The Word of the Year: Enough

Felt sign saying enough
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Once again, welcome to 2021! If you tuned in to last week’s post, you have hopefully selected a New Year’s Resolution that does not focus on how your body looks or a certain number on a scale. Instead, I sincerely hope that you were able to shift your focus to a body positive/neutral goal, a mental health goal, a work/life balance goal, or something else that is not so diet focused. This week’s post is about a word that I have thought quite a bit about over the past couple of months. While rereading Stillness is the Key (affiliate) by Ryan Holiday, I came across one chapter about this particular word, and I resonated with me in a profound way this time around. Enough.

Enough is a weighty word, in my opinion. It can have several different meanings and connotations, and I think it’s a word that deserves an in-depth exploration. I have chosen three “enough” phrases that I feel are particular powerful, and I think they apply to anyone who is reading this blog (and everyone in the world, honestly).

Well, that’s enough chitchat, let’s get to it!

I am Enough

I personally cannot think of anyone who genuinely feels that they are enough at most times in the day. Many of us are little balls of anxiety and/or depression, and those emotions and states can come from not feeling like we are enough this or that at any given time.

When people feel that they aren’t enough, it’s sometimes in a general sense. I have heard phrases (and used them myself) like “I’m garbage” or “I suck at everything”. In most cases, though, that feeling can be picked apart and narrowed down in to a specific feeling of not-enough-ness. It just might take a little deep reflection and/or journaling to get to the bottom of it. Let’s explore some common statements associated with feelings of inadequacy.

I’m not:

  • Pretty enough
  • Skinny enough
  • Attractive enough
  • Successful enough
  • Rich enough
  • Muscular enough
  • Smart enough
  • Funny enough
  • Outgoing enough
  • Popular enough
  • Skilled enough
  • Educated enough
  • Sophisticated enough

Of course, the above list is far from comprehensive. There are an infinite number of things a person can feel that they are not enough of, but these cover many of the most common examples. Are there any that you have personally identified with at some point in your life? Do you still struggle with it?

Since this blog mostly focuses on diet culture and disordered eating, the obvious connection to the phrase “I am enough” is that most people don’t feel that their bodies are good enough. They seek to change aspects about their bodies constantly, and they put it in harm’s way by restricting or ingesting mystery substances that promise to “detox” and “melt the fat away”.

How advertisements make you feel about your body

Or maybe they purchase expensive protein powders, or sports-enhancing substances to build up muscle because they believe they will feel strong and attractive enough… finally. Either way, it comes from the idea that one’s current body is flawed and it must be fixed or altered because its current state isn’t good enough.

Sure, we all know a few people who project confidence (real or not), brag about their accomplishments, and let you know how great they are. I always think that people who have to tell you these things are not actually confident and don’t actually feel that they are enough. They somehow believe that if they tell everyone they encounter how important or impressive they are, it will make them appear high status.

Now, I’m all about positive affirmations. I believe that words do have the ability to change our perceptions of ourselves. However, saying phrases or mantras to yourself like “I am enough” either in your head, written on a page, or out loud in the privacy of your own home is different than telling all of your coworkers about your accomplishments, or bragging to people on the street about how much money you make. The distinction is clear- positive affirmations aren’t about comparison or elevating one’s own status over others the way being braggadocios is.

On that note, now would be a fantastic time to really sit with the phrase “I am enough”. I mean it! Hold it in your mind the way you’d hold a hard candy (preferably butterscotch) on your tongue, and really explore how it makes you feel. Do so lightly and with kindness, your face and shoulders relaxed. Just watch what happens as soon as the words “I am enough” pass your consciousness. It’s almost like you’re dropping a stone into a puddle and then observing the ripples of water it leaves behind.

As you sit with this phrase, what do you notice? Do you begin to believe that you are, in fact, enough? Does it make you feel warm, calm, and comfortable, or does it fill you with dread and anxiety? There is no right or wrong answer here, but stay curious.

Repeatedly reminding yourself that you are enough, especially during moments where your faith in that sentiment begins to crumble, can be a truly helpful way to shrug off the insecurities or grievances you have about yourself and your body, allowing you to move on to more important stuff.

