One of the things I have found useful is the exploration of my own sense of fear, not the fear that prevents me doing myself harm but the fear that is a source of my own internal narrative. What I wanted to find out is whether the old stories and the habits they create continue to serve me or are in fact enslaving me.
I can definitely notice a particular thought pattern based on a fear that ‘I’m not good enough’. My particular version of this may be more nuanced to a narrative that sounds more like ‘I’m not enough unless I’m good’ or is sometimes shortened to a more acute, ‘I’m not enough’.
I don’t think I’m unique in this, and for many people this narrative is something that is created through some early childhood experience that then stays with us way beyond its useful existence.
The work of Bessel van der Kolk looks at how trauma creates adaptive behaviours that stick around long after the trauma has passed. What I particularly like about his work is that he talks about ‘small t-trauma’ and ‘big T-Trauma’. I certainly look back at a privileged background with no significant big T events within it, yet I know there were many small events that have shaped how I make sense of the world.
What I notice is that the fear has provided the fuel behind the need to prove myself and has certainly been the foundation of a lot of my own behaviours. That’s not to say those behaviours and ways of operating haven’t been useful. Those adaptations have allowed me to thrive and be successful in the particular environments that I have chosen to play within.
That fear of not being enough has provided the drive and energy for many of the successes I look back on. It has allowed me to compete and win in sport. It has driven progress in my career. It provides some of the motivation to keep me learning. In fact, without this particular fear I wouldn’t have many of the things that I use as markers of success within my life.
Yet this fear also enslaves me. It has the capacity to lock me into certain patterns of behaviour that can get in my way. The exhausting perpetuation of the thought that I’m not enough. The fear may provide fuel for material or objective progress yet that same fear paradoxically stops me from enjoying the very thing I seek. It stops me from even noticing the success, as the voice of that fear drowns out any momentary acceptance of that I might, in fact, be enough.
Clearly there has been work done to be able to recognise this, to be able to articulate it, and to notice that this is only one part of me. That work provides the space to make room for something else, to nurture the growth of another part of me. A part of me that can see the fear for what it is – a historic voice that served a purpose when I was initially trying to make sense of an early small t-trauma. I have needed to invest time to create something else to provide balance. Something else to counter that loud voice of the scared child that remains inside me.
That something else has been found in meditation, in coaching, in therapy, and in sitting with the discomfort of the realisation that this fear is part of me and perpetuated by me; there is no one else who believes my version of fear more than me; that I am the greatest source of my own fear; and that it’s very often me that gets in my own way.
Yet there remains the capacity to harness it for good, the fear has created success, it remains a useful part of me, but it is not the only or best part of me. The best part of me becomes the capacity to see it for what it is, to use it when it is needed but equally to laugh at it when it gets in the way of my happiness or prevents me from connecting to the wonder of the present moment.
There is another part of me that I am learning to nurture. That’s the part of me that allows me to connect to others, to stop and see the beauty in a sunrise or the blossom on the trees. It’s a part of me that can experience the wonder of simple things. That recognises the importance of being able to feel the appreciation for a love that someone else gifts to me, to be able to notice the space from which I can love others.
There is a world beyond the narrative that I’m not enough, that no longer needs to rely on this fear to drive me. It is one in which I can celebrate the fullness of life and embrace all it has to offer – the chance to still experience fear, and also be free on the other side where the fear fades away and leaves behind a peace, an appreciation and a gratitude for what in the end is a magical existence.