How much is enough?
How much money is enough? How much love is enough? How much stuff is enough? How much power, or success, or Instagram followers do we need?
At the root of the question is another question: are all these things what we are really wanting? What is our obsession with more all about?
They say “the grass is always greener on the other side”.
But is it?
For every bright light, there is a shadow side, the darkness behind the glamour. The struggle is part of our human condition. In a way, we are born into struggle – just being born is a tough business. It’s through the survival of struggle that we flourish into resilient, empathic creatures.
Our society has invited us to ignore our struggle, to put a happy face on things, to smile through our pain, or to simply ignore it. We have glorified perfection, happiness, riches, good looks and worshipped at the feet of ‘success’.
Social media feeds our frenzy to present only the light side, and to tuck away our shadow side. We have lost our resiliency to struggle. Debate is no longer tolerated in politics, conflict no longer tolerated in marriage, and mistakes no longer tolerated in business.
When we ignore the shadow in favor of worshipping ‘happiness above all else, we invite feelings of inadequacy or failure when we do, inevitably, struggle. What is lost here is the development of resiliency, to allow ourselves to feel the sadness, anger, or grief of disappointment, of being let down or experiencing loss. We have lost the expectation that we will struggle and have a difficult time sometimes; and the knowledge that it is actually through the struggle that we grow and develop as humans.
When we shun the darkness, expecting that struggle shouldn’t be there, the results can be feelings of shame when struggle inevitable does show up. Our shame or anger is turned outward towards others, or inwards towards our self.
We create conditions for which we then need to soothe ourselves. We buy more stuff, watch more Netflix, eat more food, smoke more, drink more, exercise more, shop more. Perhaps we get radicalized, or soothe our anxieties with stronger more hardline religious beliefs.
What is missing is an experience of ‘good enoughness’, in struggle and in times of success. Ultimately, we miss a sense of connection with each other. Intimacy, vulnerability, emotional connectedness, and what Eric Berne called ‘strokes’ or units of recognition. Recognition of our existence, our contributions, and that we have a place in the world and are important.
We are also missing permission to struggle. It’s okay to have a difficult time, to struggle, to feel angry, to grieve. You don’t need to feel happy all the time, and if you are having difficulty in your relationship, or struggling at work, or as a parent, that’s okay too.
Know that struggle is not forever, there is another side of the struggle. On the other side are accomplishment, resiliency, and strength. Also peace and contentment, joy, and a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
How do we get there?
We need each other. We need friends and family and community. More than that, we need people in our lives who are willing to be vulnerable enough in their own experience to hold space for us to struggle – to provide loving kindness and support. We need people in our lives that can see us in our struggle, and have that be okay. Rather than attempt to ‘solve the problem’, or ‘find the upside’, to instead provide kindness and support. If you don’t have those kinds of people in your life, find a good therapist who can be that person for you, or a support group of some kind.
When we find this connection with others and ultimately with ourselves, we find a peaceful place of good enoughness. Self-love and connection with others replace addictive processes and the relentless pursuit of more.
From here we can experience gratitude – for our darkness as well as our light.