Wednesday, March 21, 2012

being enough

Lately I've been struggling with "being enough" and doing all the things I want/need/feel pressured to do. Man there's a lot of pressure in this life of ours!

I came across this article I wrote for this magazine back here and it somehow reminded me if I'm doing all that I can, and seeking guidance in the right places, I am enough and I need to take it a little easier on myself.

I just thought I'd share what I wrote. The first part is familiar because I used a story in an old blog entry, but the rest is new, with some insights from Dave. Here you go:

Although I have a horrible memory, there are a few things I remember vividly from growing up: the summer my Dad had us lug big rocks up to our cabin at Bear Lake as the only way to make some money, and how my second grade teacher's name was Mrs. Whaley which I thought that was the grandest name in the whole wide world. I remember little things like how sometimes when we lived in England my Mom would play the piano as we'd fall asleep at night (and I remember how wonderful it felt to be lulled into dreamland by it) and I remember clear as day how amazing I thought I was at manipulating the "bars" at recess in third grade. I could do the "dead-mans-fall" over and over and over again like nobody's business.

One of those things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He'd ask us what we thought our talents were and each time we suggested something he'd wholeheartedly agree, and write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies, he'd write a big "B" on one finger for "babies," then perhaps an "F" on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He'd also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.

It made me happy.

It made me feel capable.

Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.

To him I was “enough.” And that was enough for me.

It was such a simple world back then…the world of my youth. But as I grew, like many of us, I became more exposed to the real world. The world where neighbors could back flip circles around my wimpy trampoline flip and my supposed babysitting and art skills dimmed almost to obliteration when compared to the flashy talents of others.

So I set higher expectations on myself.

I began to strive to reach that pinnacle peak where I would be “enough” to all those around me.

But I realized that the trouble with that tactic is that if I compared myself to others, I’d never, ever be enough. Because it’s part of human nature to compare our worst to their best. And that’s not what “being enough” is all about.

We must realize that the only person we can truly compare ourselves to is ourselves. We want to be our best selves. And we are the only ones who can discover who that “best self” really is amidst the layers of self-criticism and uncertainty that filter in from the world.

My husband is a runner. He didn’t start out that way, but he set his mind to work at it and took off. He has become a good runner not because he has pined away watching others wishing he could be as fast or as smooth as they are. He realizes everyone has different lung capacity, different length stride, different motivations. So he sets goals for himself, completely unrelated to those guys he admires in the running magazines. Or even his friends. Only he knows how much he can push himself. And only he can decide he’s going to go the distance and how far that “distance” will be.

We are all runners in life. Without a doubt we are surrounded by people on all sides who are going to be able to do things better than we can. But we need to let that go. We need to set goals and strive to be the best we can be, completely unrelated to how talented someone on Pinterest or Facebook may seem to be. In our generation we are surrounded on all sides with things that show us the strengths of others. We see all the good on blogs and Facebook where it’s easy for life to look perfect on that one-dimensional view we get from cyberspace. This can be inspiring and uplifting or it can throw us into a swirl of depression.

I got this note from a blog reader the other day and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:

I feel like I am stuck in a world with so many expectations. Expectations to have a perfectly clean and organized house, expectations to have the picture perfect family life with the perfect relationship with my husband and the perfectly groomed and well behaved children. It seems like everywhere I turn on blogs and Facebook, etc. I get those vibes. It seems like the harder I try, the harder I fall. I try to be the best I can be and it seems like I get more impatient, my house gets less organized, and I seem farther away from the gospel than ever. What do you do to keep it all together?

My answer to this is that I try not to compare myself to others. I try to compare myself to myself. Sure it’s great to be inspired by others. Sure it’s great to have role-models and to strive for excellence. But the tricky part is to figure out what is enough for us personally. That is what will bring true happiness.

If we believe in ourselves, we can make good things happen. And that will be enough.

The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped my seven-year-old up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.

She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.

Delight poured out of her for the next hour.

And before long she had her sisters gathered around on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized.
In each other’s eyes they were “enough.” And because of that, they glowed.

I think it is essential to observe right here and now that being enough does not mean we’re at the end of the ride and we can just coast by in life. We need to be striving for greatness and to propel ourselves forward in all that we do. In fact, my husband thinks that along with writing what kids are good at on their fingertips, we should add a few things they need to work on on their toes. Because working hard gives us confidence and happiness. We will never really be done striving to be our best self. And that’s ok.