If you have difficulty remembering to tell yourself that you are enough regularly, you could write this phrase on a sticky note and put it on your mirror or computer monitor. Or, you could set your phone or computer background to a cool design with these words. If you feel particularly moved by the statement, you could even get it tattooed on your body or shave it into your hair! I’m only half joking about that last one, but gotta do what works for you.

You are enough, despite what the diet and fitness industry might tell you on a daily basis. All of their money is made by convincing you that you, and your body, aren’t *fill in the blank* enough. The next time you notice a commercial, ad, or Instagram influencer make you feel inadequate, walk the other way.

Next up, “I have enough”.

I Have Enough

It’s safe to say that most of us, if not all of us, have hit a point in our lives where we feel that we would be happy if we had… this or that. Many times that blank is filled with a material object, like a new car, bigger house, state-of-the-art gadget, you name it.

I have fallen into that trap many times. I remember longing for a Nintendo Wii when I was in middle school. I scraped together my money for months, as I filmed the high school girls’ varsity basketball games all season long for the end-of-the-year highlight reel. The day I traded in my hard-earned cash for one of these bad boys at the local Gamestop felt monumental.

Less than a week later, I was still glad I had purchased it, but I no longer felt the adrenaline rush that much-anticipated buy had given me in the previous months. A few years later, it sat forgotten and unplayed, and my Wii Fit decided I was a lost cause.

Every time I see this picture in my feed, I literally laugh out loud

This was just one of hundreds of times where I learned the lesson that buying a material object doesn’t lead to sustainable happiness the way we often think it will. That lesson didn’t really begin to stick until after graduating college, and it’s something I still battle with occasionally.

With the exception of an adoption fee for my dog, no transaction has made me substantially happier in the long term like I might have thought. My son really was the best $99 I have ever spent, and every one of my material purchases in life have not brought me even 0.0001% as much happiness as he has.

That’s not to say there aren’t some products that do bring me true happiness, or that my life isn’t improved with some material goods. There are particular sweaters in my closet that make me feel so cozy and content, and I have an irrational love for my footie pajama pants. Plus, candles always bring me a little spark of joy. But, does having this stuff make me immune from feeling inadequate, sad, or lonely at times? No.

Feeling like we have enough is a hard concept, especially when we see other people around us purchasing fancy new things or moving into grander apartments. Or commercials where the husband surprises his wife with a brand new RAV during Toyotathon on Christmas Day.

This all goes back to the hedonic treadmill that we discussed in one of my earliest posts. We strive to get a material object or have a certain accolade, only to feel satisfied for approximately 2 seconds before we get used to having what we have and feeling discontent again. When will it be enough?

One of my favorite scenes of television of all time comes from Breaking Bad. Walt has climbed the drug lord “corporate” ladder, and his wife Skyler has reluctantly agreed to launder the dirty money he makes from the meth biz. Unfortunately, he has made so much dirty money that it’s impossible for Skyler to make her laundering scheme seem legit to anyone who investigates.

[Skylar takes Walt to a storage unit filled with stacks and stacks of money] 

Walter : How much is this?

Skyler: I have no earthly idea. I truly don’t. I just stack it up, keep it dry, spray it for silverfish. There is more money here than we could spend in ten lifetimes. I certainly can’t launder it, not with 100 car washes. Walt, I want my kids back. I want my life back. Please tell me: How much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?

The storage unit with Walt’s laundered money

Even if we aren’t drug lords, the feeling of contentment often feels just out of reach all the time. If I just made 10,000 more dollars a year. If I just had a nicer car. If I just had a new dishwasher. But that bar keeps moving. We adapt, and then we continue asking for more.

Those of us who went to college often got by on very little during those times, sharing a crappy house or apartment with our friends and surviving on frozen pizza and cheap booze. Yet, many of us look back on our college days as some of the best of our lives. That just goes to show that it’s not really about the stuff you have, it’s often about the people around you.

Then we move into our first apartment once we take a real adult job. It may not be big, but it’s got a roof and hopefully air conditioning and heating. Soon, we get restless. After getting a promotion and making a bit more per year, we upgrade to a slightly nicer apartment, maybe one with a deck and an in-unit washer and dryer. Next, we work ourselves to the bone to be able to afford an even bigger apartment (or house) with three bedrooms and a jacuzzi. Yet we feel the same.

Physically, we might be more comfortable, but emotionally we remain discontent. That’s human nature, or at least American nature. If we aren’t striving, what are we doing with ourselves?

