never enough-ness

Raise your hand if you’ve ever fallen into the trap of “I’ll be happy when…”

Ah, come on, you know the one…I’ll be happy when I…

…lose 15 pounds, find the right partner, buy that doohickey, get the promotion, move away from here, finish that project…

And, no matter what it is, no matter how common or obscure, it seems the thing we REALLY need to be happy, and feel good about ourselves, is never EVER what we have or where we are at the moment.

One of the big fatty lies we’re told by society is that happiness comes from success—from external achievement and acquisition. And many of us really buy into that for a while (and, for some of us, it defines us and becomes our identity.)

We set the bar high and dedicate ourselves to reaching our goals.

We climb mountains, literally and figuratively.

We set a vision for where we want to go, seek out the training and expertise we need to get there, and we go for it.

The crappy part, that no one tells you and must have been written in the fine print, is that there is NO endpoint. There is no THERE there.

We get to the top, reach the pinnacle, achieve all those goals, buy the t-shirt, and before you know it, we look around, and happiness is nowhere to be found. It is always just beyond our reach.

What the…?!

The “success” we thought we needed to be happy, to feel really and finally good about ourselves and our lives, is now over THERE. We followed the rules and set that bar high just like we were told, but once we got there someone moved the friggin’ bar.

Well, that someone might have been you…

One of the dangers of perpetually raising and moving the bar (for success or happiness), is that we run the risk of falling into another trap—the trap of constant comparison and “never enough-ness.” There’s always some person that’s better off (and happier) than we are, or some circumstance or location that is more preferable than the one we’re presently in.

If it REALLY is fame and fortune that will make us all deliriously happy, then why is it that so many gazillionaires and movie stars are dealing with this very same problem?

You’ve heard the stories, right? That CFO with sixteen yachts and five homes, feels they don’t quite measure up to the CEO with their own island, nine mansions, and a cruise liner. The NY times best-selling author, who was rejected forty times before their book was published, is already worrying whether their next book is going to suck. The grammy-winning pop star about to perform for yet another sold-out stadium crowd gets sick before going on-stage because they can’t believe people don’t see how mediocre they are.

If success means happiness. And we set ourselves up to NEVER be successful, well then…how’s that gonna go?

On the flip-side of this is those who worry that if you don’t have goals and you don’t set the bar somewhere, that suddenly you’ll be stuck on the couch wearing the same t-shirt and sweatpants for three weeks doing nothing but sorting through your belly button lint.

Come on…there’s got to be some middle ground here.

Perhaps we can give ourselves the chance to rest on our laurels once in a while and to see that crazy-making tendency we have to always move the bar for what it is—the recipe for never EVER enough-ness.

With some awareness and practice we can avoid that trap and learn to strike a balance between the aspiration to reach our potential and the recognition of the potential happiness in THIS moment.

“…It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

:: Oriah Mountain Dreamer

(Excerpt from The Invitation ©1999)

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