But the key to remember is that it is our best self we are looking to be “enough.” Not some random person in the virtual reality our computer screens bring into our homes, or a friend, or a neighbor from down the street. We’re competing only against ourselves. And with each step of becoming ourselves we become happier and more confident.

How I hope that my children can remember not to compare those talents on their fingertips to others who may have completely different strengths and weaknesses than they do.

And that they can figure out some good things to challenge themselves on to write on their toes as well.


  1. Thank you for this. I needed it today. I've just finished doing back to back longterm sub positions. I hadn't taught in 14 years. I'm home again and grieving working full-time. I loved it. I'm grateful that I don't need to work... and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Staying home is tough. It's lonely with four kids in school. Friends are at different stages. There is a constant need to feel like the house is perfect and I am too. I didn't feel that pressure when I was in the classroom. Anyway...thanks for these words!

  2. Thank you! This article was a great reminder. I have so many AMAZING friends and family members its so hard not to compare.

  3. Thank you.
    From a mom of a non-sleeper 9 month old.

  4. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Thank you so much for articulating this "perfectly" for me. It's just what I needed to hear. And thanks for the idea of the finger marking. I will do that with my kids even though they are 10, 15, and 17.

  5. Thank you for posting this! I am definitely going to share this with my daughters.

  6. Dear Shauni,
    I do not comment on blogs but rarely, and I enjoy an occassional blog-hop to some I find inspirational and grounding, so I thank you for writing what you do. I cannot help to add a comment that I think is in concert with your desire to keep us from comparing to each other. A great talk from a recent LDS general conference ( ) reminded me that comparison kills joy and sacred minutes on our knees with our spirits looking up instead of sideways at those around us can heal us of the need to compare and compete, soothe our spirits when we ARE enough in the light of and eyes of heaven, and even prod us gently in a direction that can more assuredly bring additional peace and confidence in our lives and homes. So in summary, may I just add that to be enough means we LOOK UP for heaven's assurance of our efforts. And learn the satisfaction of Heaven's approval.

  7. shawni, thank you so much for having such an amazing blog! this has been one of my favorite posts. this is something that i have been struggling with lately (and it sounds like i'm not the only one...) so i'm especially grateful for the reminder!

  8. Ditto what everyone else said! Thanks for your post.

  9. That is SO perfectly said Shawni!!! It gives me shivers...every word. Perfect. Sometimes we can get so caught up in comparisons that we lose what makes us special and unique.

  10. Very great article Shawni! Quick question - any chance you have the floor plans for your house? I'd love to see the layout and am wondering how many bedrooms and bathrooms you have. Thanks!

  11. I had almost this exact conversation (in our own words, obviously!) with my husband last night! Thank you! I needed to read this today! :)

  12. Beautiful and well said post. I'm a "grammer" and I still have moment of feeling that I fall short....I will remember this post for a long time...
    Thank you
    And what a darling thing your Dad did marking your fingers with your talents...I may have to copy this for my grand children.
    Happy Day

  13. Such a great post Shawni! I think about this topic a lot. Sometimes we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves when we are always looking at those around us. I can always tell if I need to do more or less in a certain area by the way I feel inside. I know when I am improving and putting in a full effort into something or when I am over doing it or not doing enough. Our own personal compasses are the best gauge! Thanks for your thoughts today!

  14. I just love that talents/fingers/awesome idea. Being a newlywed, I find that it is so easy to feel like I'm not enough. It's hard to realize that I'm not the wife I envisioned i would be. I have a long way to go!! The important thing, I think, is to focus on the good I can bring to the marriage and try and improve a little bit every day. I think a little finger marking might be good for the husband too - it never hurts to build each other up! Thanks for all of your wonderful posts and ideas!

