I’ve got a question for you to ask yourself. Goes like this:
“What do you believe makes you enough?
Go ahead, pause a minute and ask it.
What was your answer? Maybe it’s being a good parent. Maybe it’s the way your home looks. Maybe it’s the items you’ve checked off your “to-do” list today. Or the credentials behind your name. Or your number of social media followers. Or the type of car you own. Or your best-selling book.
The list could go on and on.
But here’s the truth, if you answered that question in any other way than “I am enough simply because I’m me,” then you’re certainly not alone.
Studies suggest 85 percent of people experience a sense of not being enough at some point in their lives.
We’re born with all the love inside us we need to love ourselves completely. But for so many of us, somewhere along the way this self-love gets displaced. We think, “I’ll be good enough if I own the right things, excel at work, or earn just a bit more approval.” We begin to place our self-worth on chasing the external instead of embracing the internal.
In my experience, the feeling of not believing you are enough is a rocky place to be. It robs you of peace, presence, and living your life to the fullest. If I looked a certain way, made more money, and earned enough “gold stars,” then I felt good about myself.
It took work for me to climb out of these beliefs and get back to a place where I could look in the mirror, smile, and feel deep peace that I was exactly who I was for a reason. I didn’t need to change or be more. I was enough. I realized the world needed me just as I am. And it needs you. Just as you are.
So how can you return to believing that you, at your core, are enough? How can you learn to accept yourself—the beautiful things, the messy things, and everything in between—and give yourself permission to be human? To be [insert your name here]. How can you escape the need to put up an “I’ve-got-it-all-together highlight reel,” and simply rest in the real you?
It takes more than just reading positive affirmations to truly believe, at your core, that you are enough. It takes a whole-person blueprint. An action plan that incorporates all of you.
So here it goes. If someone was to ask me, what does it take to believe you are enough, I’d answer like this. . .
Belief comes from your thoughts and emotions, all of which are housed in your brain. The brain is the command center of your beliefs. If it’s not working optimally, nothing will be.
Brain and thought optimization stem from three main pillars: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Arguably in that order. Aiming for at least 5, 90 minute uninterrupted sleep cycles a night is key for healthy brain cells. Eating real foods and avoiding foods that cause inflammation such as sugar, vegetable oils, and refined grains best promotes neurotransmitter growth. Moving your body daily (in the sunshine if possible) strengthens neural connections and boosts neurotransmitter levels.
A high functioning, balanced brain produces more positive beliefs than an unhealthy one, which are the foundation for self-love and acceptance.
We are the person we talk to the most. No question. It’s estimated that we have 70,000 or more self-talk thoughts a day. And that 80 percent of them are negative. Most of these negative thoughts have become so routine they go unnoticed and unquestioned. If the person we talk to the most is constantly putting us down, how are we going to believe we’re enough?
According to clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Amen, eliminating automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) is pivotal for brain health. Negative thoughts change brain chemistry, causing problems in the brain’s deep limbic system, which can lead to depression and feelings of not being enough.
To believe we are enough, we need to become observers. To watch our thoughts closely. ANTs must be caught and smashed by truth statements.
One example of an ANT is labeling: I’m so impatient. How could I be such a jerk? I’m the worst.
These distorted thoughts lead to negative feelings and stop your ability to see a situation clearly. They can be countered with truth statements in this way: This situation is testing my patience. I’ll take a deep breath and a break if I need to. Patience is a virtue I’m growing in.
Challenging your thoughts in this way takes you from thinking emotionally to thinking logically and builds a sense of self that’s centered on truth. (There are 9 different types of ANTs. Read more here.)
Neuroscience says that we often become like those we spend the most time with, thanks to mirror neurons in the brain. If our goal is to believe we are enough and love ourselves simply for who we are, then it’s important to surround ourselves with people who already do.
What are the people like whom you spend your time with? Do they constantly speak poorly of others? If so, what do you think they say to themselves? I’m guessing it’s also negative.
According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, the people you habitually associate with determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.
Typically, we can control who we spend our time with (although this may take setting boundaries). Take time to really examine your close relationships. Then take action to surround yourself with people you admire.
When you’re feeling like you’re not enough, tell someone. They’ve likely been there too. Externalizing a feeling stops you from ruminating on it and helps give you a new, more truth-based perspective.
Research shows that naming a feeling aloud helps our brain activity transfer from the emotional part of our brain to the reasoning part. A 2007 study out of UCLA used fMRI to scan people’s brains while they labeled their emotions. Researchers found that verbally naming an emotion decreases activity in the brain’s emotional centers and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex (the reasoning and thinking center).
Naming a feeling helps it pass by, and in this case, helps you focus on the feelings that promote a positive sense of self.
Author Courtney Carver said, “You know what will really simplify your life? Liking yourself.” Truly believing we are enough is the foundational piece of simple, intentional living. Self-love allows us to experience life from a place of contentment instead of always wanting more.
(This doesn’t mean adopting an attitude or complacency. Working toward bettering yourself is a good thing. But it’s rooting this desire in self-love, not in needing to be different so to earn acceptance).
If you can relate to constantly chasing enough, the good news is that you don’t have to stay there. In fact, I’d say life is too short to stay there.
Change is possible; it stems from a series of small steps in the same direction. Pick a small piece of what you’ve just read and start there (try for a bit more sleep or eating less processed foods for example). Then build on that momentum.
Believing you are enough is a journey. It takes time and action. And the path isn’t usually a straight one. Once you reach that destination of believing you are enough, it takes work to stay there. The state of “enough-ness” is one you can return to again and again once you truly believe all you are is all you need to be.
And let me repeat, you are all you need to be. You are, and always have been, enough. Now is the time for you to believe it.
About the Author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teachings on minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living have reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog www.richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her Kansas City apartment home with her husband and two extremely lively young daughters.