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I Am Enough

I Am Enough

Every once in a while I come across a string of words that rocks me to my core.

A few months ago, I had that experience while watching a Ted Talk given by Brené Brown. A research professor who studies courage, shame, and vulnerability, Brené Brown is something of a recovering perfectionist. In her talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she shares her own struggles and research findings about the feelings of inadequacy and ensuing vulnerability that plague most of us. To compensate, many people increase pressure on themselves to perform, which leads people to feel even more inadequate. She suggests that rather than stay in this counterproductive loop, we instead tell ourselves, “I am enough.”

When I heard her say those simple words, I gasped.

As soon as Brené Brown said, “I am enough,” I instantly realized I give myself the opposite message dozens of times every day. I imagine most Americans do the same. We think, “I’m not rich enough, thin enough, pretty enough, successful enough, etc.” as we charge online shopping purchases to credit cards and stress-eat snacks late at night. We are bombarded with advertisements telling us we aren’t enough of whatever it is that their foisted products will supposedly make us. We watch tv and our neighbors and colleagues and think, “I’ll be happy when I get a nice car, lose 15 pounds, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, get a promotion, buy a bigger house, etc.” Meanwhile, we run the rat race of earning a living and raising families, all while trying to attain the perfection we see on Instagram and Pinterest, telling ourselves that if we just throw the perfect holiday meal or birthday party we will be okay. Most of us live an existence of always trying to attain what feels just out of reach.

The “not-enoughness” that comes with a chronic illness

These societal messages have a powerful impact on most people. When a chronic health condition like rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD) comes into the mix, there is an additional, thick layer of “not-enoughness.” While our healthy friends are scrambling to keep their heads above the waters of intense expectations, we’re doing it wearing a heavy vest of pain, inflammation, and fatigue.

Time and time again I read stories and comments on this website of people sharing that they feel that they are disappointing others in being unable to meet the expectations of their spouses, their children, their supervisors and colleagues, and their friends. I’ve felt that way so often. Yet, I’ve come to realize that most of the time it’s actually my own expectations that are the harshest.

Having an autoimmune disease like RA/RD, I can never be sure of when a flare or an infection will strike. I’ve had to cancel so many plans that were important to me because I was too ill or in too much pain to participate. As hard as that is for me, I also tend to focus on who I’ve let down by canceling.

Then there are the chores and the errands that go undone when I’m not feeling well. When a flare strikes, laundry piles up, bills get paid a couple days too late, stacks of clutter accumulate. It’s so easy to look around at all the things I’m not able to do and berate myself.

Living with RA/RD creates a constant dissonance between what I feel I should be accomplishing and what I’m able to get done. That opens up a disappointment rabbit hole that is easy to fall into, spinning in thoughts of all the things I should be able to accomplish that I’m not, and of all the people I believe I’m letting down along the way.

This deficit mindset is self-defeating. Not only does it make everything feel worse, it isn’t really true.

I am enough

Instead of berating myself for what I’m unable to get done, I’m trying to look at all the things I am accomplishing in the face of my physical challenges. That may be getting out of bed in spite of crippling morning stiffness. It may mean reading a story to my kids from the other side of a pillow barrier because it hurts too much to let them sit on my lap or lean against me. It may mean sending a friend who’s having a hard time a loving text when I don’t feel up for a phone call. Instead of thinking, “I should have gotten up earlier, I should have cuddled my kids, I should have called” I’m instead working to think, “I’m doing the best that I can, and it’s enough. I am enough.”

This shift from a deficit mindset to a sufficient mindset is powerful. Not only have I started saying, “I am enough” to myself throughout the day, I had a bracelet made with these words engraved on it that I now wear daily as a reminder that I am worthy, I am doing the best that I can, and I accept myself. I’ve extended it to saying, “I am enough. I have enough. I have enough time.” Rather than focusing on what I didn’t achieve, I’m focusing on what I accomplish in the face of enormous challenges.

“I am enough” helps me realize that in spite of barriers, I am not giving up or giving in, and I’m not going to keep falling into the trap of bullying myself for being imperfect. Instead, I am choosing to acknowledge that I have forged my physical weakness into emotional strength, I have faced hardship with grit, and I am proud of myself for it.

