Good Enough for Life

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“When the soul is starved for nourishment, it lets us know with feelings of emptiness, anxiety, or yearning”

– The Rebbe

 You’re struggling, burnt out, anxious and overwhelmed about daily life. You dive into projects and check tasks off your list, trying to climb your way up to the next level of success. Ironically, you somehow still never feel like enough, no matter how many achievements you acquire. It seems you’re always working on something else, yet you never feel satisfied. You feel empty, numb, like no one understands you. You yearn for the sweet taste of approval, all the while disconnecting from yourself and the world around you.

You wonder, when will the accomplishment of your goals make your life feel complete? When will you experience the warmth of true happiness instead of the uncomfortable sensitivity to the people and world around you. When will you stop living only to prove yourself?

I think we can all relate to feeling this way at some point in our lives. I know I can. For a long time, I did everything I could to prove that I was worth something. To know that I was approved of and worthy. To prove to my father that I was smart enough. To prove to my family that I was worthy of their praise and love. To prove to random strangers that I was intelligent and special.

Looking everywhere but inside myself for my worth, it never once occurred to me to look in the mirror. I could never have imagined that I was put here for a purpose. I never considered that I was worthy just as I am. It took me a long time to realized that stripped of my makeup, degrees, designer clothes, and approving glances, I am enough.

My problems with perfectionism, anxiety, and estranged relationships all had the same root cause. There was once core issue that was running me and my life, wreaking havoc on my relationships with others and myself. When I was down, I tried everything to change my life on the outside. I perfected my work, did everything I could to be pleasing in my relationships, dieted constantly, changed my hair, and jumped into one new relationship after another, all in an effort to have a better life. In a small way, all those changes made me feel better in the short-term; but the comfort they offered never lasted. As soon as I heard a disapproving comment or didn’t receive praise at work, I was right back to where I started. The rambling thoughts, the emptiness and weight of feeling worthless, all rushed back faster than ever before.

What I came to understand is that no matter how many times I worked on changing the world around me, I still didn’t feel good at my core. Changing everything on the outside did nothing to change what I thought of myself on the inside. I was looking outside myself for all the answers, when all along, the answers were within me.

Whether it’s society’s pressure, our culture, or the drive to try and make everyone happy around us, we all face obstacles to going deeper within our reality. This can leave us feeling unfulfilled, anxious, and depressed, searching for meaning outside ourselves, and trying anything to develop a real connection. Many of us feel that money or fame will fulfill us. We believe the story sold to us that building a company, finding a perfect partner, having a great career, or traveling the world will lead us to true happiness. We search all over for that peaceful sense of fulfillment, and we struggle to find it. Because it’s not outside ourselves; it’s within us. Once we understand this very concept, we can finally become good enough for life. We can finally start seeking approval from the only person who matters: ourselves.

This is precisely what my new book is about. It’s a detailed roadmap to igniting deeper self-worth, richer relationships, and greater personal freedom. Below I will summarize what it takes to finally feel good enough for life, borrowed from the ideas in my latest book, It’s Within You.

