Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My expat resolution: the year of Enough

These thoughts have been brewing in my mind for some time triggered by:

- just a new year on the calendar;
- my upcoming birthday, the last one of my 20s;
- my one year anniversary of moving to the U.S. (this February);
- reading Daring Greatly;
- going through the talks in the Year of Enough project.

2013 is over, and what a year it has been! We did so many wonderful things, and so many amazing things happened. But what will define this past year is my move to America - the physical uprooting, but more importantly, the emotional overhaul and imbalance in self-perception that came with it.

After moving in February, then getting through the whirlwind of learning the small things and meeting a bunch of people the following months, I spent the rest of the year tucked away in a corner, rocking back and forth and whimpering "noooooo moooooore change!!!"

Leaving the only life I've ever known to move to a place I had never even visited was clearly a leap of faith, one that I was willing and courageous enough to take only because I knew that the support of my husband would be there to catch me, love me and care for me. But when the reality of every day life set in, I went into self-shaming mode. I became increasingly aware of everything, but the equation would always come out with a big fat minus in it. In other words, I became painfully aware of what I was NOT, of what I was failing to be or to do.

None of the people I met became my friends, not in the way my friends of 10 or 15 years were my friends. What was wrong with me? I wasn't trying hard enough. I wasn't putting myself out there enough. I wasn't looking for friends hard enough. I didn't say yes often enough.

I left a job that I was good at when I came here. Then I started to feel I wasn't doing enough to get a job here. I felt like I was failing myself. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I determined enough to brave the commute lifestyle? Why wasn't I trying hard enough to adjust to a way of living I didn't want in the first place?

There were other things bothering me. How can I be a good enough daughter for the parents that I left behind? How am I being a good enough friend for the people that have been there for me thorough thick and thin? Am I trying hard enough to keep in touch with friends back home and all over the world? What if my English is not good enough? What if my accent is not smooth enough?

You would think that all these questions might spring me into action. But in fact, it was quite the opposite. The pressure that not enough created in my brain and on my heart had an undesirable paralyzing effect. I felt overwhelmed, so the best response that I could come up with was stillness, numbness, almost a complete shut down. This came with "perks" such as lower self-esteem, fear to try anything that might fail, fear of failure and fear of the fear of failure.

I pride myself on not wanting more possessions. I think our house (medium-sized if I'm to compare it to American standards) is too big. I think that our car is too big. I don't want more clothes or shoes because I have enough and I dislike shopping. I don't want another gadget because I have everything that I need. I'm not craving material possessions because I know they come at a cost, one that my little family is not willing to pay. We don't need more stuff.

So why is it then, when I have everything that I need, I feel like I am not enough? Would I treat my best friend like that? Would I tell her: I think you're not doing enough. What's wrong with you? The answer is no. Would I put down my husband and blame him for everything under the sun? The answer is no. Would I walk up to a stranger on the street and tell him: For the record, I think you're doing at crappy job at doing this, this and this? The answer is no. Then why do I treat myself that way? The answer is I don't know.

But I do know that in this new year I will work on getting out of that habit.  I've decided to start working on shifting my perception from "I'm not (doing) enough!" to "I am enough!"

Living in the mindset of enough is not about becoming complacent. It's not about being lazy or inactive or settling for whatever comes my way.

Living in the mindset of enough, the way I understand it, is being grateful that right here, right now, what I have is enough to make me happy. That right here, right now, I am enough. That whatever my hopes, dreams, plans and aspirations are, they exist to complement what I already am - enough.


  1. You've spoken so many truths in this post! Comparison is the thief of joy...whether that is comparison to other people or to what we think we should be. I'm completely with you on learning to accept and embrace that I am 'enough'. So many of my friends have read (and loved) Daring Greatly, it's definitely on my reading list. I hope you have a 2014 which is filled with joy and blessings!

  2. It is a very heartfelt book, coming from an academic. I was thinking of doing a review of it once I finish it.

    I wish you a happy 2014, Hannah!

  3. Really great post - I can relate on so many levels! Thanks for sharing!


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