I am choosing to believe, to see, that I am enough.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • lindajumper
    10 months ago

    Wonderful article, Tamara! You really put the “not enough” feelings into perspective. That’s exactly how it goes and you’re right, we ARE enough. I’d like to have some jewelry to remind me of that fact. Lately, my self esteem has really suffered. Thank you for this!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi lindajumper,

    I’m so glad you found the article helpful! Yes, we do tend to be hard on ourselves, so it’s great if we can remind one another of how much we’re successfully contending with by getting through the day. And it’s even more important to remind ourselves of that. If you’re interested in engraved jewelry, lots of people provide that service, but I found someone on Etsy who does affordable, personalized bracelets.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
    Tamara

  • Norreen Clark
    10 months ago

    What a great idea a bracelet I am enough. What happened to me was I kept seeing a male lion following me around. He would hop on the bed at night get in the back seat of the car he stayed by my side 24/7. I went and asked someone that was a psychiatrist and was told it was very healthy and when I was done I realized the male lion was telling me he was there to remind me of all the courage it took to get this far in my life. And he still shows up from time to time as a reminder

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi Norreen,

    I’m glad you found the article helpful, and that you are feeling your courage.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    10 months ago

    Tamara,
    Brilliant in timing and content! I also have learned this phrase. Somedays I use it better than others. RA is such a constant story of adapting and accepting. We all have days that we just don’t want to accept and adapt. Your article reminds all of us that on those flare days, getting out of bed to the bathroom and back is a victory! I find that when I do make plans, it encourages me to carefully watch my activity the 2 days before the event. I rest up so that I can participate. Then I plan a day of rest afterwards. My life doesn’t look like I expected, but I am enough!
    Thank you,
    MS

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi MS,

    Yes, getting from the bed to the bathroom during a flare is indeed a triumph! Thanks so sharing your thoughts, kind words, and your experience. Yes, this disease requires ongoing adaptation, and some days we adapt more readily than others – so true!

    Thanks for being in our RA community,
    Tamara

  • Casmere
    10 months ago

    Tamara your article is so very moving. It speak the truth of us all and how we struggle in all of life’s duties and obligations (and expectations to be like the Jone’s).

    You are so right in that we need to realize “I AM ENOUGH ”
    Thank you for this affirmination of how we should see our selfs as we live with RA/RD. I also have FIBRO MPR (both diagnosis this year) and a thyroid condition. I have had the thyroid condition for 35 years and RA for 49 years.

    Thank you all we are not alone.

    Casmere

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi Casmere,

    Thanks so very much for sharing these kind words. It means so much to me to know I’ve been of any help to another person with this disease.

    I, too, have a thyroid condition. If yours is an autoimmune thyroid condition, you may be interested in this article I wrote: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/hypothyroidism/

    I wish you all the best as you contend with these challenges,
    Tamara

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey Casmere,

    I wish you all the best as you and your doctor try to figure out what is going on with your thyroid. RA/RD is enough to contend with without fluctuating thyroid on top of it. I also wish you and your daughter all the best as she tries to figure out what is going on; I know that is a hard place to be in for the both of you.

    Thank you for sharing, and please know that we are here any time you want to share a question, concern, experience, or just want to vent. We get it!

    Gentle hugs,
    Tamara

  • Casmere
    10 months ago

    Thank you Tamara
    I went into the link you gave and read your story. It is very informative.

    I am very much aware of the links between autoimmune disorders/diseases. In my case there are no family members like my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents that I am aware of having any autoimmune diseases. But now my eldest daughter
    might have RA/RD. She is waiting to see a Rheumatologist. Yes I do have Hypothyroidism but have never had a goiter. Mine came on when I was 30 so after I had my children. It seems when my RA flares that my thyroid level goes out of whack. It was weird but spring of 2017 I went into hyperthyroidism which has never happened before. It took till Dec to get it levelled off, but I was also battling a serious medication reaction which affected my muscles on top of RA. I currently believe it has gone back the other way now. My Dr. Is waiting for 5 more weeks then I get retested and see where it is at before changing my medication. That’s is where I am at right now.

    I wish to thank you and the other authors for their very informative and validation of all our worries, frustrations, fatigue and all of our feelings.

    All my best to you in your struggles
    Casmere

  • NPEOttawa
    10 months ago

    I don’t think I dump on myself for letting others down so much as letting myself down. RA hit me just after a long-anticipated retirement for which I had so many plans. And it has slowed down the completion of many of those plans, and even tossed some off the list entirely.
    And long-term plans? Pfffft. Suddenly, it is risky to make plans for any time except today. Buy tickets for a concert in 2 months? Forget it. Dinner with friends next weekend? Will have to confirm the day before.
    2 days ago I felt great. In the next 3 days that were free of appointments and obligations to others, I was going to finish cleaning up the yard and garden for the fall and plant a lot of bulbs that I bought, do some cooking for the freezer (after cleaning and inventorying it), work on the accounts for a charity that I’m treasurer for, and put my summer clothes away. As well as all those little pesky time-consuming things that are supposed to be re-done every day, like grooming, cooking, eating, etc.
    What will I do? As it has turned out, maybe none of the above.
    So am I enough if I don’t do the things I planned? I’ll try to feel that way cause beating myself up doesn’t help me or those around me. But I find it so disappointing and frustrating that I want to climb on the roof and yell at the heavens. (LOL, as if I can climb anywhere 🙂

