My family was a long way from wealthy, but in the grand scheme of things, and in comparison to people who have it much worse, our basic needs were generally met. We always had a home, clothes, food (well, the food was THERE, whether I was allowed to eat it or not, depending on whatever diet my well meaning mother had put me on, is another story), hot water, electricity, you know, the basics. I suspect my parents, based in no small part on what they got from their parents, thought they were giving us everything we needed. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, they definitely had Physical Needs and Safety covered, but when it came to Love & Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization, there was never enough.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve come to accept that my parents did the best they knew how. They did as much as they had the emotional capacity to do. They probably gave as much of those last three categories as had been given to them. Whether I “blame” my parents or not, the bottom line is that my own emotional blueprint was developed in an environment of scarcity.
This post is not intended to be about my parents, or about whether they really didn’t love me, or believe in me, or approve of me, or if they were simply not able to make little me believe that they did. This is about the fact that I spent the first 30ish years of my life believing that I was not enough. Not good enough to earn their love. Not thin enough to deserve their pride or encouragement. Not smart/accomplished enough to gain their approval. Never enough.
I came to believe that love/acceptance/encouragement were finite resources. Scarce. Something I not only had to earn, but something I had to compete for (I was actually able to get to the source of the competition issue many years later, when my father announced he is gay and I discovered that my mother believed I, as the only daughter, had been usurping the attention/affection she should have been receiving from him). And every time I didn’t “win” this precious resource, I felt a deep sense of loss. A missed opportunity. My own fault, of course, because I wasn’t enough. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t deserve it.
Over the years, this scarcity and feeling of loss ingrained itself into many facets of my life. It became an ever present fact of life. A fact that had proven itself many times over. A truth I learned not to challenge, that resulted in a deep *DEEP* emptiness. I turned to food, to fill the void, to numb the feelings. And self sabotage, to prove that they were right about me. I became a self fulfilling prophecy. I made it impossible for anyone to see my greatness through the layer of fat and smartassery.
This new awareness, these realizations and connections were the outcome of a conversation I had with an acquaintance a few days ago. I was catching up with someone I knew from high school (God bless Facebook) and we were talking about her industry and how she keeps up with rapid fire message boards and ever changing information, because I always seem to be scrambling and struggling to get to all of it. Her response basically blew my mind, so I’m paraphrasing (because my blown mind did not have the wherewithal to write it down). She said something to the effect of:
I actually don’t consume that much [information]. You are looking at these boards from a position of scarcity or loss. The information will be there if you need it. In the meantime, don’t worry so much about keeping up with what’s out there and spend more time creating what you want.
I’m not sure I can do the exact statement justice, but the part that blew my mind is that even though she doesn’t know me that well, she completely nailed that I have always approached everything from a position of loss and scarcity. EVERYTHING! I consume more food than I need for physical fullness, because I learned that I might not feed myself again the next time I’m hungry (common recovering dieter’s dilemma). I hoard clothes, because, you know, limited resources. I cling to digital files, 5 copies of the same digital picture, because something might be slightly different. I am too accommodating with friends and co-workers (work friends), because I am always afraid I will lose them, if I push back. I read ever single word in a story, every single status update on Facebook, I had to give up twitter, because there were too many posts to read them ALL and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing something if I didn’t. I watch every single episode of a show I’ve started, even if I’ve decided I don’t really enjoy it, or there are other things I want to, or feel I should be doing. I consume every. single. thing., because of this constant fear that there is not enough, or that I will miss out on something important, or that it will suddenly all be taken away.
This new revelation is an awesome opportunity to re-frame. First of all, I am enough.
I. AM. E-fucking-NOUGH! There is not a single thing I need to do, to prove this. It is simply a fact.
Secondly, love, success, gratitude, encouragement, grace, generosity, kindness, humility, radiance, acceptance, [insert long list of applicable nouns], these are not limited resources. A candle is not diminished by lighting another candle. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness [or any of the aforementioned nouns] never decreases from being shared.” Take that to the bank.