Lately, I’ve been thinking about the word “enough” and how it is used to say something about a person’s worth. More specifically, I’m talking about when women, from my casual observation, use the phrase “lucky enough” when they are discussing their professional accomplishments or regarding upcoming collaborations or having the opportunity to give a presentation on their work. I’m also talking about personal put downs that start with the word not and end with the word enough (“not pretty enough”, “not smart enough”, “not skinny enough”).
It has started to bother me that women don’t credit themselves for a myriad of their accomplishments or their presence as a valuable human being. When I see someone announcing that they were “lucky enough” to get a certain job or get asked to work on a prestigious project, I just want to scream, “STOP SAYING LUCKY ENOUGH! I KNOW you and I KNOW you worked your ASS off for these accomplishments.”
I think we could all stand to take more than a few moments to step back and appreciate the skills and hard work and dedication that it took to reach our goals. From personal experience, I know how easy it is to discount a transition from one job to another, to not look back on what I accomplished and to only look ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we need to look back forever or to live in the past, but I think we would all be a little less stressed out about our existential crises if we gave ourselves the time and space to get some perspective.
Perhaps the reason why we discount ourselves so often is that we have already been discounted by our previous bosses, patriarchal systems, and social systems who question our competence to do a good, nay, an outstanding job. It is so hard not to listen to these opinions, especially when one is just starting out and not quite confident about our abilities or when we are blazing a trail.
I was having lunch with a female friend of mine with whom I share a profession and we were discussing this in terms of being recognized at our jobs. Five years after getting our Masters degrees, we are finally in positions where we feel that our skills are valued by our superiors. It’s an odd feeling and we both talked about how we discount those skills being praised with phrases like, “I just made a newsletter, it wasn’t that hard.” When I was forced to re-write a job description for a position I was leaving, I added an additional page of responsibilities that I had taken on as part of the job, at the same very low pay, no less.
Merriam-Webster defines “enough” as occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations. I challenge ourselves to ask some questions: To whose expectations are we measuring ourselves when we use these words: our doubters or ourselves? Are we meeting demands for the good of ourselves or our employers or partners who pile work on us and expect us to do more with less? What I think we need to do is examine this word “enough” and no longer use it as a tool of measurement where our insecurities are concerned. Instead of not being “____ enough”, I would love to replace it with phrases like “I worked toward” or “I earned” or just “I am”. It’s time for us to recognize that “enough” is a powerful word and should be used for only good and not evil.