  • Become an Observer of Your Own Life — Begin feeling good enough by becoming an observer of your own life. Instead of acting without thinking, or doing whatever feels good in the moment, wait and observe yourself in your environment. Pay close attention to your body, and notice whatever urges and reactions arise within; during this time, aim to observe your life from a more objective standpoint. Become curious and open-minded, like a journalist exploring a new land. Whenever you feel the need to impulsively react to a situation, slow down and asked yourself, “What would I like to do in response to this situation?” Take a pause and check in with yourself.
  • Understand Our Fundamental Need to Live from Within — Use a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least and 10 being the most, to rate how much of your life is lived from within. When you don’t live from within, your emotions fluctuate a lot; you never know what will agitate you from one minute to the next. You don’t feel in control of your life, and you can’t regulate your feelings. If you start to live more from within, your moods won’t fluctuate as much, and you’ll be able to enjoy a nice day, even if things don’t go your way.
  • Know the True You — Do you have the bad habit of telling people what they want to hear, instead of being upfront and honest with your thoughts? This form of people-pleasing will ultimately negatively affect your relationships. Make an effort to become more aware of the things you think, say, or do to gain acceptance from others. Hiding from your true self is a heavy burden for anyone to carry. You won’t feel close to many people, and casual interactions with others will leave you feeling drained. It takes a lot of energy to constantly play a role and try to make others happy with you. In fact, most people who go down the road of seeking worthiness from outside sources become completely exhausted by the constant need to satisfy their unquenchable desire for worthiness. When they get burnt out by it, different areas of their lives begin to fall apart. Start noticing that the more you try to be accepted by people, the more you push them away. By becoming aware of how your desire to be accepted began, and by seeing how much of what you say is inauthentic, you’ll have an easier time speaking the truth.
  • Your Power Space — Do you regularly become reactive, yelling and threatening anyone who upsets you, but have no idea why? It’s time to explore the powerful effect offinding the space between stimulus and response by practicing slowing down your responses until you gain more clarity, at which point you can choose a much healthier response. Are you particularly sensitive to any form of perceived criticism? Do you blow up and get defensive? Start to slow down your inner processing system whenever you experience real or perceived criticism. This gives you the space you need to choose how you want to feel about the situation, instead of falling into an instinctive reaction. Your reactions may be coming from a place of inadequacy, based on assumptions rather than facts. You might be confusing what you think of a particular situation with the actual truth. If you don’t slow down, you’ll continue to overreact to situations and make unhelpful judgements. By giving yourself space to assess one situation at a time, you will be free to bring your rational mind into the picture and come up with more helpful responses.
  • Your Influential Power — Become capable of loving yourself and being in relationship with others, without needing to always do and say what they want. We can’t reach any depth with others that we haven’t reached within ourselves, and that self-acceptance isn’t something that happens only when you’re perfect. The more you accept and love yourself, flaws included, the more capable you’ll be of accepting and loving others, even with their faults. Work on staying focused on others’ needs as well as your own, even when others are disapproving or critical of you. Find a way to respect others, without necessarily feeling like you need to give in to their demands. Let people know that you appreciate their input, but you can make your own decisions.
  • The Benefits of Delaying Gratification — Are you the king or queen of using temporary forms of instant gratification to ease discomfort, regardless of the consequences? Do you desperately want to learn how to tolerate the uneasiness you feel whenever you delay gratification in order to achieve an important goal? Is it important for you to practice resisting urges to drink excessively or overeat? Are you living for approval, choosing short-term comforts instead of delaying gratification for a greater goal? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to get clearer about your goals and tap into the fundamental value of living life with a long-term outlook, instead of seeking short-term gain. It’s time to start moving away from your urge to seek comfort now, in order to receive a better reward later. Continue to identify moments when you really want to do something that you know won’t benefit you in the future. In those moments, call to mind your long-term goals, which will help you avoid satisfying your desires in the moment. The more you sit with your discomfort, the easier it will get to resist temptation. You’ll begin to see your life unfold in the ways you always wanted it to, simply by resisting impulses. If you’ve always wanted more for yourself, slow down and take a closer look at yourself, and your vision for YOU will materialize.
  • Living Intentionally — Living from within means living more intentionally. Most of us live on autopilot, reacting to our circumstances instead of making decisions based on our long-term goals and values. This leads us to be discontent, never satisfied, unaware of why we aren’t happy. If you want to live from within, keep making decisions based on what will make you happy, instead of basing your happiness on outside circumstances. Work on knowing your true intentions, so you can start living a more fulfilling life that aligns with your values. This shift will improve your health, relationships, and life in extraordinary ways. Write a list of your beliefs and values to refer back to whenever you feel lost or impulsive. By having a purpose and making decisions more intentionally, you’ll finally take ownership of your life. Feeling healthy, knowing your worth, managing your emotions effectively, and enjoying your personal relationships are what living good enough for life is all about.

Sometimes we think we know what will make us happy and feel good enough, but we’re mistaken. We’re so sure our unhappiness would be resolved if only we could make more money or find the right partner; but in reality, those things wouldn’t do it either. By slowing down, becoming more aware, looking within, and responding versus reacting to life, we’re able to connect with our true intentions, and finally feel good enough for life.

Want to learn more about feeling good enough for life? Check out my new book, “It’s Within You.”

Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

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