Let’s take another moment to pause and reflect. How much would actually be enough for you? What would it truly take for you to look at your life and say, “I’ve made it, I’m content”? Make a list and check it twice. Are there items or accolades that you believe would finally make you feel complete?

Most of us want things, and that’s okay. I’m not advocating for becoming a couch potato and never striving for anything in life. But, I am saying that we should spend a little more time thinking about what we actually want, and a little less time trying to keep up materially with our friends and neighbors.

On that note, though, I think we can have both. I think we can be content with what we have materially, but we can continue to push ourselves to be better versions of us. We can continue to strive to learn more, advance in our careers, or become better people without it becoming a hedonic treadmill where we never actually end up happy.

I sincerely hope at least some of you feel satisfied and fulfilled, and you truly don’t feel the need to have more to be content. If you aren’t quite there yet, that’s okay! At the ripe age of 25, I’m definitely not completely satisfied with every aspect of my life, but wishing to be content with absolutely everything in life is a waste of time.

To be clear, this section is for people who truly do have what they need to make ends meet, yet they continue to want more. The idea of being content with what you have clearly doesn’t resonate with those who wonder where their next meal is coming from, whether they can pay their electricity bill, and how they will get by if their car breaks down and they are left with a costly repair.

Many, many people don’t have enough. Millions of people live paycheck to paycheck and not because they are out spending their money frivolously or trying to keep up with other families. Those that truly don’t have enough aren’t the people that have a new model of a Honda, but really want a Tesla.

For those of us who have a relatively cushy life, it’s important to be aware of how easy it is to get swept up into material comforts. So easy, in fact, that it benefits us to actively push against that notion by purposely making ourselves uncomfortable once in awhile.

Voluntary discomfort is a stoic exercise that I first learned from Ryan Holiday (can you tell I love his writing yet?). Voluntary discomfort is the process of purposely removing some of the comforts of life that you regularly take for granted. This allows you to appreciate all that you have upon reintroducing these comforts.

For example, many of us take our cozy beds for granted. Sleeping on a hardwood floor, the cold ground, or on an air mattress for a few days can help you appreciate your bed in no time. What about hot running water? Take a cold shower for a few days in a row, and suddenly hot water feels like a luxury. Can’t live without your coffee? Try it forgoing it for a few days, and you’ll be even more thankful for a hot cup of Joe.

Another method is by forgoing a coat before walking outside on a chilly day. It forces you to appreciate warmth and the fancy articles of clothing most of us don’t pay any attention to. You know how middle school through high school boys like to act tough by not wearing a coat in the winter and wearing athletic shorts when it’s 30 degrees outside? Maybe they aren’t trying to impress other people, maybe this whole time they have been engaging in voluntary discomfort. I kid. They get some kind of high off saying “you’re cold right now? I’m in shorts and I’m not even cold.” Congrats, Derek.

Back to the main point: voluntary discomfort is all about overcoming our constant need for convenience and material goods. Life isn’t going to be comfortable and cushy 100% of the time for the vast majority of us, physically or emotionally, and the practice of purposely making ourselves uncomfortable can help us have a greater appreciation for all that we have. It can also provide an insight to what might life be like if bad luck struck and we suddenly couldn’t afford our current lifestyle anymore.

I understand hesitation about voluntary discomfort, especially since I have limited experience with implementing it. But even things like camping can count, as long as it’s not actually glamping like Tom from Parks and Rec.

Lastly, “that’s enough”.

That’s Enough

The word “enough” can also signify boundaries that need to be set and followed. While I don’t think we should freak out on someone who is annoying us, getting under our skin, or pushing our boundaries a little here and there, it is critical for our mental health to take action when we have truly had enough.

For some reason, the phrase “that’s enough” said in a stern voice is really powerful in my mind. It’s swift, simple, and to-the-point. The words themselves aren’t harsh or aggressive, but they convey a type of fed up that made me stop in my tracks as a kid.

According to Stillness is the Key, Tiger Woods’ father, Earl Woods, did whatever he could to distract his son during golf practice. This way, it was theorized, he could have laser focus and handle any interruptions when it counted. I had known a bit about Earl Woods when following Tiger’s career as a young lassie who played the sport, but I had no clue about the darker side of this man. His idea of training could be considered verbal and emotional abuse.

