feeling inadequate

Good Enough: For those of us who feel like we aren’t

I’ve been thinking  the last few days about some of the lessons I’ve been learning over the past few years. I think one of the biggest ones is simply that there are many, many times in life when you don’t get what it seems like you “deserve.” I’ve been thinking a lot about my habit of trying to earn things, trying to prove my worth through good actions.

As a child I tried to be invisible, and when I had to be visible, to be helpful.  I stayed in my room and I read. I played make-believe games with my dolls and toys and dress-up clothes and sometimes with my imaginary friend Sammy the Squirrel. I was afraid to ask for things. Though no one ever said these words I somehow believed, “You are in the way,” “You are a burden.”  “It’s your job to keep others from being stressed at all costs.” When I visited my dad (my birth dad) I stayed in my room or watched tv. I often made his breakfast or lunch for him, set the table, folded the napkins nicely, cleaned up after myself.

In high school I was a model student. Certainly I had moments of being a moody teenager or moments where I spoke disrespectfully, but by and large I was a teenager most parents would kill for. I didn’t sneak out, I didn’t party, I never smoked, never drank, never so much as held hands with a boy, never said a curse word. I made straight A’s without being hounded about it. I got into several great colleges with full scholarships. I chose the best people available as my friends. I never broke my curfew. I never lied about where I was going or who I was going with. I was grateful for things and I was mostly respectful. I helped around the house. I was kind to my sisters. I served at my church. I genuinely loved the Lord.

This is the sum total of my obvious sins during those four years: There was a boy I liked very much, although I never told him and nothing ever came of it, I liked him.  I totaled my mom’s car the first time I drove alone, not because I was being wild…I somehow am the only person I know who could manage to total a Volvo while going 20 mph. I was sometimes disrespectful or had a bad attitude. I loathed my English teacher. And for three weeks I had a secret blog which I then felt guilty about and deleted.

And yet…I spent most of high school with my stomach in knots. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. No matter how badly I wanted to make everyone happy and how good I was trying to be, I would inevitably do something wrong, make someone angry, disappoint someone. And whether it was wearing too much make-up (while wearing the same amount I wore every day) or disagreeing with a pronouncement, or forgetting something I was supposed to remember, the overwhelming feeling was that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

It’s not as if I think about these things regularly. In fact, I rarely think about them. And it isn’t that good things never happened to me. I have great memories of special times with my family. I have a mom who is one of my dearest friens. I had a prom dress that made me feel like Belle. I went to a wonderful college. I made good friends. I married the love of my life. I had the most beautiful wedding I could have imagined. I was able to take some amazing trips. I got to spend the last year helping to raise some of the sweetest kids imaginable. And these are the things I hold onto.

I am twenty-four years old and it’s time for me to stop believing that if I’m good enough I will eventually have the things I want. That if I’m smart enough I can have a job I love. That if I’m kind enough I will have friends and won’t be lonely. That if I’m generous enough I won’t have to worry about money anymore.  The reality is, sometimes, I am good enough and helpful enough and my dad (my birth dad) still doesn’t love me. Sometimes I work hard enough and I’m still not the best or the smartest and I don’t get the job I want. Sometimes I am as generous and giving as I am capable of being and that isn’t rewarded with financial stability. Sometimes I am as kind and friendly as I know how to be and my coworkers still all go to lunch together and don’t invite me. Sometimes I am disciplined with my eating and work hard with my body and run more miles than I’ve ever thought I was capable of and I am still ten pounds overweight and I still can’t sleep some nights from stomach aches.

So I think the lesson in all of this for me is that sometimes I don’t get a new car or a job that pays well or get to travel or have the ability to buy a house or thinner thighs or a better digestive system. And it’s so frustrating when I feel like I’m doing everything right and it’s all for nothing, and those around me are getting all of those things I desire. I still don’t know why this is. But I do know why it isn’t. And it isn’t because I am not enough.  The God-King of the Universe wrapped himself into a little ball of squirming, stinking human flesh and grew into a kind and humble man, and stretched himself across a heavy, splintered beam of wood and suffered and died. For me. For my shame. For all the ways in which I am truly not enough. And I know that when God looks at me, He sees His son. He sees More Than Enough. It is the miracle of the Incarnation. That even when everything in my life is screaming “Not enough,” God looks at me and whispers, “Enough. More Than Enough. Just as you are. Enough.”
 
I can’t change the fact that often, no matter how hard I try, I’m not “rewarded” for my hard work, and I might never fully understand why. But I can choose to believe what God says about me. I can choose to believe that I am Enough.  
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