Have you ever felt like you never had enough of something? I frequently felt like I never measured up to the other kids in school when I was young. I didn’t have long enough hair, thick enough hair, good enough grades, enough time to do what had to be done. Where did all of these feelings of lack come from?
We learn our self-esteem and confidence initially from our parents. This is normal since we emulate how they do things by watching them. If one’s parents have an unhealthy attitude about us, life or themselves, we may adopt or be repelled by their lifestyles. If we have siblings, we compare ourselves to them. and further our self image by how they interact with us.
For two years I was the only child. When my younger sister was born I guess I felt a little envious because she, as a baby, attracted some of the attention I had been getting. I loved her but unfortunately I compared myself to her a lot. She had the prettiest brown, curly, thick hair. I had straight, fine, white/ blond hair.
Sister #1 Dawn, age 4 (L) and I (R) age (6).
Then when I started school I compared myself to everyone else. I wasn’t enough in so many areas, or so I imagined. I didn’t have nice enough clothes; I didn’t write creatively enough. I didn’t run fast enough. I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough.
Everyone did everything better than I did. I was, however, a very smart student and studied hard to make good grades. I was polite, kind conscientious and helpful when possible.
Then as I grew up in the church I heard the Bible verse Matthew 5:48, which states, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven is perfect.” I just thought I had problems before! Now I had to be perfect like God??!! I knew I could never be good enough to be like Him, but I did try.
It took some time to realize the verse was not a challenge to be perfect, but to be complete with God. Well I guess originally the Bible wasn’t written so a little kid could understand everything. But I did give it my best shot which resulted in more feelings of being “not good enough.”
Then in high school I felt I wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, popular enough, confident enough. (Gee I wonder how that happened??) I could sing fairly well but never well enough for solos. I could never seem to do anything well enough to be like everyone else. Do you see a trend here?
My self-esteem took a nose dive. However I am thankful for my parents because they exposed us kids to many educational adventures in traveling, rock hounding, Mexican culture, the World Fair in Quebec, riding in a glider, and seeing and experiencing life in ways some other kids never did. This buoyed my confidence tremendously.
Then I went back to school and saw my deficits again. I wasn’t “whatever it took” enough to have a boyfriend, until the 9th grade.
Every girl at that age dreamed of romance and dates with the guy of their dreams. They saw the other girls going steady, going to football games, and other activities with their boyfriends. Well finally in the ninth grade I met my future husband.
He was the tall, red headed guy who was very intelligent and drove me nuts at first. Then we became friends and he asked me for my and his first date and our relationship began.
While he was in college working on his bachelor’s degree. I went to and graduated from a three year diploma nursing school.
I tried so hard to be the best student nurse. I studied hard and did really well on most tests. Because I had felt at a very early age that I wanted to be a nurse, it was an unexpressed dream that I would someday win the Bedside Nursing award in our class. Sadly I wasn’t enough of whatever it took to earn that award. Again, I wasn’t enough.
Then there were more “not enoughs” in my life as a new wife, later as a mother. And again my confidence diminished.
Finally, I opened my eyes and had the strangest discovery when I went to a forty year high school class reunion. After finding old friends, acquaintances, classmates, (popular and unpopular) I realized they had felt inadequate, insecure, awkward,, “not enough” in some areas and experienced some of the same feelings I had felt. I was really just feeling what was normal for some teenagers in high school!
The other thing I found enlightening was we were all grandmothers, grandfathers, and (GASP!) OLDER!! Some of us had died from cancer, the Viet Nam war, disease and other life thieves. I am still alive. I still have the rest of my life ahead of me.
The other really wonderful thing about this revelation is some of those people, whom I had felt inferior to, greeted me sincerely and warmly! A lot of my feelings of inadequacy had been in my own head.
Sure there had been some mean people in elementary school. But I never experienced any of the degree or kind of bullying and cruelty that goes on now.
In spite of those years in nursing school of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, I managed to have a 37-year career as a nurse with 17 years of that being ICU/CCU nursing! I could not have lasted that long in those specialty units or on the floors if I had been “not smart enough” as I had felt myself to be!
My feelings of inadequacy were just my own insecurity. I was married to the same man for 36 years. Even though we had many trying, stressful times I finally understood that I was much stronger, wiser, more creative and talented than I had ever imagined. I handled a lot of problems and learned from my mistakes.
Maybe this is what our senior years are partly for: to reevaluate our lives, gifts, talents, skills, abilities and ourselves. By doing this we can improve in our final years or learn to appreciate ourselves enough to stop beating ourselves up over imagined deficits and just enjoy living.
We may forget about our “not enoughs” and help other people, share, be kind, and make the world a better place. These are some of the activities that make my life good, worthwhile and happy. (Well having grandkids and happily married sons sure helps!!)