Not Enough And Too Much

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“My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone.” –Anne Lamott

One of the things I love most about my life are the real and honest conversations I get to have with both women and men every week. In these moments, I am always reminded that most human beings, when we are honest, struggle with some form of crazy brain. To me, crazy brain is the nutty out-of-control thoughts swirling around in our head:

- where we are sure we know what other people are thinking about us.
- where we assume the worst instead of the best.
- where we obsess over what we did say and what we didn’t. What we did do and what we didn’t.
- where we’re always volleying back and forth between feeling not quite “enough” or somehow “too much.”

Our crazy brains are always trying to ruin us, rob us of freedom, steal our hope, confidence, and peace. And when it’s all said and done it seems like the primary struggle tends to land in one significant place for a lot of us: the tension between feeling not enough or too much.

Falling Short

“Not enough” is a big one for many and centers on falling short.  I’m not a good enough wife, mother, friend, Christian, daughter, leader, writer, neighbor … You name it, I can feel not good enough in it. Much of this tendency toward feeling not enough was in me far before I followed Jesus, but the truth is that the rigidity, roles, and expectations of what it meant to be a Christian woman really added to the mess.

The second is just as damaging and pervasive. We often worry about being “too much” when we step into our leadership, creativity, voice or purpose. We wonder if maybe we’re just full of ourselves, and that nasty crazy brain kicks into full gear, whispering, heckling, shouting:”Who you do think you are? You’re a fake! You don’t know what you’re really talking about! You aren’t worthy of success.” Add in some of the damaging messages we’ve heard about strong women in the church and an extra layer of shame creeps in when we step out and make ourselves known in a strong way.

I wonder how many times we let these two pervasive thoughts paralyze us? How often we hold back from ministry opportunities, dreams, relationships, creative pursuits and adventures God is stirring up in us, because we think somehow we aren’t good enough, healed enough, talented enough, whatever enough?  How many times do we lay down our passions because we are worried people will think we are arrogant or self-centered or prideful for thinking we could actually give them a try?

Can you relate?

Swinging between feeling not enough and too much sometimes feels like second nature to me. The feelings are so familiar, and the way their powerful pull lurks in the background is real.

So, how do we untangle from their pervasiveness and find a way to live more free and strong and confident as women of love and hope?  

Here’s what I keep learning:

Honesty helps.  A lot of freedom comes when we start to be more honest with safe people and acknowledge how these feelings of being “not enough” or “too much” are holding us back. Honesty won’t automatically solve anything, but it always helps. Something powerful shifts when we share the real stuff out loud, laugh at it, cry about it, and when we are with authentic, real people who know the feeling, too.

God and man measure things differently.  Some of us have a distorted view of God and our false theologies have led us to think we need to be better than we are to be used by God. God cares about our hearts the most and, if we look at the Bible, over and over we see God using imperfect people full of fear and doubt. It’s also important to remember that all of the people Jesus’ connected with were basically considered “not enough” or “too much” by the powers-that-be.

We’re in good company. 

If we wait for these thoughts to subside, we’ll never move forward toward the life that’s beckoning us. It’s not that I don’t hope for it, but I’m a realist and believe we’re probably not going to wake up tomorrow and never feel “not enough” and “too much” again.  It’s been helpful for me to both accept this reality and also refuse to let it rob me of life. It’s better to laugh at our crazy brain, instead of letting it laugh at us. We will have to try even when we feel inadequate. We will have to do hard things scared. We will have to accept that sometimes when we step out into our giftedness, we will feel shame for it, but we can develop resiliency so it doesn’t linger.

Dear SheLoves readers, may we bravely stand in solidarity:

- with other women (and men, too) all over the world, who are letting God’s voice lead, instead of the voice of the oppressor.

- with those who know that a life of downward mobility requires a wild mix of raw honesty and radical hope.

- with those who are dedicated to movement, despite the obstacles, because our passion and heart for justice and healing and change can’t be contained.

- with those who are unwilling to let our crazy brains limit our dreams, our lives, our hope, our future.

- with those who refuse to let feeling “not enough” or “too much” get in the way of Love.

_____________________

Image credit: Retrooo, by Charlotte Morrall

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids.
Kathy Escobar

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  • http://twitter.com/saskiacw Saskia Wishart

    Oh, I can totally relate to this tension between ‘not enough’ and ‘too much’. Sounds like my daily crazy brain struggle. For me, the best thing is to not let these thoughts rule. I have this terrible habit of keeping lists of how too much I am/how I don’t measure up! Terrible. I am inspired today to shake it off, laugh about it, and as you said, not let it rob me of life! Thank you Kathy.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      yes!

