After our church service yesterday, a friend of mine approached me and told me that she immediately thought of me during the sermon that our Senior Pastor was preaching. It was a sermon about the feelings of inadequacy that so many of us fight against and the constant barrage of messages that tell us that we are never enough. My friend knows all too well that I have struggled throughout my life with the feeling that who I am at this very moment is never enough. I must do more, love more, give more, learn more, act more, be more.
It is even more ironic that this message was preached on the very Sunday before I travel to Chicago to receive my Master’s in Divinity, a goal that I have been working toward for a number of years, thinking that this was my one and only calling. And yet, even as I get ready to board the plane, my thoughts have turned towards the idea that this achievement alone is inadequate. I have now set my sights on yet another degree, a Master’s in Social Work. If I follow this new ambition, it will mean attaining my third master’s degree. When will I be satisfied that I have done enough, accomplished enough, attained the skills necessary to be what I am called to be?
I struggle with these feelings of inadequacy, not only with my career, but within my family as well. I struggle with the idea that who I am and what I have to offer each of my family members is enough for them. It’s not that any of them have said anything at all to indicate that I am not enough. Instead, it’s a feeling that comes from deep within me, that goes to the heart of what I believe about myself.
I know that I am not alone, and if anything, the problem is getting worse as we place more and more pressure on our children to succeed. Recently, I sat through a high school awards ceremony at my son’s school. I listened in awe as each child approached the stage to receive their honor and the speaker gave the background of what that child had accomplished. In addition to being honor students, most of these kids had participated in sports, played instruments, volunteered at non-profits, held part time jobs, and participated in multiple clubs and school associations.
I remember the pressure that my own son received from teachers and administrators to do more, be more. He was pressured into becoming a member of multiple clubs, even though initially he was not a joiner; engage in a sport, even though he had no interest in athletics; learn an instrument, even though on his own he probably would not have pursued this interest; volunteer his time outside of school and engage in mission work, all while carrying a heavy academic load. He worried constantly that if he couldn’t check off each box next to the appropriate achievement on a college admissions application that he would be deemed unworthy. As much as my family tried to impress upon our son that he was enough, just the way that he was, the messaging that he was receiving from the school was much more powerful. He needed to do more, be more
As many young adults, just like my son, ready themselves to attend college next year, I worry about their mental health as the pressure to do more, be more intensifies. I have heard too many stories of young adults going off to college filled with enthusiasm, only to return broken by the feeling that they were somehow not enough. While I get the need to inspire children, and adults for that matter, to live up to their potential, we need to learn to balance the message with a message of grace. You are enough.
Rev. Lisa LeSueur
Rev. Lisa LeSueur is the Pastor of Congregational and Staff Care at Coral Gables United Church of Christ and a member of the Board of Directors of the UCC Mental Health Network. She serves as the UCC Florida Conference WISE Mental Health Coordinator and the Suicide Prevention Initiative Coordinator for Nami Miami. She lives in Coral Gables, Florida with her wife and their two children.