big girl, she says, "No I'm not, I'm HUGE!" I know she would attempt to drive my car if I let her.

So when did we go from believing that we were huge with the power do anything to playing small in our lives? When did we forget who we are?

It may have happened sometime around second grade. In a story re-told by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind (an excellent book, by the way), Gordon MacKenzie of Hallmark Cards used to visit classrooms and ask, "How many artists are there in the room?" In kindergarten and first grade classrooms, every hand enthusiastically raised. In second grade classrooms, about three-fourths of students raised their hands and in third grade, only a few. By sixth grade, no hands.

What happened? I am wondering if these kids developed the belief that they were no longer good enough to call themselves artists. Or perhaps they weren't good enough to raise their hands even if no one else did.

I see this belief come up in every client: I am not good enough.

Now, you may not think you have this belief. You may not walk around articulating to yourself, "I am not a good enough this" or "I am not good enough to do that." This belief tends to lurk beneath the surface of other thoughts and comes in different forms. Anytime you think you're not worthy, that other people will think less of you, or you compare yourself to others, you are expressing the belief that you are not good enough.

This belief is often tied to issues with money, careers, relationships, and weight. In other words, if you believed that you were good enough, you may not have these issues. One of my clients desired to find the love of his life and to eventually get married. This was a source of pain for him because he had the belief that, because of his past, he was not worthy of a quality woman (By the way, he met a great woman last month and I haven't heard from him since). For fifteen years, Bob Greene told Oprah, "Your weight is ultimately tied to your feelings of unworthiness." In a similar example, Oprah asked Marianne Williamson why she thought Oprah struggled with her weight. Marianne wrote this:

Until you accept the magnitude of your function, your unconscious mind will sabotage any attempt to show your full magnificence. In fact, if you diet and lose weight, your mind will either put the weight back on or trip up in some other area. In order to lose weight on a permanent basis, you want a shift in your belief about who and what you are. This is the miracle you seek.

Somewhere deep down, even Oprah doubted herself. She admits to overachieving in an attempt to prove her worthiness.

You may wonder why I am uncovering this ugly thought, especially if you are unaware of it. Why can't I just let you go on your merry, ignorance-is-bliss, way? So that you can let it go. Unless you're aware of this belief in yourself, you won't be able to get rid of it and you will keep unconsciously sabotaging progress toward your own goals (because you'll keep seeking evidence for the belief that you are not good enough). If you're already enjoying the most fabulous health, wealth, and relationships of your life, you can stop reading. Otherwise, stick with me.

Now the question becomes, "How do we change this belief?" With all of my clients, we start by taking this belief (and actually writing it down) and thinking of reasons it may not be true. With my early clients, I helped brainstorm reasons like, "You just earned your Master's degree," or "You are a loving uncle to your nieces & nephews." Then with a current client, I wondered if this may not be the most helpful type of evidence. If we think of things we have done as evidence that we are "good enough," are we further perpetuating the belief that who we are is what we do? As Marianne Williamson says, "What you do or don't do is not what determines your essential value - your growth perhaps, but not your value."

In order to dis-believe that you are not good enough, it may be helpful to identify your gifts and strengths and how you use them, but it also helps to be reminded of this:

You were born perfect and lovable and anything that suggests a change from this is just a belief you have placed upon yourself. You have not changed. You have just forgotten. In fact, who you really are is more amazing than can be described here.

Now the practical argument: When you believe that you are essentially good enough, you take action that supports this belief. What would you do if you really believed you were good enough? My clients have come up with amazing ways they would feel and act. I'll tell you what you would do:

All day long, you would do things differently. You would walk differently, use different words in different ways. You would take risks. You would choose differently. You may dress differently. You would question yourself less. You would view the world in a different way. You would take care of yourself. And let's not even talk about how you would feel. Then, people start acting differently toward you. And pretty soon, all of those tiny little actions have added up to create desired results in your life.

Here are different words for the same phenomenon: If you are essentially goodness and love, and you believe this, and you express who you are through what you do (whether it's taking care of children or yourself, taking photos, playing music, designing, displaying, singing, dancing, teaching, managing, writing, speaking, relating...), then the action taken from such a belief ultimately creates more beauty and happiness in yourself and the world.

