Boundaries: On Being “Not Enough.”
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Emily. Last week I asked what the definition of “boundaries” was to her, and she answered: ‘courageously owning your limited existence. As a life-long religious addict and people pleaser, learning boundaries was both an incredible struggle and one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever received. Boundaries, for me, are essentially tied to the word enough.‘ In this post, she expands upon that. It’s fantastic. Emily tweets at @emelina. – Lauren
The past two years in particular have been filled with fears. Fears of not being enough for my family, my friends, my job, my romance, my church, my dreams, my city, and my God.
But my name means ‘Diligent One,’ and I’ve always lived under the label that I just have to work harder to achieve anything. I kept trying to be fun enough, big enough, kind enough, generous enough, self-controlled enough, patient enough, fit enough, strong enough, sexy enough, educated enough, woman enough, diligent enough, faithful enough, smart enough, good enough, beautiful enough, spiritual enough, enough enough… And I was exhausted. I was completely spent and still hadn’t met my goals.
I thought the problems were in my relationships, my job, my experience, my past, my knowledge, my faith, my family… But really, all of that spinning around the different spheres of not being enough were because I wasn’t willing to confront the idea that I might not be enough. I wasn’t willing to let my existence be based on the goodness of God and His love, so I was trying to be everything. I spent all my time taking care of other people, ineffectively at best, because I never asked for help. When I did attach, it was to people who masked my insecurity and fed the control monster inside me. I was living without boundaries and at every whim of circumstance. I lived desperate for things to settle down so I could regain a sense of hope, but life, it seemed, never cooperated. No matter how hard I worked, moving external things around never truly shored me up on the inside.
Do you feel like that?
Do you work tirelessly to fix every part of your life, your friendships, your family, your career, your dating life, your marriage, your finances, yet live in the exhausted land of imminent collapse?
The first thing I want to say is: I can’t fix you. This blog can’t fix you. A mentor can’t fix you. BUT: you don’t have to live for the goal of finally getting everything right in your life. You don’t have to do enough or be enough.
It’s crushing to not be enough.
Really, truly, gut-wrenchingly, devastatingly, powerlessly, impossibly, adverbially, crushing. I am in no way denying that.
But it’s debilitating to spend life trying to be enough.
In the midst of my exhaustion, I learned about boundaries and the ways they could free me. Then I realized I was going about life all wrong. What if being enough isn’t the ultimate goal of my existence? What if, in all of this trying to be enough, I’ve been seeking the unattainable thing in an impossible manner? What if I’ve been trying for something I never had to try for? What if that pressure was never mine to take for myself? What if I don’t have to be enough? What if Love is just waiting for me to accept it? What if Love, in fact, shows up best in the midst of that very act of recognizing that I am not enough? What if by admitting: I AM NOT ENOUGH to the impenetrable heavens, I might actually find them opening?
Because the one thing I really want: Love, by its very nature, cannot be earned. It may be accepted, but it cannot be forced or bought or manipulated. And for me, I can start accepting Love the minute I realize that I am not enough, that I never had to be, and that all my attempts – even at good things – brought me no closer to Enough. When I started accepting my finite self and living from a reservoir of Love rather than control, I felt a little more internal peace. And when everything in life starts spinning out, I can still cling to the fact that I was never meant to hold up the world and everyone in it. Boundaries have allowed me to become more of the Emily I am made to be because I stopped trying to be everything.
Boundaries are me courageously owning my limited existence.
Here’s the craziest thing of all: when I stop trying to be enough and I am loved in my not-enoughness, that’s where I find the ability to love, give, have fun, and be a kind, generous, fit, self-controlled, patient, strong, sexy, educated, diligent, faithful, smart, good, beautiful, spiritual, and yeah, just enough woman. And I find more of that ability than I ever did while I thought all those things would make me enough!
Boundaries are about letting go of my desire to save the world, and instead joining with a God who has and is actively redeeming every situation and person. So I just get to be me. My identity is no longer consumed with being enough. And I don’t have to demand any other human be enough to mask my own not-enoughness. My old desires show up now and then, but I can recognize that urge to “be enough” for the lie that it is, and continue healing. I don’t have to be enough for you, my family, my friends, my job, my romance, my dreams, my city, or my God.
I just get to be me. Silly, ridiculous, free, friendly, small, diligent, strange, loving, fit, clever, average, learning, creative, sexy, confident, fantastic, intelligent, strong, lovable, smart, flawed, beautiful, not-enough me.
Because Jesus is enough. Because God’s love for the world is enough. Because God’s love for me is enough.
And that’s the most freeing limitation I’ve ever believed.
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