Evidently though, if Tiger wanted his father to stop berating him on the golf course, he just had to say one word: enough. That sounds like a healthy system, but Tiger never actually used it. Maybe just having a “code” word in his back pocket comforted him to the point where he didn’t feel the need to utter it. It’s an interesting word choice, though, isn’t it?

Tiger’s dad pushed him to become the incredible athlete we all know, but on the flip side of that coin, his dad also pushed him to become the broken version of himself that emerged in 2009. The one that mixed prescription drugs and engaged in countless extramarital affairs.

Reportedly, Tiger Woods has since undergone years of work and personal transformation to put himself back together. It’s easy to hate the guy after all that was revealed about him, but I’m all about learning lessons and making a comeback. Like many PGA fans, I was disappointed in him in 2009. But you have to respect a man who can rebuild his life and return to golf in the way he has. Maybe if Tiger had used the word “enough” with his father, he wouldn’t have become the athlete he had. But maybe he would have also been happier and more mentally healthy from the start, too.

It’s easy to speculate, of course. The point of all of this is that the phrases “enough” or “that’s enough” have power and potential to change your life. They carry weight and impact. Even if a quiet and shy person were to whisper to me “that’s enough”, it would stun me and get me to cease whatever I was doing.

Many of us aren’t effective at setting boundaries or telling others when enough is enough. Most of us weren’t taught how to do so from a young age. Instead, we were taught to do everything adults told us to do, and that was that. So now, we end up biting off more than we can chew at work, and our performance suffers. Or our in-laws becoming too overbearing, but they will lash out if we don’t bend to their will. There are thousands of scenarios where setting boundaries is hard to do, but learning to do so may be the single best thing you can do for yourself.

What do you do when you can feel your unspoken boundaries pushed? If someone keeps talking about your body or constantly uses fat phobic language around you that makes you feel uncomfortable, how do you handle it? If people purposely berate you or critique you (family members can be really good at this), what is your response?

As a conflict-adverse being, I usually do nothing. I quietly stew inside and feel my insides begin to simmer. Although I’m glad I don’t actively seek out conflict, I have always admired the bold who can stand up for themselves and speak honestly in these situations. I’m working on it.

When you get a chance, explore what the phrase “that’s enough” might mean to you too. Think about it, write it down, or say it out loud several times until it becomes an easily-accessible phrase in your repertoire. If you need extra help creating and sticking to boundaries, here is a short and sweet guide about setting healthy boundaries.

In Conclusion

In my first college English class, I had an assignment to write an entire essay that analyzed one word. I thought our professor was so cool because she said it could even be a swear word. One guy in our class did indeed chose the F word. I never got to read his analysis, though.

I chose “health” because I was in my weight obsessive, nutrition crazed phase of my life. Looking back, I wish I would’ve chosen “enough” like I did for this post. College freshman Erin could have definitely used an in-depth analysis of “enough” and all of the impact it can carry. Better late than never, I suppose.

There are plenty of other key, weighty phrases that contain the word “enough”. Another that I personally need to remind myself of constantly is “I am doing enough”, especially during a global pandemic. Are there any other “enough” phrases that particularly resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below!

As Always, A Book Recommendation

Seeing as I have mentioned Stillness is the Key a few times in this post, it’s the obvious choice for this week’s book recommendation. Of all of Ryan Holiday’s works, this is by far my favorite. He is an excellent story teller, and he uses those stories to get important points and life lessons across in a way that really sticks.

Another bonus about this book is that it’s a short read. I read it for the second time in about three days, which included me stopping to take notes and write down quotes. Each page packs a philosophical punch, and you’ll be pondering its contents long after you have finished reading it. If you have never read Ryan Holiday’s work before, this is an excellent place to start.

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3 thoughts on “The Word of the Year: Enough

  1. I love this! Yes, I think the repetition that I am enough and I have enough are so critically important. Things are so difficult, and I think it is really important to put these thoughts first. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I have finally reached a point in my life that I feel “I am enough, I have enough”, it has taken about 60 years but I am so much better at it. I lived most of my life feeling I wasn’t thin enough, definitely not pretty enough, not kind enough and on and on. I love the feeling now of being much more content with who I am and thinking maybe I’m not so bad! I like the way you have expressed it in this article because I have tried to communicate this to younger people I know so that it doesn’t take them 60 years to figure it out.

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