“Lisa, that’s enough.” My mother would always deliver this command with her arms crossed, towering over me. As a child, it didn’t take long for me to learn that those three stern words called for an immediate cease and desist of any ongoing excessive behavior: That’s enough handfuls of nonpareils or enough spins of the toilet paper.
Or, that’s enough pleas for your 73rd Lisa Frank eraser.
Even though I didn’t always obey, I quickly learned that the term “enough” represented a boundary not to be further exceeded, because I had already overstepped it.
Now, as an adult, I’m all too familiar with the childhood phrase, “enough is enough.” In fact, I find that I still repeat “enough” to myself — but with quite the opposite meaning. The general theme?
“Am I good enough?”
If you’re immune from the cycle of self-doubt, hey, give me what you’re on. But, if you’re like most human beings, you’re constantly criticizing and pushing yourself to work better, do this better, look better and just, dammit, be better.
Let’s take work as a case study. Like any good worker bee, I save my thought-out files on the hard drive.
But then… I email them to myself. And print them out — just in case. Inevitably, I’ll find a clause to be reconstructed and repeat the entire process. Because, what if that one more tweak makes it that much better?
I know that I question myself more than others. I mean, ask any of my loved ones, and they’ll tell you that I’m a neurotic perfectionist. When something doesn’t turn out perfect — take last night’s gluten-free baking fiasco, for example — well, that’s when all hell breaks loose.
Pretty much, that’s when the tears and the twitching start, because to fail — no matter how minute the project — means that I wasn’t good enough. And for me, a failure is a failure, be it a baking misstep or a slip in launching Noah’s Ark.
As I continue to delve deeper into my late-twenties, my mind now spins upon this: When did the term “enough” transition to measuring if I was, generally speaking, good enough?
My ability to push myself beyond the tolerances of most has always been beneficial to my career, much in part because I take thorough one step further. It’s just in my nature to work long hours, and rewrite and revise my already revised pieces.
But, there’s a point when the default methodology of thinking am I enough? is detrimental and self-sabotaging. It’s a dangerous mindset. What’s even more dangerous is that it’s so damn easy to succumb to it.
One day, as I was fantasizing of swapping places with any mellow, type B personality, a friend texted me: “You need to form a loving relationship with yourself. Me-time is crucial.”
I realized she was right. I most definitely should spend a weekend with myself in the stacks of self-help books in the library.
As my therapist on speed dial (my mother) says, it’s all about retraining your mindset to stay positive. It’s like dieting, so to speak — baby steps, a day at a time, with the overall goal of improved change.
While I’ll never not be a perfectionist, I do know that I’m good enough for a lot of people. My mom, my family, my friends, and my coworkers all love me for the good and for the bad.
So, from now on, the next time I self-doubt or question myself, I’m going to pause, take a deep breath, and then say:
“Lisa, enough is enough.”