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Ordinary People Taking Action
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I moved to a new elementary school and tried to join a group of friends. “Sorry, we have enough in our group already.”
I tried out for the basketball team at the new middle school (as the tallest girl trying out). “Sorry, you’re not good enough.”
I wanted to swim for my dream college. “Sorry, you’re not fast enough, just cut .2 seconds off your time and maybe next year.”
You’re not old enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not experienced enough. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard throughout my life that I am not enough. And while it was never an easy message to hear, the “not enough” narrative has actually, many times, served me well. While I never played basketball in high school, I did become a really good swimmer.
“Not enough” is the same narrative that provided me with the drive, determination and focus to truly rise above my unknown capabilities and prove to myself – and others – that I am enough. I focused hard at school, receiving good grades, becoming the first across my extended family to receive a college degree. I went on to build a phenomenal career through innovation and creativity mixed with drive and perfectionism.
However, I’ve come to realize that same narrative has also been a huge hinderance as I move through my life. After believing (or being told) that I am not enough, my instinct is to drive forward to prove myself. But once I feel I’ve achieved that, another pattern follows: to leave – to quit – to give up.
I quit swimming in college. I have left every single job. I have walked away from relationships, projects and opportunities. I have exhausted myself to the point of absolute burnout trying to prove that I was enough – to only be enough and then want to give up because I’d become so tired.
Last year, I shared my “not enough” narrative with someone I’d met. His response was this: “What if you switched, “I’m not enough” to “I am plenty”? How would that change things for you?
Refusing to give into his “game” I told myself that my “not enough” narrative wasn’t the issue – it was everyone else’s. I truly believed that other people made it a goal of theirs to prove to me I wasn’t enough. I write this now realizing how silly that sounds.
So at some point, I am not even sure exactly when, I changed my narrative. Instead of telling myself that others believed I wasn’t enough, I started telling myself and believing that I am enough.
It’s funny how that change in my narrative has allowed me to see the world from a completely different perspective. This shift in perspective has made me realize that not only am I enough – that my impact is bigger than I’d realized.
I have consciously tried to transform my drive, perfection and ambition to focus more on purpose, impact and achievement. I have tried to let go of my desire to control. To foster team play, develop caring connections and be more open to other’s opinions. Instead of withdrawing and disengaging, I have tried to be more authentic and have courageous conversations.
My transformation isn’t complete – and it’s far from perfect. Yet, what I am realizing is that much of the time, when I thought others were saying that I wasn’t enough, it was really me saying that I wasn’t enough.
What happens when you change the personal narrative from something that is holding you back to one that will spring you forward?
I bet the world opens in many more ways than you could ever imagine.
Try it. I’ll be right here with you.