Now that it’s biking season again here in Colorado, a thought experiment comes to me.
What if you were riding your bike and no matter what happened, you ended the ride with a flat tire?
At the beginning of the next ride, you might think, “This time, I’m going to make sure that the tire doesn’t go flat. I’ll put in more air than I did last time.”
Still a flat tire.
“I’ll put in twice as much air this time!”
You wouldn’t continue that for long. You’d see pretty quickly that if you have a flat tire, you need to fix the leak.
But in the rest of our lives, we do this all the time.
We think that there is something outside of ourselves that will make us feel better. Make us feel worthy.
If I get this job, or this house, or run this race, or create this company, or have this much in the bank…
And when we get there, we feel, momentarily, that everything is ok. That we are ok. We feel that just long enough to think that this strategy works.
And then the nagging feeling comes along again.
Just like the tire, we feel full for a moment or two. But soon, we’re flat again.
When it’s your bike, you repair the tire. Or get a new one.
When it’s our thinking, though, most of us don’t see that possibility.
My teacher, the late Doug Silsbee, once said, “If you don’t think you have imposter syndrome, you’re not looking hard enough.”
He’s right. I see this especially in high achievers. The people who seem to do the most in the world, who seem to have it most together, are most likely to have a deep sense that, in some fundamental way, they are not enough. My experience is that most people suffer from some version of this.
We don’t see the impact that all the versions of “You are not enough” has on us. You are not (smart, attractive, hard-working, accomplished, wealthy, etc.) enough. For most of us, our lives are unconsciously run by that thought, and we alternate between trying to prove that it’s not so, and trying to cover it up.
“You are not enough,” though, is just a thought. Yes, it’s a thought that most of us think, or feel, a lot. (And that our consumer-driven society spends a lot of time and effort trying to perpetuate.) But it’s just a thought, just a feeling. And for most of us, it’s a deeply implanted story that our parents told us in a well-meaning effort to protect us, by getting us to try harder, to get a respectable job, etc.
When we are in that feeling, we tend to make different choices. We tend to put pressure on ourselves, to defend our decisions, to do more, or to exhaust ourselves as a way of convincing ourselves that we are enough, that we are ok.
Or we try to cover up the feeling with food, drink, entertainment, or even drugs.
We’re putting air in a flat tire, instead of patching the hole. And then wondering why the tire keeps going flat, why we have to keep doing more, more, more, why we are overwhelmed and exhausted.
The good news is that when it comes to thinking, you don’t actually need to change anything. You don’t need to figure out a way to stop thinking that you aren’t enough, or to do affirmations that you are enough and then deal with the disappointment when they don’t work.
You only need to become aware. Just becoming aware of the thought, and seeing that you have made decisions based on that thought that you don’t make when that thought isn’t present, can be enough.
Try it. Notice how often you have a version of that thought. And what you are doing in response. Notice what decisions you make when that thought isn’t present. When you see and know that you are enough.
And let me know what you see.