How much is enough? How much food? How much weight loss? How much love, attention, success? Our culture encourages us to believe that if we get enough, we will be enough. So we keep trying to get more-- more love, more attention, more success, more weight loss. But it never seems to be enough to make us feel better.
But we may be looking in the wrong place to feel like we are good enough, to feel good. If we keep focusing on what is external, we will miss the golden opportunity to do something that can make lasting changes in how we feel.
When we focus inward, we can learn what it is to be enough. When we connect to internal sensation, we finally have a chance to change how we feel in the world.
We all have moments of feeling good enough, but we rush by them, mostly unnoticed. Instead we focus on how aggravated we are, how rushed we feel, how tight our shoulders are and how much that anxiety upsets the stomach.
Take a moment right now to think about one of your favorite memories. Perhaps when you felt gratitude, or joy or love. As you think about that memory, notice how you feel inside. Does your chest feel more expanded? Or contracted? Do you feel warmth? Or coolness? More open? Or closed? More full? Or empty?
Now, think about a time when you felt frustrated, hurt or upset. Again, notice the sensations that signal these feelings? Do you feel more expanded or contracted? Warmth or coolness? More open or closed? More full or empty?
Now return to the positive memory and again notice what happens inside, what sensations arise as you focus on the more pleasant event.
At first these exercises seemed like silly mind games, until I learned that the nervous system literally changes when you change your mind. And when you can focus on the positive sensations, you actually teach your nervous system to more easily feel those open, expanded feelings. To feel more full inside.
As we become more at home with this “self-fullness,” we will recognize and trust or internal boundaries and better know how much is enough, how much is not enough and how much is too much. Self-fullness will help us to know how much to eat, how much to achieve, how much to take, how much to give—and how much to give to ourselves.
Self-fullness is a concept that may be easier to grasp at first by knowing what it is not. Self-fullness is not selfishness.
Selfishness is being concerned only with oneself. Dieting, or restricting, tends to promote selfishness. When we ignore hunger and avoid foods that give us pleasure, we are distracted by these unmet needs and wants. We are less available for true connection with others and may feel disconnected and lonely.
Selfishness often causes us to take in without "digesting." We take in food, kindnesses, success or ideas without getting nourished by them. Because we take in without digesting, we feel like nothing is enough, and we are left "hungering." Ultimately, we come to believe that there won’t be enough (food, love, money). We develop and live with a poverty consciousness.
Self-fullness is also not self-lessness.
Self-lessness is having or exhibiting a lack of concern for oneself. It is guided by "shoulds" and "supposed to's" and is supported by the belief that love is earned by taking care of others' needs. It is being less than who we really are. What is communicated to others is, “I don’t matter,” and this is often exactly how others will treat us. Self-lessness often results in quiet, unexpressed anger. We are left hungering from not "feeding" ourselves in the midst of "feeding" others. We are left depleted and undernourished emotionally. We develop and live with poverty consciousness.
Self-fullness is having a positive regard for oneself and acting upon it while being connected to and respectful of others.
Self-fullness is the sane place between selfishness and self-lessness. It is putting on our oxygen masks first and then attending to the mask of our child (or ailing parent, or friend). Self-fullness is possible when we tune into and attend to our needs, wants and desires; create space to meet these needs, wants and desires; and set and hold boundaries around this space.
When we feed ourselves, we are not left hungering. We have enough. When we take time to receive and digest what is given to us, we are nourished. When we give and receive in relationships, when we savor and share success, we are nourished. And, when we feed ourselves with attunement to hunger, satiety and food preference, we experience
Initially, self-fullness feels uncomfortable. "I can’t possibly say no; she needs me. That would be selfish!" However, self-fullness is necessary if we are to develop nourishing inter-dependent relationships. With self-fullness, we come to fully experience "I am enough. I am not too much. There is enough for me." With self-fullness, we live with abundance consciousness.
Adapted from Stay Attuned by Amy Tuttle and Karin Kratina.