What is Enough?

What is Enough?
{ via underthemapletree on Etsy – no longer available }

As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

  • Do I play with the kids enough?
  • Are we having enough sex?
  • Am I healthy enough?
  • Do I call my sisters enough?
  • Have I been a good enough friend?
  • Is it enough to be content?
  • Am I trying hard enough?
  • Am I attractive enough?
  • Do I give enough?
  • Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

What does that look like in real life?

“Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

“Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

“Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

“Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

“Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?


My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do.  Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.


Do you ever struggle with feeling like you’re enough?  Would taking a long-term view help you feel better?

16 Responses to What is Enough?

  1. Yep – I think that’s a universal feeling among women. However, I do try to take the long view like you mentioned. That makes a huge difference, I think. We can’t do everything right every day.

    I compare it to my to-do list. My list has a section I call “dailies”. Those are things that I try to do every day and include exercise, read my Bible, tidy the house, vacuum, cook dinner, do the laundry, etc. It’s 9 things. I rarely get all 9 things done. But if I do most of them, most of the time, life is good. That’s good enough.

    • Patty, I have dailies too, and they make a huge difference! I only started them this year, but they really help. If nothing else gets done, I still feel good about doing those.

  2. Wonderful approach Brooke. Patience and seeing the big picture can definitely help to squelch our silly anxieties and help us to achieve what really matters. When we look at the long-haul our true priorities rise to the surface.

    Zen Presence – Ideas for Meaningful Living

  3. I like your take on the long view. It’s so important to remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint, and we all have both good and bad days/weeks/months. I think it’s also important to define “enough” for yourself, and not let society or others define it for you. Your “healthy enough” will be different from mine, just like my “calling enough” will be different from yours. It’s important to make those definitions both personal and realistic. Thanks for bringing this up – it’s important to think about.

  4. This reminds me of the 10/10/10 framework for decision-making. When you need to make a hard call, ask yourself what the result of a choice will be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Maybe the decision not to play/call the friend will make the next 10 minutes better, but what might the impact be in the next 10 months or 10 years? If saying no has become too much of a pattern, it might have a negative impact down the road. If not, you’re probably OK taking a pass on a particular day. I’m wondering if this set of questions might be a help in hearing/feeling the pang.

    Another great post. I’m a huge fan of the long view.

  5. Yes, Brooke, I’ve struggled with this for a long time, with regards to writing, socialising, talking to family etc etc. I try to frame it that these are things I enjoy, and shouldn’t feel pressured to do, and that often makes me do them more!

    I like the idea of a long view, just like tilting. We are enough, we do enough.

  6. What a universal concern, for women especially. Enough is tough to reconcile with. In some ways, it actually forces us to be perfect — not too much, not too little. We’re not Goldilocks. “Just right” is rarely achievable. I think we have instincts to know when we’re too far one way or another — that “pang” you wrote about. However, I think we all need to be careful not to overly self-judge. Sometimes, enough is only what we can do at that moment. Great post!

  7. enough changes from day to day, or from life stage to life stage; it’s difficult for women, in particular, to justify time for themselves but if you want to be there for someone else you need to be there for yourself first; i look at things now in my life in a totally different way than i did in my twenties, when thinking of what is enough for me; enough has, over the years, become less and less and i’ve become more content with what i do have as a result; i very much enjoy your perspectives as it encourages me to think things through

  8. Love this Brooke! I’m finding mindfulness is wonderful for learning to live purposefully and telling myself that I really am enough