On Mother’s Day in 1987, when I was a few hours old, I was abandoned behind a rock near Muir Woods in Northern California. Knowing this about myself led to me to believe that I was not enough as I was. Something was wrong with me. Why else had I been left to die?
To answer that question, I began to tell myself a story: I would never be loved or even accepted as who I was because I was not enough as I was. This story wasn’t true, but it made sense of an experience that deeply confused me.
I lived in that story for years; it permeated every aspect of my life. I didn’t believe I could possibly be myself because I hadn’t been wanted from the start. I tried to avoid my way out of it; I hesitated to seek out new friends, thinking, somehow, they would discover that I was not enough. I tried to perfect my way out of it; I strived to be as special and talented and unique and smart as possible, thinking that would make me enough. It wasn’t until a suicide attempt at age fourteen that I finally began, through therapy and healing practices, exploring my story, and how it affected my identity and my relationship to myself and to others.
While I hold many titles, one of my current roles is a therapist who supports clients in untangling their stories. I didn’t always think I’d end up here, offering what I once needed. In my practice, I’ve seen how so many of us have come to believe that we are not enough as we are. That, for some reason, we have to change parts of ourselves or do certain things to be loved, heard and seen, understood and accepted. I’ve come to understand this belief of not being enough as a root belief.
A root belief is the central belief that informs how we feel about ourselves and the world. It is from this root belief that our sense of self, our stories about who we are, and our way of being in the world are formed. What grows from it looks different for each of us; there are many variants. For some, it might be people-pleasing in order to feel good enough; for others, it might look like denying their needs in order to be worthy of love. No matter what it looks like in your specific context, the result is the same. Everything grows from the root: when the root is harsh or critical, flourishing is difficult. When we look at our stories, we can start realizing what has grown (or not grown) from there. If our root isn’t strong and healthy, we can’t grow far beyond it. If the root is sturdy enough to withstand the storm, though, then we can bloom through whatever comes our way. This is why examining our stories is so critical. It brings to light what has been underneath the surface for so long and allows us to recognize how we have grown the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors we’ve since experienced. From there, we get to start choosing what we water and what we let die.
We are not taught to pause and examine our stories—to consider if they are true or, more important, if they are actually serving us. When I work with clients, I see and hear the ahas they experience from doing just that. There are so many moments I will never forget: sitting across from someone in my softly lit office, knowing that the silence means something is shifting within them. Moments of tears as we slowly and gently see patterns more clearly. Moments of joy as they say, “It’s such a relief to understand I’m like this for a reason—that it’s not because something is wrong with me but because something happened to me.” Moments of gratitude as they experience real change in their emotional well-being. These moments are life-altering.
It reminds me of how much we all have in common when we strip away the differences and get to the root. We all want to feel loved. We all want to be heard and seen. We all want to be understood. We all want to belong.
We all want to feel enough, just as we are.
I once told myself a story that went like this: I would never be lovable, be accepted, or belong as who I was because my full self wasn’t enough.
And I rewrote it. My new story goes like this: I am a person who is innately lovable, who is inherently acceptable, and who deeply belongs to myself and therefore to the world. I am enough, just as I am. Living from this new story (albeit not 100 percent of the time) has completely shifted the way I perceive myself and the ways in which I show up in the world. It has changed my life.
If you have ever felt like you didn’t belong, or like you weren’t worthy exactly as you are, or like your full self wasn’t enough . . . it might be time for you, too, to tell yourself a new story. I believe that everyone deserves to have access to this type of healing.
I encourage you to continue exploring this idea on your own in a way that feels good for you. Do you process by writing? Amazing! Take out your journal and explore what has come up for you through this chapter. Are you a talker? Wonderful! Grab someone you trust and have a conversation regard- ing what you noticed about yourself through reading this. Are you an artist? Beautiful! Create something that aligns with what came through you in exploring these topics.
There is no wrong way to process, no wrong way to explore, and no wrong way to express—the important part is letting yourself do it.
Here are some prompts to get you started:
- What experiences shaped the way I show up in the world?
- How do the stories I formed about myself affect who I am now?
- What stories am I carrying, and how are they serving or not serving me?
- What stories am I carrying that might not be true?
- Am I carrying stories that aren’t actually mine to carry?
- What stories might I want to let go of, shift, or approach differently?