Doing Enough and its Relationship to Capacity

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Doing, being, “Enough” gives us a pathway to a deep dive.

Jean told me in a recent session that she never feels like she’s doing enough. More than that, she says that if she doesn’t “motivate” herself through her internal critic (essentially beating herself up), she feels like she won’t get “anything done,” to use her words.  This is actually a long-term pattern both in her life, my own life, and in the lives of so many of my clients. 

What’s more, the “enough” bar always moves.  As soon as you get “enough” done, you now tell yourself that you could or should have done more.  For many, this leads to a big capacity issue.  You’re always trying to do more, and then more again, until you are doing way more than your true capacity will allow.

As I have been working with my own capacity these past few months and realized that this was part of my own capacity issue, I got curious about its roots.  Where does this compulsion come from? 

What I found was unexpected (at least for me, as I thought I had dealt with this particular issue pretty thoroughly in my years of spiritual practice). 

The issue lurking underneath this is the feeling that I had to earn love. 

Follow that root!

Coming across this root was a huge surprise to me because of my own spiritual leanings and spiritual practice.  Every spiritual tradition I know of talks about the fact that Divine love is always there.  It is open and available to us, and we don’t have to do anything to earn that love. 

Yet, here I was, still caught up in the sense that I had to work very hard and accomplish a huge number of tasks or I wouldn’t be loved.  Whoa! 

In my own tradition, Jesus said “look at the birds of the air; they neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory wasn’t arrayed like one of these.”  I have read similar things in many other religious/spiritual traditions as well.  Each tradition affirms that the Divine cares for all living beings and there is nothing that humans need to do to access that limitless resource.

The Sufi tradition, which I have been working with for a few years, talks about the One. How none of us is separate from the One.  And if we aren’t separate, then there is no need to earn Divine favor or love. 

Of course, you might intellectually know that you aren’t separate and that the Divine love is always there and available.  Yet at the same time, you may also find that you have this gap.  Many of us still feel that if we don’t do enough we also won’t be loved by others.

 Where does the root begin?

The roots of this actually lie very early in childhood. Very early we learn that we must do certain things (and enough of them), and do them in a certain way or we don’t receive our caregivers’ approval.  And we confuse that approval with love. 

This is entirely natural. A two-year-old feels approval as love and disapproval as a withdrawal of love.  And that gets reinforced for many of us as we grow up.  Many, if not most of us, learn to people-please for this very reason.  It’s only a step further to think that you have to do certain things, or act a certain way, or do enough in order to earn love.

As I discussed in my last blog post, capacity has a whole lot of layers to it.  This has been a primary layer for me and for a lot of my clients, including Jean.

So what is the antidote?  In my case, knowing intellectually that I am loved and cared for, and I need to do nothing to earn Divine love wasn’t enough.  Lurking underneath was still this very old behavioral pattern. 

Working with your own “enough-ness”

One specific way to work with this is to notice when you’re beating yourself up for not doing enough.  Ask yourself if this has to do with earning love.  Awareness is the key. The more you become aware, instead of simply living out the pattern, the more you will begin to have a choice in your actions. 

Make no bones about it, though, just having the intellectual awareness is not sufficient.  It has to get from your head to your heart for lasting change.  Once you move beyond intellectual knowing to heart knowing, that pattern’s days are numbered.  It may still take a while to shift, but your awareness and willingness to ask for Divine guidance will eventually unravel the pattern until one day it’s no longer there.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Pam

    Thanks for this Mary! It really speaks to me and I look forward to our sessions.

    • Mary Shields

      I’m so glad it speaks to you, Pam, and I’m also looking forward to working with you!

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