We are bombarded with motivational messages every day. Can you remember the last time you used social media and didn’t scroll past an inspiring celebrity ‘quote’ or uplifting platitude? One of the most popular of these is ‘YOU ARE ENOUGH’. These words are emblazoned everywhere, from Facebook posts to jewellery to t-shirts.
I’m not here to attack the intent behind this motto. It’s designed to combat the negative, self-critical thoughts that almost everyone has, and many people struggle with. It’s designed to inspire people to accept themselves as they are, and view their skills and abilities as sufficient. It says, ‘If you feel you fall short, it’s society’s fault - not yours, because society sets standards we can never meet.’
This is a good mentality to have. We should be proud of our abilities and achievements, no matter how small. Even if it’s just getting out of bed in the morning. And we shouldn’t admonish ourselves for failing, because failing is the best way to learn.
But there’s a flip-side to this mantra. There’s an implication that you HAVE to be enough. That being ‘enough’ is a goal you must achieve.
I say down with this idea.
The fact is that most people, on their own, are not ‘enough’. No-one, not even the strongest, smartest, most highly skilled person on the planet, can do everything. Everyone, without exception, needs to draw on the skills, energy, knowledge and time of other people in order to achieve even the simplest daily activities.
Think you can get a loaf of bread on your own? Think again. You need the person who stocks the shelves, the person who operates the till, the person who manages the shop, the person who packaged the bread, the person who made the bread, the person who grew the wheat… You get the idea.
It’s not a weakness to acknowledge our reliance on others. It’s a strength. It’s okay to not be enough. Maybe it’s this acceptance that will finally lay those negative thoughts to rest.
I’ve been rewatching the TV show Sense8, currently on Netflix. (It’s frankly a crime that this show got cancelled while abominations like Bridgerton are allowed to continue, but that’s a rant for another day.) Created by the Wachowskis (you remember The Matrix, right?), it’s a fantastical, progressive, utopian, beautiful dream of human cooperation and sharing.
Sensates are humans who have a genetic mutation that allows them to join telepathically with other people in their cluster. They are able, at will, to temporarily inhabit each others’ bodies (sharing), or be with each other in real-time (visiting).
This allows Sensates to share their thoughts and feelings, their knowledge and abilities instantly with others in their cluster, no matter where they are in the world. The show blurs the boundaries between our sensations and experiences, and those of others. The characters’ worlds bleed into each other seamlessly.
The result is a man in Africa suddenly being able to perform Korean martial arts, or a woman in custody being able to unpick her handcuffs with a paperclip thanks to the knowledge of a Chicago cop.
The characters in the show are faced with a range of challenges, from the everyday troubles of their lives, to the extraordinary dangers of being a Sensate. They are not able to overcome these challenges alone. They need to draw on everyone else in their cluster to succeed.
As they learn to use their abilities, they learn that ‘I’ is also a ‘we’. They’re individuals, but they also belong to something greater, an intimate community that unquestioningly and unconditionally helps them whenever they’re in need.
It’s a science fiction show - but, like most science fiction shows, the message can be extrapolated into real life. No-one exists in a vacuum. We all rely on others to help us through the challenges of life - big and small.
Each of us is an ‘I’ - an individual with our own thoughts, feelings and abilities. But we are also a ‘we’, a member of a collective that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Individually, we are wonderful, unique, special, talented. But we are not necessarily enough. Together, we can be.
A high-functioning team is made up of people whose talents compliment each other. There’s no pressure to be good at everything, or to individually be ‘enough’. I’m not talking about delegation, which is a very conventional, top-down way of managing a team. It’s about creating something more egalitarian, more organic, more adaptive - whether that’s at work, or in your personal life.
It’s like assembling a dungeon-raiding party. Each member of the group is a specialist, and when combined with the others they create a formidable fighting force. But the Bard will get squished by the first goblin that comes around the corner if they’re alone. (That’s why you should never split the party.)
So build yourself a cluster of diverse people, who have the skills and attributes you lack. People you trust and care for, and who trust and care for you. People with whom you feel you belong. Rely on each other to create and achieve wonderful things. And accept that it’s okay for you alone to not always be enough. There’s no shame in this. There’s beauty in this.
Who wrote this?
She / her; red / blue. Mel is a writer, editor and designer. Equally happy hiking a muddy trail as playing tabletop roleplay games by candlelight. Will seize any opportunity for a party, as long as said party features copious food, prosecco and hits from the 1980s. Her true passion lies in words. A student of literature, she is fascinated by enduring myths, etymology and science fiction. Kurt Vonnegut is her hero. “We are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”