Break Ups and The Fear of Not-Enough-Ness

by P. Braithwaite

One of my biggest fears in life is that people are better off without me. I worry that the room becomes more awesome when I leave it; the air becomes lighter when I’m not breathing it; Things magically become better because I’m not there.


When I was little, I was always sent to bed before my older brother, so while the OTHER Braithwaite’s watched 90’s sitcoms, I’d be exiled to my bedroom. I’d be so upset, begging for a few more minutes because I was certain that, when I went to bed, the real fun would start (it probably didn’t help that Brother periodically told me I was adopted). I don’t know what I was imagining: strippers? Clowns? A live pony and cocaine? I was certain that when I left the room, things would immediately get better.

It never dawned on me that, sometimes, I was actually pretty tired.

I think that’s why break ups are so hard for me. No matter how dysfunctional or disillusioned, I’m always afraid that I’m the reason things sucked. I’m always focused on how I can be better, brighter, happier and more accommodating. I’m always terrified that, while I’m sad or upset, they’re happier and freer without me. I give away all my power and joy when I imagine that I’m the sole reason things are (or aren’t) good. I simultaneously make myself more important and less important than I truly am.

This elaborate scenario boils down to something pretty common: “fear of not being enough” (Google it. It’s actually a thing.)

I read a quote on BFF-Bri’s blog that said “Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.” I think this is the same for not-enough-ness.

Here’s the truth: WE must only be enough for ourselves.

When we can look at ourselves and say, “I’m enough for me.” Everything else is sort of foolish. Why? Because NO ONE… (no coach, saint, sinner, rock star, lover, best friend, counselor, therapist, poet, preacher, guru, shaman, spirit) NO ONE is enough to cure someone else’s not-enough-ness. And on some level, most of us are suffering from this affliction.There is a special kind of narcissism involved in thinking that your presence has a permanent impact on someone else. People, generally speaking, are happy/miserable independently of you. Yes. You can totally brighten up someone’s day, and, yes, an unkind word might make someone miserable for the moment…but NO ONE is the sole reason for another’s content (or discontent). You can only make someone happy (or miserable) if they let you. I’m using the word “make” here loosely, ya’ll. We are all responsible for our own emotions.

I like to think of it like this: everyone is walking around in their own little room – a crowded cocktail party in their own heads. You might add to the dynamic, you might even dance inside of a circle, but you alone cannot create or destroy someone’s life. Everyone has their own personal energy. Everyone is living in their own personal dramatic story (it sounds crazy, but secretly…it’s a little true).

So today, I’m working to stop competing in the invisible happiness war. It’s time to stop torturing myself about whether or not The Besticle is happier that I’m not around. The circular thinking is incessant: Is he happier? Has he moved on? Can the new chick make him happier?

The real question then becomes: Am I happier? Am I freeer? Am I more awesome by myself?

And even beyond those questions, the realest ones of all: How can I cure my own not-enoughness? How can be enough for myself? How can I feel awesome in the company of myself?

Is anyone else in a happiness war with themselves? Let’s make a peace treaty together!