What if You Were Enough?

How would your life change if you believed you were enough?

Enough to be loved by your spouse or significant other. 

Enough for your friends to want to spend time with you.

I’ve spent so much time in my life doubting, most of the time unconsciously, that I’m enough.  

I grew up in a broken family.  Drug abuse, infidelity, and a whole lot more.  Sadly, that’s the story for many these days.  My response to that brokenness was to run the other direction.  I spent time with friends that had unbroken homes.  I attended church every Sunday and Wednesday.  That was my choice when faced with the brokenness that I saw at home.  Sounds good, right?  I sure thought so, and then I was forced to look back as an adult. 

See, I attended church because it was safe, but more, I did it for the pity.  Here I was, doing the ‘right thing’ despite what was going on around me.  Others saw that and praised me, ushering me into their circles and trying to care for me emotionally.  

My sense of belonging and sense of self became wrapped up in the validation of others.  I was loved because I displayed what they considered perfection.  I fought to be what they saw in me because that worked.  I do not fault those that loved me during that time of my life, in fact, I’m thankful for them.  I’m thankful that others took an interest in a young boy that was trying to find his place in the world.  

Who was I without that validation, without being told that I was special and different?  Worse, I spent so much time worrying that they might see my fear or who I was when no one was looking.  I wasn’t perfect.  I was so far from it it’s humorous.  

I needed to be perfect to be loved.  That was the narrative I’d built in my mind.  My worth was in what I did, in who I portrayed myself to be to the world.  What if all of that collapsed and I wasn’t really that person, because deep down I knew I wasn’t?  

I never felt like I was enough.  I wasn’t enough to properly care for my brothers, or my father when he was at his lowest point.  I wasn’t enough to change the situation of my friends when they got really bad.  I wasn’t enough to keep my mother from moving halfway across the country and, as my young mind saw it, abandoning me.  I had tried so hard to do the right thing, and it still wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t enough.  

I’d like to say that the story turns at that point, and I figured it out, but I didn’t.  Things got better, and I was able to process a lot of what had happened in my life, but that desire for perfection was still there, that need for validation.  Then things got worse.

I got married, moved halfway across the country, and at the encouragement of my wife, spent time getting my degree.  

Working full-time and going to school full-time was a strain.  Worse, the support structure that I’d grown up with was suddenly gone.  It was just the two of us and a few members of my family.  I couldn’t hide any longer.  Things got worse, and I was forced to look inward.  I did not like what I saw.  My wife will agree with this statement, but the last few years of our marriage have been the worst we’ve had, and we’ll celebrate our 10th anniversary this year.  They’ve also been the best.  

I won’t get into all the details in this post, but all that darkness that I’d held close to the chest began to bubble up.  I reached out to an acquaintance out of the blue and shared. He invited me into his life and I felt the darkness recede a bit. 

Then I reached a point where I was presented with a choice – share the deepest, darkest parts of me with Tiffany, or continue lying to her and myself and pretend that I was still that perfect little boy.  My fear?  That she would see who I really was and want nothing more to do with me.  

That has always been my fear, I think.  That I would share myself with someone and they would reject me.  I had to risk that rejection because my desire to finally be known – and because I didn’t want my marriage to fall apart – won out.  I wasn’t sure if I’d still be enough for her, but I took the risk anyway.  

I can’t accurately describe the terror at starting that conversation, of beginning to unpack everything.  It was… awful, but it was freeing at the same time.  I can still remember both feelings, warring against each other inside of me.  

It was done, and she didn’t leave.  She’s still here, right now.  She’s in the other room as I type this, and I’m still beyond thankful for it.  It wasn’t easy, and it was just as painful, if not more so than I expected.  But it was necessary.  

See, I was enough.  She doesn’t love me because I’m perfect.  She doesn’t love me because I look like Brad Pitt with my shirt off (I wish…).  In fact, she doesn’t love me for anything I’ve done or will do.  She loves me because she believes I’m enough, that I’m more than enough.  She loves me because she believes I’m worth loving, that I’m more than my struggles.  I’m more than my past.  I’m more than the face I show to the world.  What’s beneath all of that is enough.  

Everything began to change after that.  My role as a husband began to shift.  My role as a brother, son, employee, friend.  It all changed dramatically in the light of me being enough.  Am I perfect?  I’m no longer afraid to admit that I’m not.  I don’t need to be.  I’m loved anyway. 

My, your, worth and value aren’t determined by what we do, or by what we show the world.  We aren’t what we do, even if it sure feels like it.  I’ve come to learn that’ identity’ is one of the most important conversations any of us can have.  As a result, I plan on spending the next few posts focusing on just that topic.  

I asked it before and I’ll ask it again:

How would your life change if you believed you were enough?  

  ~  Brandt

Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

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