What is “enough?” Recently, I had a discussion with a man about “enough.” This was an unusual and very relevant discussion which happened spontaneously as an aside to a conversation about “performance addiction.” When a man says that as a young boy he never felt like he was “enough,” a woman should listen. We women think we have a copyright on that feeling. Obviously not. And how refreshing is that? This man who has enjoyed a successful career as a surgeon confided that when he was growing up, he always felt like he could do more, be more, and that whatever he had accomplished was not enough. He said he wanted to be recognized in his field not just as a doctor but as a specialist in something no one else did. I was mesmerized by this conversation, and asked him whether he got messages from his parents that made him feel “less than.” He said, “No,” and that he wasn’t sure where these feelings originated. As a football player, he related that his coach would “bench” him if he dropped the ball or messed up a play. He would have to spend a week on the bench, and he felt shamed. Shame is a nasty culprit that haunts so many of us. Interestingly, shame can come from many sources, not just our family of origin. In order to combat these feelings, the man went on to explain that he learned two techniques that only he could perform, so his reputation and self-esteem were enhanced by doing something no one else could.
Is it the “special” that women resent? Do we celebrate each other’s unique successes, especially those which are owned by only a few? Or are we threatened because we can’t or won’t work hard enough to enjoy the same rewards? it has been more evident that the women I have encountered in my journey have been much more threatened than thrilled by my unusual success in various projects I’ve pursued. Even those who call me “amazing” or “incredible” are not necessarily comfortable with my success. Lord knows, I have had my fair share of failures and false starts, but my path toward success was rarely applauded by the women in my life. Why can’t we applaud each other? Why do we feel threatened instead of thrilled for our friends? Is it the competition card? Do we find ourselves thinking, “Well, she may be a fabulous artist, but she’s got awful skin,” or “She may be a successful businesswoman, but she’s a bitch.” Why can’t we keep ourselves, our egos, out of the equation and just be happy for someone else? I, for one, was never taught that growing up. Other girls were held up to me as role models. “Look at Sally. She gets all As.” “So and so’s daughter was homecoming queen. Isn’t that wonderful?”It’s not that parents mean to make us feel “less than,” it’s just that society compares, and parents react. We want our daughters to be the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented. We sometimes forget to teach them to be humble, compassionate, kind and nurturing. Can we nurture if we’ve never been nurtured?