Recently I had a chance to spend the morning with one of my favorite thinkers, David Whyte. He told us a brief story that floored the entire room.
As he tells it, he was holding a retreat on Bainbridge Island in Washington. On a walk with one of the retreat participants, she outlined her woes about work and life, finally saying, “I feel like I’m not enough.”
His answer? “That may be a fine summation of the situation.”
Aren’t we supposed to build each other up, encourage each other to go out and do more? Did he just crush her dreams and disparage her abilities?
Maybe not. What if instead of unrealistic optimism, we were able to judge with a clear mind and heart exactly what we’re capable of? Not to diminish our vision or our dreams, but to identify the boundaries of our capabilities to achieve those dreams. Not to give up on our plans, but to figure out where we need help.
We might well not be enough. Not wise enough, not smart enough, not ready, not able. Acknowledging that is not a cause for despair but for determination. Because now we know what we need to do.
We need to get help. Maybe we need advice or a skilled practitioner, a trainer or an assistant, a mentor or a partner. Maybe our dream can only be achieved in community with others working together.
You could feel the ripple that went through the room as he shared this short story. For many of us in the room that morning, he flipped an internal script right on its head. He pulled the despair from “I’m not enough,” empowering all of us to reach beyond our own abilities and re-examine our boundaries.
You may not feel like you’re enough. Indeed you might not be enough at all. The good news is that most times, you don’t need to be.
Picture taken by me many years ago
on a 35mm camera. This chapel in the
Irish countryside evokes David’s own
Irish heritage and love of the
storytelling and history of the Irish culture.