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey NPEOttawa,

    It is such a hard disease to live with, and to try to live “productively” with. But yes, you are enough even if you don’t do one thing on your to-do list. So often we gauge our accomplishments by the tasks we’ve completed, but sometimes just getting through a painful day is a huge accomplishment!

    I’m sorry that your retirement is not what you’d hoped it would be. RA definitely shatters plans and expectations. The challenges are real, and I would never suggest that any of us facing them shouldn’t be frustrated or disappointed in having to deal with them. I just think that most of us probably sell ourselves short about what a feat it is to face those challenges day after day. We should be (gently) patting ourselves on the back, but instead we’re often hard on ourselves.

    Wishing you some “good days” that go the way they were planned,
    Tamara

  • NPEOttawa
    10 months ago

    Thanks Tamara. It really helps me to know that I am not alone. Wishing you good days too.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    10 months ago

    I wish I could get there on this one. I think we are saddled with the notion of not being enough because we have to say say no sometimes. It means much more to us than anyone else, but it is a powerful message.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi Rick,

    Yes, it is hard to have to say no, and then say it again, and again. Telling people “maybe” isn’t much easier. But I’m working on being frustrated with the challenges versus being hard on myself. We are doing the best we can!

    Gentle hugs,
    Tamara

  • sandymm
    10 months ago

    I am enough resonated so highly with me. Thank you ten times over for your post. I am going to try and set my mind to that way of thinking. Since being diagnosed with RA, I keep thinking of how I let people down and not doing enough etc …I wanted to be the old me, never being ill etc. I love this post. Thank you sooo much!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thank you for sharing that, sandymm! I am so glad you found it helpful. It always makes my day to hear that I’ve been of any help to others struggling with this tough disease. Yes, I know just what you mean about wanting to be the “old me,” but the current you is enough, truly! Gentle hugs, Tamara

  • rockcandi
    10 months ago

    Once again your article has come at a perfect time for me. My husband and I haven’t lived alone for about 6 years. Before we moved in with the first family member of that 6 years, I was getting sicker and sicker from my JRA, but wasn’t at my worst until a few months after moving. So I haven’t been solely responsible for the upkeep of the home for 6 years or since I’ve had such bad flares and not so good in-betweens. The last 4 of it we’ve been sharing a home w my in-laws and almost the last 3 has included our son. (He’ll be 3 in Feb.) Now, hopefully this weekend, our little 3 person family will finally be moving into our own home. I’m am beyond excited! But at the same time, I’m super nervous! Will I be able to keep up with all the dishes, laundry, housework, grocery and household shopping, on top of taking care of my son and husband. Blessedly, I’ve realized how low maintenance my husband is bc he knows how hard it is for me to do anything at all during flares and how much I struggle in between. Reading your article I also realized that all this time I’ve been the one putting undue pressure on myself, not him. And I put way more pressure on myself than he ever could. Now I can adopt the mantra I am enough and I really believe it will truly help me take that pressure off of myself. Thank you so much Tamara for another excellent article!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey rockcandi,

    Thank you for your kind words and for sharing what you’ve been going through. I wish you all the best in your new home! I also am glad to hear you are working on giving yourself some grace. We need to do this every day, but during your move it will be that much more important, as moving is usually stressful and physical (even when not doing any heavy lifting, unpacking is physical). So preparing yourself to be accepting and kind to yourself before the big move will go a long way. Kudos to you!

    I hope the move goes as smoothly as possible and that the three of you love your new home and having space just for the three of you. Please keep us updated if you feel so inclined.

    Congratulations on your new home,
    Tamara

  • kat-elton
    10 months ago

    Thanks Tamara for this article. You made my day happier and more content reading this!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks so much Kat! Hearing that I made the day of another RA/RD warrior any better is the best possible compliment. Wishing you all the best, Tamara

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    10 months ago

    @tamara I think peopel with autoimmune illness crack the whip harder on ourselves than anyone else in the universe. I know for a fact I constantly overcompensate. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey Daniel, “Overcompensate” is the perfect word – thanks for sharing that. Best, Tamara

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