3 Magic Words
For years my life was defined by deep feelings of inadequacy as well as concurrent actions of striving to keep those feelings at bay. Even as a young child, I felt nothing I did was good enough.
I can still recall feelings of intense anxiety, sometimes terror, at simply waking up and knowing I had to go to school.
While my parents meant well, I was inculcated with the belief that to be loved meant having to prove your worth each and every day, which meant doing things in a certain way—staying quiet, doing what you were told, getting good grades, taking certain subjects. In other words, I was given a supposed checklist of success, which would supposedly lead to this elusive state called “happiness.”
I was taught to be competitive, to believe that my self-worth was directly tied to accomplishment. I could not be of value unless I achieved something. This is a belief system embraced by many, and for me, it only served to deepen the feelings of emptiness and downright devastation that I experienced, especially if I failed at something.
When one lives in a constant state of competition, there is no such thing as ever being good enough. One lives in a constant fear that you NEVER will be good enough. Even as I continually achieved and collected accolades, I suffered from constant panic attacks, chronic anxiety, and depression. Therapy and anti-depressants would provide short-lived respite.
However, even as I spent most of waking time dedicated to “doing,” part of me was suspicious of what the point exactly was to all this “doing.” A secret voice was always asking, “Is this all there is?” Part of me was deeply ashamed that this voice even existed. After all, society was reinforcing that I was doing things the “right way.”
I dutifully checked off the items on my checklist of success, completely believing that once I completed each task, I would be closer and closer to that state called “happiness.” However, with each accomplishment, I only seemed to be further and further away from where I wanted to be. A part of me resigned myself to believe that perhaps what I really wanted could never be attained, that it was elusive and outside myself. But even as I tried to give in to resignation, that voice and its question “Is this all there is?” continued to plague me. I had become an adult and done everything that was expected of me. And I was completely miserable.
“Is this all there is?” became an accusation. But I busied myself with tasks to which I attached great importance. I cooked gourmet meals. I traveled to faraway places. I did yoga. I went through the motions of what a good life was supposed to be, never realizing in all those years that what I had longed for resided within myself.
My self-worth still resided in the external— from accomplishments and material possessions, in the need for validation from others. It never occurred to me that I could give myself validation because I had never been taught that.
I remember back in 2001 discovering a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he spoke about suffering. It struck a chord with me, but I could not understand it. For he said to lessen suffering in the world, you had to reduce suffering within yourself.
That concept seemed completely foreign to me. I did not understand how lessening MY suffering could possibly lessen the suffering of others. So even when we are well-meaning in focusing on the suffering of others, it only serves to distract from addressing what needs to change within ourselves.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
The 3 magic words you should say to yourself today and every day
Fast forward to the present, I now realize that we cannot possibly give or receive love without knowing love within ourselves first. And how did I finally understand this? It was when I heard the words,
“Who you are is enough.”
I don’t know from whom or exactly when I heard this, but the concept was so revolutionary to me that I shed tears. And for the first time, I felt free. I have heard this mantra echoed numerous times from many spiritual teachings and teachers since hearing it the first time, but I finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh meant.
Words have the power to bring you up or tear you down. And if you learn to use these 3 magic words wisely, you will change and your life will forever be transformed.
I have dedicated the past few years to release my old belief systems related to worthiness. When the inner voice asked the question “Is there all there is?”, it was really asking, “Are you good enough?” And the answer has been and always will be, “I am enough.”
You are enough. Always have been and always will be…
Do you think your life would look any different if you knew that you were enough? You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below