The Fear of Not Being Enough, For Yourself

It’s been my belief for a long time that everyone has a fear, one that is deep rooted and can go easily unacknowledged for a long time. That fear is the fear of not being enough. 

Reading senior Ashtangis’ personal stories and listening to discussions of the ancient Indian texts and philosophies have shown me this. Although each story was unique, some about ancient wars with Gods and others about relationships with friends, the core of every one was about the fear that exists within the protagonist. The protagonist whatever colour (blue can be a good look for some!) or background represented Man. The more I read and listened to these words, the more I let my apprehensive guard down and increasingly identified with them. 

The fear of not being enough is what makes all of us experience moments of sadness, anger, a sudden surge of boastfulness, feeling reclusive and insular, or wanting to go hard on partying and escapism.

I feel that this fear of not being enough can be separated into three main categories, but they can and do very easily overlap in any single difficulty. 

The first: The fear of not being enough, for yourself

We grow up in environments that we haven’t asked to be in or have much control over but nevertheless it shapes our personalities and thoughts. Our environment includes things as intimate as our relationship with our parents or carers and the overall atmosphere in our childhood homes, to something much greater like the town you grew up in and the types of schools you went to. Even just a quick encounter with a stranger can contribute to your environment. Each of these pieces provides us with experiences that we both consciously and unconsciously keep; some you might love and fully embrace in the hope to replicate or continue throughout your adult life and others you wish you could just erase and change altogether. 

As a result of these experiences, we often hold ourselves to certain expectations and ideals of how we want ourselves to be. When something happens that goes against this ideal, we can feel  fraudulent and like a major failure even though no one else knows. 

We can habitually fall into the trap of wanting to be our perfect selves so much that we don’t notice our unhappiness or disinterest in the process. After I graduated, I truly wanted to be a “career woman” who would become a high-flying senior walking around in Jimmy Choo’s at work, crunching numbers, speaking all the business chat and having a group of equally successful friends around me to enjoy late night wine with. And to be honest, a part of me still lusts over that image sometimes. I wanted this simply because it wasn’t something I ever saw in my family and to me that looked like “success”. In a stereotypical first-generation British-born Chinese family, I grew up around catering, Chinese takeaways and fish and chip shops - coincidentally, a lot of them are still incredibly successful. When I started to not enjoy my job in sales after a few years, I went travelling thinking that would scratch the itch. I came back feeling refreshed and returned to my old job. Soon enough though, I felt a company change was needed for new stimulation and challenges, so I got the same role elsewhere. This happened once again just a year later, and I changed companies one more time. On reflection, I can see I was subconsciously rejecting the notion that big corp business wasn’t for me because I didn’t want the the ideal I’d clung on to simply wither away. It would mean I had failed at my version of “success” even if it I had lost all interest in sales, big business chat and networking events. 

The last company I worked for was a high pressured, fast running, 4000-strong business which really tests and demands a lot from their employees. This is in no way a bad thing, and for some people, this is the environment in which they can thrive but for me, it simply made me miserable. It had brought up so many of my own fears of no longer being enough; not tough enough to handle the stress and strains of work, not great enough to hit those targets, not hardworking or passionate enough to want to stay late or do extra work at home. I didn’t want to be miserable, or doubtful or that mentally and emotionally drained from all of these things. These were against my ideals too, as they are most people’s! 

This fear of ourselves is so difficult to shed because we can become so convinced by our longstanding ideals that we no longer realise that we’ve outgrown them. I didn’t actually want to be in sales or big corporate business anymore, that was the bottom line, I didn’t believe in it for me anymore. 

In some cases we can even alter those same standards, getting completely immersed in them and taking them to the extreme that anything less than reaching the pinnacle every time is seen as a failure. We so easily miss the small, simple successes in our daily business because we are impressively quick to spot and focus on our misses. The reality though is that it is only through slowly and consistently gathering the small grains of sand that we finally end up with a great stretch of beach. 

The second: The fear of not being enough, for others …. will follow next week