You are enough.
This was the simple insight that changed Dr. Rachel Remen’s life.
In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Remen talks about attending a seminar at Stanford University with the great psychotherapist, Dr. Carl Rogers. She reports:
“Finally, Dr. Rogers offered us a demonstration of his approach. One of the doctors in the class volunteered to act as his client and they rearranged their chairs to sit opposite one other. As Rogers turned toward him and was about to begin the demonstration session he stopped and looked thoughtfully at his little audience of experts, myself among them. I shifted impatiently in my chair. Then Rogers began to speak. ‘Before every session I take a moment to remember my humanity,’ he told us. ‘There is no experience that this man has that I cannot share with him, no fear that I cannot understand, no suffering that I cannot care about, because I too am human. No matter how deep his wound, he does not have to be ashamed in front of me. I too am vulnerable. And because of this, I am enough…’”
Then Dr. Remen commented on the impact of this session on her.
“I had always worked hard at being good enough; it was the golden standard by which I decided what to read, what to wear, how to spend time, where to live, and even what to say. Even ‘good enough’ was not really good enough for me. I had spent a lifetime trying to make myself perfect. But if what Rogers was saying was true, perfection was the booby prize. What was needed was simply to be human. I was human. All my life I had feared being found out.”
We’re not all therapists, of course, but there are two rich, powerful thoughts here.
First, there is the possibility that I could pause to remember my humanity—at the beginning of the day, or before dealing with a difficult situation involving other people.
It’s not hard to imagine the difference this might make in terms of impact and outcomes!
Second, when I bring my humanity, my genuine self (even though imperfect), I am enough.
In a world where it’s so easy to feel that we’re never quite good enough or smart enough or whatever enough…this thought is like a quiet explosion in the soul.
Congratulations! You’ve joined the ranks of all true successes in the world who have, as part of their success, had to learn to practice the fine art of failure.
As Charles F. Kettering said,
“It is not a disgrace to fail…Learn how to fail intelligently, for failing is one of the great arts in the world.”
And Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,
“Meet your failure nobly and it will not differ from success.”
To “fail intelligently” means we have the courage to listen to the failure and let it teach us. We emerge a little wiser.
To fail “nobly” means we respond to the failure in a way that helps us open up and grow as a person, rather than shrinking and closing down.
To fail or not to fail is not the question. We don’t have a choice. We all fail.
In fact, some of the greatest successes got there through a long succession of failures.
Real success at anything involves learning how to get really good at failure.
Here’s a thought for this week: you are an artist of the everyday.
Granted, maybe you’ll never be a Mozart or Van Gogh or Hemingway.
But each day you have the opportunity to make another priceless work of art…another day of life.
Henry David Thoreau was thinking along these lines when he said,
“To affect the quality of the day is the highest of the arts.”
And his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
“The conscious utterance of thought by speech or action to any end is Art.”
Each day gives you a new canvas. And you have a full palate of colors to work with: your sense of humor, your patience and empathy, your thoughtfulness, your inner strength and determination, your ability to look and listen, your ability to forgive yourself and others, your ability to change, even your tears and laughter—your whole humanity.
But there’s more.
Even failures, disappointments, and mess-ups can be worked with and woven into your daily work of art—blending darker colors with brighter ones.
The great artist Miro had paused from painting to enjoy a strawberry jam sandwich when a glob of jam fell onto the canvas. He looked at it, then took his finger and swirled the jam into the painting.
As an artist of the everyday, you have the ability to turn even the messes into masterpieces.
“Why is it so difficult to be happy?”
The Russian writer Dostoevsky had a surprising response to that question:
“Man is unhappy because he doesn’t know he’s happy. That’s the only reason. The man who discovers that will become happy that very moment.”
Really? I’m not happy because I don’t know I’m happy? Is this some kind of naive, spacey, hippy-dippy spiritual fast food?
Coming from someone else, it might be. But consider Dostoevsky’s story.
He suffered constantly from terrifying, painful bouts of epilepsy. As a young man, he was put in prison by political enemies and sentenced to death. Execution day came and he was led out in front of a firing squad, blindfolded. The soldiers raised their rifles…and at the last moment, a rider on horseback approached with news from the Duke, staying the execution. Dostoevsky had been spared!
Perhaps Dostoevsky has given us something that is at least worth reflecting on…
…Maybe a key to being happy in the life I have is to realize that it could, at it any moment, be taken away.
…Maybe we don’t quite realize how happy we are.
…Maybe happiness is not the end goal; maybe it’s the place you start.