Last January, I posted an essay entitled “You Are Enough.” In it, I described how most of the women I know, myself included, were struggling with feelings of inadequacy–a sense of failure–despite the fact that we are intelligent, remarkably capable, and successful. I concluded with this resolution:
“So this is my New Year’s wish for my daughters, for myself, for all the brilliant and amazing women I love and the women they love: I want you all to know that you are enough.”
This past fall, while talking with my friend Corrie Kate, she asked, “You know that enough essay you wrote? What’s that all about anyway?” She sounded frustration. “I mean why don’t we ever feel like we’re enough?”
I contemplated her question in silence; it was something I asked myself frequently. Although I’d taken the phrase “You are enough” and held it close to my heart, I still often felt overwhelmed, and hummed with an underlying anxiety that I was falling short of the job.
“Sometimes,” continued Corrie Kate, “when I have a weekday off, I get the kids to school, do the dishes, and then crawl back into bed.” Her voice dropped to a confessional whisper, “And I don’t get up again until it’s time to pick them up.”
I could hear the guilt shadowing her words. I knew that instead of feeling refreshed after a much-needed day in bed, Corrie Kate rose from the sheets feeling more behind than ever. She probably berated herself for all she had left undone because as well as working full-time, Corrie Kate raises four school-age children. Each of them has nightly homework and after-school activities. There is also grocery shopping to be done, a house to be cleaned, laundry to be tackled, and meals to be made. Between child rearing and chores, she even attempts to exercise now and then as well as carve out time with her husband. I don’t question why Corrie Kate spends an occasional day off in bed, I marvel that she ever gets up again.
But she does, because besides being the busiest person I know, Corrie Kate is also incredibly smart, resourceful, determined, and steadfast. In fact, years ago, when I had a business selling miniature wall hangings, one of my designs was a Corrie Kate look-alike dressed in a cape and mask. Over her head, I stitched “be a superhero.”
In my mind, Corrie Kate and a superhero share the same qualities: They both work tirelessly to help those in need and strive to make the world a better place. They don’t back away from a fight when there is a wrong to be righted. They don’t back away from life.
When I think about it, most of the women I know are superheroes in their own way just like Corrie Kate. Myself included. Most of us may not have as hectic a schedule as my friend, but we all wear an invisible cape and mask and face that which is challenging and difficult in our lives. Every day, each of us contributes to the universal good.
But the thing is, I can’t imagine a superhero ever averting yet another disaster and then berating herself for not doing more. Or worrying that other superheroes will think she’s slacking if she occasionally takes a day off to recharge. They don’t compare their powers to that of another superhero and find themselves wanting. And they most certainly don’t ever stand in front of the mirror and deem themselves worthless because they look fat in their spandex tights.
Superheroes accept themselves for who they are and what they can do. I believe that is the part of being a superhero that I, and most of the women I know, don’t understand. How much you accomplish is not what makes you a true superhero. How much you get done is not what makes you enough. Being a true superhero is about believing in your best effort and achieving what you can within your particular powers. That is the most any superhero can ask of herself.
I realize now that when I made my wall hangings I got the picture right, but the message wrong. The revised version is this, and I say it to all the women I love and all the women they love:
YOU ARE A SUPERHERO.
Use your special powers well. Wear your cape and mask proudly. And let that be enough.