When is enough, enough? The question resonates today. Last Wednesday, when the U.S. Capitol was overrun by a mob, I hoped we had finally arrived at an answer, at least on the national political stage. I had enough of Trump and his rhetoric long, long ago. I hoped that my fellow citizens would finally arrive at the same place: enough of Trump, enough of conspiracy theories, enough toxic politics. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case. I hope we have reached the bottom and are on the way back up. It is hard to imagine wanting more of the same. But the question of when enough is enough applies in many situations.
I was thinking about it in a totally different context as I was listening to an interview with Mandy Patinkin, the actor/singer. He commented that performing for an audience was fulfilling up to a point. Needing applause can be problematic because you can be left with feeling like it wasn’t enough – maybe not enthusiastic enough, or not long enough. Or, you get the adulation, and then you come off stage and go back to your hotel, and what do you have? Is it enough to fill you up? And then you do it all over again. You can drive yourself crazy – the thirst for validation can be unquenchable.
I am not a performer, but I totally got what he was saying. If you are doing something mostly for the feedback, you can set yourself up to be in endless pursuit of more. If I get 150 reads of a blog entry, I could feel unsatisfied because I didn’t get 200. Then if I get 200, I can be thinking ‘why can’t I get 300?’ I can forget that when I first started, I was often lucky to get 30 or 40 views. And if I get one meaningful comment, is that enough? What if I get 50 likes and no comments? By the way, I was told by a literary agent that you need 40,000 followers to be seriously considered for publication. So, there’s that. Clearly, since there is no monetary reward to my blogging endeavor, and the numbers aren’t impressive, where does that leave me?
Of course, it isn’t reasonable to discount audience reaction entirely. If you are putting something out into the world, if you choose to share it, part of the reason is to be in conversation with others. It is only natural to want that dialogue to be plentiful and positive. But there needs to be balance. The process of creating itself, in my case of finding the right words, conveying my thoughts, doing the research, has to offer its own reward. I need to be able to find satisfaction in putting down on paper clear ideas, authentic emotions and compelling images. Sometimes that needs to be enough, regardless of the reaction or the numbers. As the years of blogging have gone by, I am getting better and better at this.
Another pitfall can be comparing yourself to others. If I compare myself to others, I can set myself up to feel like it isn’t enough, depending upon who I use as my measure. I can continually fall short because there will always be authors with far more success, no matter how it is quantified.
This calculation, how much is enough to feel sated, is complicated. I was struck by it in yet another setting. My father-in-law died almost three weeks ago. My husband has received countless calls, texts and sympathy cards. Many of his patients offered their condolences when they saw him in his office. I think Gary has the capacity to allow himself to be comforted by the show of support. I don’t believe he spends much time (if any time) thinking about who didn’t call or whether enough was done for him. Having the capacity to receive, whether it is comfort or praise or love, is essential for our mental health.
Not having preconceived ideas seems to be part of the equation, too. Do you have expectations? Of course we do! But are they reasonable? Can you accept what you have been given, rather than focusing on what might be missing? I sometimes find myself thinking more about the latter, but then I check myself. Like the classic question of seeing a glass as half full or half empty, or as was the case with my brother’s friend, who in the midst of his fight with ALS, said he saw his cup as overflowing – we can choose to change our focus. For some of us it may come easier than for others. I have to work at it, but I can do it.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to pursue excellence and growth. We can and we should. The motivation needs to come from a healthy place, from curiosity and creativity, rather than from a bottomless well of need.
When is enough, enough? More often than not, I think the answer is now – we have enough right now.
7 thoughts on “When is Enough, Enough?”
A very profound question. One that for many goes back to childhood. Am I behaving enough? Are my grades good enough? Then progress through adulthood. Am I a good enough wife? Mother? Friend? Co-worker? Second guessing ourselves becomes a constant.
I imagine that feeling escalates substantially when a person is in a profession where they are creating something public consumption, such as performing, writing, or being elected to office.
My feeling is reinforcement of being enough can take many forms: likes, comments, verbal assurance, and the (hopefully frequent) instances of working on something, completing it, sitting back and thinking damn, that was good. Hoping all of us have more of such moments.
Great food for thought after such a chaotic week.
Thanks, Mary. Food for thought is a really good thing!
Is it good to look for confirmation? I wrote for our magazine(The Spicy Apple) and got 4 articles published and I was elated. When Linda posted some she thought merited being on her blog, it was a thrill to get the feedback. Ego? Now my projected audience is different. It is for my family and might not be of interest to others. So why do I write and others don’t? Does it matter? Linda’s blogs are profound. Thoughtful provoking and so well written. Please continue.
Linda, once again you have written a thought-provoking blog!! (Thank you got distracting me from non-matriculated student registration today). I think it is human to want acknowledgement and I agree that the question to ponder is how much is enough. Those of us who tend to need a lot may be better off lowering expectations as they will feel happier focusing on how they feel about what they produced. Of course it feels so good when people acknowledge us for our accomplishments and good deeds. When I have a positive observation, I like to share it (even with total strangers). It makes their day!
I can hear you in your writing. Thats special. Guilt also plays a role in defining enough. My mom had that down. Christmas cookies? Even at 78 she would make 5 to 6 dozen of 10 different cookies … because ya never knew who might want to take a plate home. And honest? I get that totally…and totally am the same way.
Good thoughts Linda!
What a wonderful, thought provoking post. Being unashamed of being petty, I must admit I am deriving all to much pleasure from not hearing from Trump while he remains off social media. I smile thinking of him frustrated and unable to spew that garbage out into the world.
But that’s not the real issue of your essay. It is about internal vs external validation. All of us want and probably to some extent need external validation. But I feel in the end, that isn’t what determines how we feel about ourselves.
Am I proud of what I did, ashamed of it? It really doesn’t matter what others think. Ultimately I think we know what we said and did.
This was a very thoughtful piece, and as always I enjoyed your reflections. But what resonated with me was one sentence: “If you are doing something mostly for the feedback, you can set yourself up to be in endless pursuit of more.” I think this one sentence sums up Trump perfectly.