There was a saying about me going around in my house when I was growing up. It was “Her eyes are bigger than her stomach.”
It was said by a kind, funny and gentle nanny that we loved so much and she loved us.
My memory tells me that it was related to having a huge piece of chocolate cake, perhaps it was my birthday.
But the fact that I still remember this statement in my mind today, as if it was yesterday, tells me that the meaning I decided to attach to it might not have been so gentle. There were other sayings going around as well that were positive and encouraging. But this one resonated with me as it caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time.
What I interpreted it to mean over time was:
You can’t have it all.
Leave some for others.
Your desires are too much. You are too much.
Your passion (for chocolate cake) must be tamed. (read: you must be tamed)
If you go for it, there will be nothing left for others.
Think of others before yourself. (read: others needs are more important than your own)
Greed is bad. Wanting is bad. Self- centredness is bad. (read: you are bad for wanting)
You get where this is going. The tiny, innocent statements that a 5 or 6 year old can attach such a gigantic meaning to can become viruses that infiltrate many aspects of their self-identity and their life. They are all based on a mindset of scarcity: there is not enough, you are not enough.
This is how a shadow self gets created. All the qualities that are judged as bad, not acceptable, not allowed, as children even if it was a misinterpretation must be banished and locked up in the basement of our bodies and covered up by the opposite qualities.
Thus began a lifetime of people-pleasing, giving away precious time and energy, needing external validation, dedicating myself as a social worker to eradicating greed and fear. Not a bad mission in life but it came at a cost.
The shadow self doesn’t disappear. It lies in the dark, lurking for those moments when it can lash out in anger when others reflect its’ mirror qualities, or it manipulates people and situations so it can continue to live.
We then create a false self, the one who shows up in the world to parties, at work, in our relationships and families.
The false self, or small self, is the one that knows how to gain attention and admiration, but mostly it is looking for love.
Children understand pretty quickly what they need to do, who they need to be, in order to get love. This is survival.
So, for a chubby little 5 year old, this was confusing. Remember those moments of confusion as a child where you are trying to understand something that is beyond you? So at that level of development, we interpret it to mean something about who we are and who we should be.
And the parts of us that were not accepted get hidden and out comes: judgement of others that are ‘greedy’, a dedication to self-restraint that is extreme, a harsh judgement of self when she overeats or over-anything, a huge reaction to people who seem ‘selfish’, an over-giving to others at the cost of herself.
I don’t need to tell you how this transpired through my teenage years where the teenage brain is designed to be self-centred in it’s development. It takes an impossible amount of discipline to control a growing appetite, need for approval and shame for needing it. But that is a whole other blog in itself.
How do you excavate deeply held beliefs about yourself that keep you in patterns of fear, self-sabotage and addiction?
Well, you could get on the self-help carousel and feast on a buffet of quick-fix tools, positive affirmations, drink green juice and do yoga, love yourself and above all, be happy books!
Maybe you have already. Cool. All good stuff. It feels great but it doesn’t last.
I did too. I’ve done everything and to be honest it was a fun, and sometimes painful ride. I learned a ton. But it is temporary.
No matter how many times you try to ‘fix’ what is ‘wrong’, you are barking up the wrong tree. Don’t get me wrong. Please get the medications, the support, the tools, the love that you need and say affirmations and read books if it is helpful.
But the more we fight, fix, get rid of, and banish our old beliefs, the more we move away from ourselves. Our true selves.
And we perpetuate the one, core, underlying belief that “I am not enough the way I am.”
If you are wondering what your shadow qualities are, just notice what really triggers you in others. What can you not accept?
There are so, so many reasons in the world to believe this belief: social media tells us ‘your life is not enough’, advertisements tell us ‘you need to buy this’ to be enough, health schemes tell us ‘you have to look like this’, ‘you have to eat this’, ‘you have to make this much money’, schools tell us ‘you have to get good marks’, health care tells us ‘you should be very, very afraid’.
All the systems around us promote the overlying, underlying and inescapable fear that we are not enough.
Do more, make more, have more, be more, be perfect, be thinner, be smart, be nice. Do you see this?
Guess what! It’s all a lie.
You cannot convince yourself you are enough by doing more. Have you tried?
You cannot change a belief by inserting another belief. Your body is wiser than that. Have you tried?
I have. Until there was nothing left to try externally. The only way was inwards.
I offer you another alternative. One that can mindfully meet any situation, any fear, any circumstance with ‘enough-ness’.
With mindfulness, we can slow down long enough to see where this belief rears it’s head in our lives, where we get reactive and defensive and fight for our right to be enough. These are your doorways in. ‘Enough-ness’ is already your birthright.
You have to realize this over time, and embrace every breath, every moment, every, trigger, every fear, and include everything. Nothing can be left out. As we say in mindfulness, you don’t have to like it, you just have to notice it without judgement.
Acceptance. Unless you have this one ingredient, you will continually fight a battle that cannot be won. No-one ever bullied themself into being a better person. No-one ever judged themself into being loving. Can you see this? It just makes you a bully and a judge. Accepting who you are in all of you is the only way through, or life will just give you another situation to prove this.
The acceptance, the knowing, the realization of ‘enough-ness’ comes from your true self, who has always known this.
She doesn’t have to pretend, fix or defend herself.
He doesn’t have to prove anything. He knows.
Strangely enough, when we love the parts that have been exiled, the greed, the meanness, the broken, unfixable parts, they lose their power and start to shift.
So here we go friends, try this on:
I am enough in my anger.
I am enough in my fear of failure.
I am enough in my shame.
I am enough in my laziness.
I am enough in my desires, my passions, my wanting.
I am enough in my greed.
I am enough in my selfishness.
I am enough in my pain.
How does that feel? If the small self rises to say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t possibly accept that’… then be enough in that too!
The only way out is in.. with a good dose of love and self-compassion.
I know you are already enough. I hope you slow down enough to know this truth as well.
If you feel ready to move through your small self fears to embrace your power and purpose on this planet, contact me to work together to make this happen.
You are enough.
Lots of love,