“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.
“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