Early on in my Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training program I had a magical experience through one of my students.
During this five day intensive each student took a three hour block of time and presented and facilitated an expressive arts class that they designed. Which was total fun for me because I got to be their student! And got to experience first hand all the brilliance and creativity that just came pouring out of these amazing women.
One of my students had us participate in a really fun exercise. She had us imagine that we had a fantasy closet filled with all kinds of outrageous and beautiful clothes. And then we were instructed to rummage through our magic closet and find our “confidence outfit.” An outfit that would allow us to fully step into that sense of our bigness and self assurance. That could enable us to shine our light and strut our stuff with joy and boldness and much greater visibility and being out there presence.
My astral closet was pretty stuffed and I saw quite a few very trippy, out of this world outfits. There was a shiny, red sequined gown with a narrow waist, plunging neckline and shoulder pads a la Katherine Hepburn in the 40’s that would inspire me to swirl and twirl like nobody’s business and would give any girls confidence a major sparkle boost.
On the other side of the spectrum was a bolero style, black leather jacket with tight black leather pants and thigh high boots that would encourage me to stride and clomp around taking up lots of space while fully embodying my ” I am strong and daring and feisty. Don’t you dare hold me back. I can do anything” inner warrior-queen self.
Both of those choices would have made me extremely happy. And boosted my confidence tremendously.
But what I found myself pulling out of my closet and putting on my body were the jeans that I wear every day. And of course I would never even dream of leaving the house without donning some of my fancy Native American Southwestern jewelry or a pair of my cowboy boots.
But for me, these things are standard fare. It’s just how I dress. I was profoundly surprised that this is what I was drawn to as my confidence outfit. It certainly wasn’t what I expected to happen. And a part of me tried to talk myself into the red dress or the black leather jacket, because I am so used to thinking that my sense of confidence has to be something extraordinary.
I couldn’t believe that true confidence could be this effortless and simple.
What stepping into my familiar garb allowed me to claim was the feeling that who I am, right here, right now, with nothing changed at all, is where I can connect with the greatest sense of self-assurance.
It got me in touch with a deep-in-my-bones sensation, both new and strangely familiar, that I am enough.
This whole “I am enough” issue has been in the forefront of my thoughts recently. I have been looking long and hard at the ongoing healing process that I am constantly engaged in between what my life looks like on the outside and how I feel about it on the inside.
Because, no matter what I do, no matter what I accomplish, no matter how much I have, there is some ancient, core place inside of me that feels like it is NEVER enough.
I can experience that feeling of “not enough” in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s associated with guilt of a non-specified nature. I’m not sure WHAT I’m guilty of. That is never clear. I just have this vague feeling of having “sinned” somehow.
Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing. Which never wants you to feel too self satisfied. And in fact, having that feeling of being all-right and contented is always cause for suspicion. And a sure path to the eternal fires of hell.
So the struggle of “not enough” when I’m in the middle of the guilt cycle means putting a lot of energy into trying to be the “good girl.”
Another way that I can feel it is as a restlessness, a hunger, a never feeling satisfied, an always wanting more, more, more…
It might be more happiness. Or excitement. Often success. Or a feeling of pride and fulfillment. So I try to “get” those things by buying something or accomplishing something or constantly striving to improve myself.
There is a third version of not being enough that is usually related to other people and often revolves around my business. Which looks like more people signing up for my newsletter or wanting to attend my workshops.
This version is also associated with comparing myself to others and how much I perceive them to be having.
But it can also be focused on wanting to feel included in a special group or getting noticed by a particular individual.
This version of the voice keeps asking the question “Am I enough for them? Do they like me? Am I good enough, smart enough, exciting enough, attractive enough to get their approval and attention their admiration and love?”
All of these versions put the source of the experience of being enough outside of me. Which pretty unfailingly leads to disappointment.
When I am in that place of believing I am “not enough” what I want to feel is that I have value. I want to feel like I am worth something. That who I am and what I have to offer is a blessing in the world.
But this place where I am convinced that I am “not enough” is kind of like a black hole. It’s a mantra that some part of my psyche repeats to me over and over again. And it’s a loop that never ends. A belief and a mindset that is not at all impacted by external reality.
Because no matter how much the world might reflect back to me that maybe I actually AM OK, it’s like this part of my mind can’t really, truly believe it. This place is stubbornly impervious to external validation.
Where this dynamic can predictably show up for me is around my creative process.
When I sit down to paint or write or even when I’m taking photographs, I often have to grapple with this voice of “not enough.” This voice that is judging every word that comes out of my fingers moving across the keyboard, that questions each brushstroke as it appears on my canvas.
This message of “not creative enough” is something that is lurking in the background of most peoples psyches. And believing it is what is responsible for keeping many folks from actually being creative. Because taking the risk to do so brings them face to face with this painful place of believing that they are lacking.
And is, paradoxically, one of the many reasons that I appreciate the creative process in my life so very much.
Because every time I make that choice to create. Every time I choose to mobilize the courage necessary to face this place of shame, I am actually chipping away at this core belief. I am developing new pathways in my brain and mind and heart.
Because I have made the choice to not believe the voice of “not enough” I am at the same time giving myself the message that I do have value. That what I have to offer the world does matter.
And it’s the power of that internal struggle and the hard won inner validation that comes out of that supreme holy effort to choose a creative life that seems to have the greatest impact on that brick wall of belief in my own defective nature.
It is also why my mission in life is to encourage people to engage with their creativity purely for the sake of BEING creative.
Feeding yourself from your own creative well puts that experience of “being enough” back where it belongs… on the inside. Where it can’t be touched or swayed as much by external circumstances. If you have a place that you can always come back to… a place where you can connect with an unshakable source of inner abundance…. which is what your creativity can provide for you… it’s a lot easier to remember … and believe.. that you are always, always, always enough.