How can that not be good enough?

Constantly comparing ourselves to others sours and shortens our lives, robbing us of the very things we think it will bring: prosperity, love, inner peace, the knowledge that we're good enough.—Martha Beck

Marianne Williamson has a quote that sums up this whole post. Click here to read it.

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Letting Go

The other day, I was talking to my coach (yes, life coaches have coaches because we practice what we preach) about feeling overwhelmed with all I want to do in order to make the most of my life. As coaches, we surround ourselves with books, articles, websites and audio downloads on how to think peacefully, find our authentic selves, unleash our creativity, handle fear, make decisions, set goals...It's an occupational hazard. The to-do list goes like this: Wake up early to write in journal, do yoga, make a gratitude list, listen to a class, work on a negative thought, read in my latest book. And squeeze in 15 minutes of meditation so I can feel relaxed, damn it. Oh, and don't forget to breathe deeply throughout it all.

The thought goes like this: I have to DO all of the above in order to BE myself and BE happy.

Well, that thought doesn't make me happy. Because it's a lie.

Here's the truth: Any practice that improves your life does so by uncovering the beauty and perfection that is already within you. It's not about layering habits and thoughts upon yourself; it's about letting go of anything that covers you up and weighs you down.

On January 7, 2009, Michael Beckwith summed this up on Oprah (This is a rough quote and I thank my DVR):

All spiritual growth is really about letting go of something. It's not about gaining anything...We can't add anything to us. Spirituality is about letting go of the false concepts, the false ways we've identified ourselves, false identities, false habits, misconstrued ideas, so when we're in the midst of a crisis, we're being asked to let go of something...so that something new can be born.

As a coach, I believe the most powerful things to let go are negative, useless thoughts (Letting go of a dated haircut and tight shoes can also be helpful, but our thoughts change before our actions change).

What sort of thoughts can you release today? What beliefs are not serving you? Judgments ("should")? Rules ("have to")? Attachment to a particular outcome? Your mother's beliefs? False assumptions? Regret? Expectation of perfection? Let go and allow the delicious truth to bubble up. More later.

Good Company

How would you feel if you hung out with someone who whispered these comments into your ear all day:

  • You're not good enough.
  • You're screwing up your kids.
  • You don't make enough money.
  • You'll never have what you want.
  • Who are you to think you can have a fabulous life?
  • You're not getting enough done.
  • What would everyone think?
  • You're ugly, lazy, old, fat...

I am guessing you'd feel discouraged, sad, stuck, unmotivated. Here's the question: Is this the way you talk to yourself? Isn't it amazing that we can be such bad company to ourselves?

Wouldn't it be great to hang out with someone who remembers all of your accomplishments, who lists everything she loves about you, who shows compassion for your struggles?

The other day, a client was sharing her desire for a long term relationship. When I asked how it would feel to have such a relationship, she imagined feeling accepted, nurtured, taken care of. Then I asked the big question: Do you accept, nurture, and take care of yourself?

Do you ever complain that your spouse doesn't give you enough attention? That your kids need to show you more respect? That people, in general, need to show you more kindness? Here's what I have learned from coaching instructor extraordinaire Brooke Castillo: "You teach people how to treat you." If we are not showing love, respect, and kindness to ourselves, we are telling other people that we don't think we deserve it. Then what happens? Other people don't treat us with kindness, which (in our minds) further supports the belief that we don't deserve it. It's a vicious cycle. On top of that, when we look to other people to fill us with love, our neediness actually drives them away.

So the next time you find yourself thinking, "My husband needs to take care of me," flip it around to yourself: "I need to take care of me."

What happens when we are kind to ourselves? When we love ourselves without needing others to fill us up? We end up attracting bunches of love into our lives. We also end up having more energy to love all of those people.

Isn't it funny how life works?

My primary relationship is with myself- all others are mirrors of it. As I learn to love myself, I automatically receive the love and appreciation that I desire from others. If I am commited to myself and to living my truth, I will attract others with equal commitment. My willingness to be intimate with my own deep feelings creates the space for intimacy with another. -Shakti Gawain