  15. thank you for this post, it was an answer to my prayer from today!
    Christa Johnson
    p.s. I used to tell my husband that when I went to your blog, I always got so down on myself because you guys are always doing such great and important things. One day he came up behind me and said, "What are you looking at?" I told him through tears, "I just can't be as good as them. There are pictures of all of her girls today outside selling things to earn money for somebody. I think today they are sewing scarves for homeless people who have no necks. I just can't keep up honey!!!"
    So, after taking a short sobaticol from your website, I came to exactly the same conclusion that you said today, but you said it so much better, he he he!
    My hard thing is, because I have stage four cancer, I always wonder what my kids are going to remember if I am not here anymore and that puts even more stress upon my weak shoulders.
    Enough rambling, all my love and admiration,
    Christa Johnson

  16. Thank you... I needed this today! I am "enough" and that's all that matters!

  17. Have you read Cheiko Okazaki's book "Being Enough"? If not, it is a must read. It has helped me so much! Recently, my son was diagnosed with NLD,a neurological disorder that prevents him from being able to process about 65% of our world. It has been really hard, and many days, I doubt I can be the mom he needs, but this book and blogs like yours have truly helped me to remember that I am enough!! Thanks!

  18. Wonderful Post! I love the idea about writing talents on fingers, I'm already scheming on doing this with my kids- thanks!

    Blogs can be both inspiring and depressing. When I am feeling good about myself and where I am at, then I can look at others successes and see the beauty or the inspiring in them. When I am not feeling good about myself beautiful blogs can be totally depressing (comparing their highlight real to my behind the scenes).

    As a blog writer I try to remember that when I post I don't do it to show off or say "look i am great", I do it because I want to express something that touched me and I hope that it will in turn touch others.

    Anyway, I ramble a bit :). Thanks for the idea about kids and talents!!

  19. I love this idea. In a culture where everyone seems pretty much the same, we tend to compare ourselves to others and that can leave us feeling depressed and discouraged. Thank you for your thoughts!

  20. I love love love this post, thank you! Lately, I've been mentally reminding myself that "each family does what is right for them," helping me to remember to do what is best for US rather then get caught up comparing ourselves to others or expecting our girls to behave a certain way just because other children of similar ages are doing so. We do what works for our family! Thank you, as always, for your lovely insight and inspiration. I hope I can teach our children to be their best self xoxo

  21. Good post. Thank you. I also run and think of the analogies to life. I constantly remind myself that we must be long-distance runners, not the sprinters who go out to fast and burn out. Yesterday I made myself stay off the internet all day. I felt more peaceful than I have in a long time. The virtual world has some wonderful things (this blog!) but we must be careful that it doesn't become our reality.

  22. Thank you, thank you for posting this beautifully written article and reminding me of the importance of "being enough."

  23. Thank you for sharing this. I had just been talking to my husband about not really knowing who I am supposed to be for everyone and for me right now. This was a great reminder. Thank you!!

  24. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Yesterday was a tough son had been having a hard week. Remembering this post (and the great shot of those fingers with the smile behind), I pulled him over and wrote an R on his thumb for being a good reader. He caught on immediately and suggested other things. By the third finger, his little brother was coming over asking if he could have letters on his fingers too. (I told him "of course, but one boy at a time" and he was smiling and thinking about what letters he wanted and helped make suggestions for his big brother.) When all five fingers had letters on them, I was rewarded with a huge smile and one of those big collapsing-in-to-mom hugs. It was priceless and really helped turn our evening around. The little guy loved his too. This was such an amazing technique. Thank you so, so, so, so much. My heart just aches with them when my kids go through rough times, and it was awesome to have something to offer them that was tangible but free and that they can "take with them" as a reminder of how great I think they are! Seriously--you changed the mood of our house with this. I can't thank you enough.

  25. Thank you for this post!!!

    I wanted to add that my problem isn't comparing myself to others, it's comparing myself to my "old" self. Does that make sense? I find myself thinking, "What is wrong with me? I used to be able to run five miles a day, make time for meaningful scripture study, etc etc etc...where did the old me go?" It's hard for me to remember that I have a different life now. I am a different me than I was in college.

    So much of the pressure that I put on myself comes from within. I don't know how to change that, but I wish I did. People say, "Just do your best," but I think that's a troublesome statement because sometimes I know that I am NOT doing my best--how can you possibly do your best on EVERY area of your life?

    Some of the sanest people I know are the people who just do a good job on things and move on...they don't obsess about "doing their best" and being the most perfect version of themselves. I wish I could be more like that! I often say, "I did the best that I could under the circumstances, and that has to be enough."

    Anyway--lots of random thoughts there, but your post got me thinking, so I thought I'd share. Thanks for sharing your life with us!!


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