  • http://twitter.com/MelissaBeaver Melissa

    Kathy- this speaks to me as I am in a constant battle of the not enough vs. too much. Thanks for the reminder to look past the inner voices that aim to hinder.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks, melissa. always great to connect with you out here.

  • BrennaDA

    I needed this today. Thank you.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks for taking time to share. i am glad it was what you needed today. i always need the reminder, too.

  • http://lmbartelt.wordpress.com/ Lisa Bartelt

    Yes, and yes. My husband and I are drawn to those on the margins because of what we see Jesus doing. Thank you for the reminder tha Jesus connected with people whom others said were “too much” or “not enough.” I was just reading today in John where the Pharisees were dismissing Jesus as the Messiah because THEY knew the Law and these people didn’t so THEY the teachers and leaders knew it wasn’t possible. How silly we must sound to God sometimes. Anyway, thank you.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks, lisa. yeah, i read today, too, the woes to the pharisees & the burdens they placed on people’s necks. here’s to freedom and hope in the midst of our too much-ness and not-enough-ness.

  • Amy Hunt

    Oh, Kathy. You have no I idea just how much your words impact my heart today. He is loving me by leading my eyes to read these words and my heart to receive this truth. This on the day of my first counseling session for just this “crazy brain” that I so much want to lessen, while hearing him whisper for me to give myself permission that I’ll never perfect it/me/these thoughts . . . I’ll always need Him, always. And this, on a day when I want to run away from a vision I have that might not be true, but that I know God led me to do for purpose . . . and that my crazy brain wants to say I’m exactly what you said “not good enough . . . a fake . . . who do you think you are?!” (I wrote those words in my journal this morning!), and the part of me that thinks I AM ready for this. Oh how I need Him! So with you, Kathy. So with you.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      hi amy, thanks so much for taking time to share. sending lots of hope and peace and courage to move forward with what God is stirring in your heart and you will not let crazy brain rob you of your passion and dreams. much peace and courage and hope to you from afar!

  • abby

    Kathy,
    This touched my own heart too. I have been in so much counseling for an eating disorder, for a hurting marriage, for loneliness. And there have been so very many times when I wondered if I was just plain crazy – the craziest one. First to know that we are all “crazy” (:
    And second that this is the way God made me so that He can prove His valiant love for me – in the middle of my mess. Thank you. http://www.predatory-lies.com

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks, abby, i do think that’s one of the greatest ways we torture ourselves, thinking we’re the only ones who struggle this much or that if people really knew what was going on in our crazy brains they’d leave us, or that no one could be as jacked up as us. it’s very freeing and healing to know we are in good company and that God is always with us, faithful & true & loves us right in the middle of our mess and glory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.chripczuk Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    I used to have a lot of mental chatter around being “good enough” or “not good enough.” Finally, after a long time (!) I realized they were tow sides of the same coin, both were traps (the older brother and the prodigal son) and the only way out of the constant ping-ponging back and forth between good enough and not good enough was to embrace the only true measure of who I am – I am LOVED.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      i really like that thought of the two sides of the same coin. so good. and yes, that’s the way out! we are loved. just.as.we.are.

  • Stacy

    ahhhhh, crazy brain, how I know thee. Grateful for integration, and just being honest about how ^%%$# nutty it can be. Sometimes I just want to be robotic, and have programmed messages that I need, so that it wouldn’t be so hard to hold on to the good. But then I remember that that would not be a life worth living. Le sigh. Here’s to having real deal support along the way.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks stacy, oh yes, let us count the ways. i swear, our pei wei idea is a really good one. gentrifying our bad neighborhoods :) in that sense, gentrification is a good thing!

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  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda Stoll

    ‘you’re not enough’ and its evil step-sister, ‘you’re too much’ are oft’ repeated lies that do nothing but destroy. they fly in the face of who Christ tells us we are, paralyze us into inaction, and keep us from being all He’s created us to be.
    adios to them both.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      love that evil step-sister thought! adios to them both, amen.

  • http://twitter.com/BrandiLeaG Brandi Lea

    Amen, Amen, Amen! Even as I stride forward the voices scream that I’m crazy – that I’m WAY too much for most people and that my wild dreams are too big even for a big God….or maybe that He COULD do it, but not for me, not with me. But stride forward we will….it’s too important not to. We will fight the lies to live in the truth. I’m so grateful to watch God slowly, but surely surround me with precious freedom fighters who outshout the lies and encourage me to live in my dreams and my freedom! Love you much!

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      yes, it’s too important not to! glad to be in the thick of fighting for freedom together. you are a gift to me this year, your courage your love your tenderness your hope.

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