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You are Enough: A Tiny Manual for Being Your True Self

You Are Enough

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts

When I was in third grade, I loved to hang upside down on the monkey bars on the playground of my all-girls school in Philadelphia.

I would lock my little pale knees over the gray steel rods and then carefully let my hands go to swing upside down, like a pendulum in a pleated skirt.

This meant I had to bravely trust that my normally feeble strength would be sufficient to suspend me.

It was always a victorious feeling when the backs of my knees started to burn. This meant it was time to carefully return to earth on own my terms.

Alix – 1, Gravity – 0!

One day, a clump of dead grass attached itself to the sole of my Stride Rite. As I was flipping off the bars, it dropped into my mouth. I hit the ground gagging and spewing, completely grossed out.

Doubled-over and hacking out the grass was not a little noisy. I made quite the scene; however, it failed to attract the attention of my teachers.

They didn’t rush to my side to see why I was, for all intents and purposes, throwing up.

“Throwing up” was a golden ticket to go home from school and I wanted to cash in.

This is because I spent the first third of my life believing that in order to be validated, something needed to be physically wrong with me.

The only attention I felt worthy of was sympathy. I thought ailments made me interesting.

I was the kid who wanted a sprained ankle so I could get crutches. Do you know what the attention-getting street value of crutches is in kid world? It’s like friggin’ crack!

And a broken leg? Think of the signatures!

I wanted poison ivy so I could have bandages, “to keep from scratching.”

The concerned questions were like gold: “Oh no! Are you okay?”

I wasn’t going to let the fact that I am not allergic to poison ivy stop me from tapping into this potential cache of boo-boo love.

One summer evening with the aid of red and orange magic markers, I drew a mock rash on my arm.

Then I test-drove it with my family, who didn’t buy it. Thankfully, this ridiculous bit never made it out of R&D.

To be clear, I got plenty of positive reinforcement at home. I was supported from dawn ‘til dusk by my loving family, for which I am intensely grateful. But I never felt like it really counted. In my kid’s mind, I reasoned that they had signed on to love me, and were biased.

Plus, I was just one of those souls who required validation from the outside world.

I felt that once I left the confines of my nest, that unless I was limping or retching, I was otherwise invisible. I needed to be a victim of something in order to matter.

That day on the playground when my teachers ignored my blatant—and legitimate!—dead grass upset, I felt even more unseen which I didn’t even think was possible.

Aren’t these paid-professional grown-ups supposed to acknowledge me when I’m in distress?

Since I no doubt possessed a Chicken Little-esque flair for drama, they had probably grown immune to my antics by this juncture.

I would cling to any and all ideas of pain in order to get the symp-attention that I craved.

When I look back at this period in my childhood I just have to laugh at myself. Not only was I highly theatrical, but my level of insecurity was semie-staggering.

Clearly, I did not think I was enough. In fact, it’s taken me the better part of three decades to make peace with the idea that I am not only enough, but that I am exactly who I am supposed to be.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s I had all of these notions, largely fed by TV, pop culture, and my peers, about who I was supposed to be:

The Breck Girl, a Charlie’s Angel, Wonder Woman (but I’d be happy to be Lynda Carter), and a career-bound (not a stay-at-home) Barbie.

As I matured into my teens, I began to shed this billboard perception about life.

My head was turned less by action-hero ladies with perfect hair and more by, well, if I’m being completely honest, cute boys who listened to the “right” music and wore Polo cologne.

Now eager for their approval, I shaped myself into who I thought they wanted me to be: The girl in The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” video.

This only got me so far.

When I graduated from high school, I moved to New York to model for a large agency. This was a dream come true.

Before long, I was trying to figure out who the modeling industry wanted me to be: Edgy? Sexy? Wholesome? Commercial? Editorial? There were so many options and would never be a clear answer.

Having looked at my life from the outside in for so many years was a hard habit to break.

I was like a junkie for other people’s approval, permission, information, and maps.

I thought everyone except me was issued a handbook about life.

They seemed to “get it” while I was constantly scrambling to find my place in their world.

Of course, I was laboring under a massive illusion that I was the only one who felt this way.

Again, I have to look back and laugh.

One day during my early 20s, the universe let me look under the hood and I was let in on a cosmic secret: tons of other people feel like they’re living without a manual. Lots of us are winging it, and being a little lost is how we actually come to find ourselves.

This epiphany was such a relief that I stopped trying to be what I thought others wanted and started getting really good at being me.

I would love to say that this powerful shift happened overnight, but no.

The “just being me” remained a nuanced confidence-building process for a few more years (ten?) until I was able fully step into who I am in the world today.

The wonder of it all—and another cosmic gut-buster—is that the more I align with my whole self, the more the world rushes into to meet me where I am.

I venture that if there actually were a handbook issued at birth, it might go a little like this:

1. You are a miracle. Never forget this fact. Just the science alone is mind blowing.

2. You are unique. No one will ever be as good at being you as you are. Seriously.

3. You are enough. Always. Never doubt this. There is nothing to add, but feel free to expand.

4. There is always more to learn, but that is not failure, it is a gift. It can be fun too.

5. Every obstacle is an opportunity to fall further into the miracle that is you.

6. Commit to being the best version of you every day. Recalibrate definition of “best” as needed.

7. Leave room for others when they fall off the wagon of their own miracle.

8. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive every which way. Forgive him. Forgive her. Forgive you.

9. Compassion is the key to forgiveness. Compassion means you feel the humanity in others.

10.The more you forgive, the more you’ll enjoy being you, because the lighter your load will be.

11. In the end, as in the beginning: You. Are. Amazing.

Photo by Emilian Robert Vicol

Avatar of Alexandra Hope Flood

About Alexandra Hope Flood

Alexandra Hope Flood is a writer, blogger, intuitive coach and consultant. Her sole goal is a soul goal: to live consciously and aid others in their quest to do the same. To read her blog, a flood of hope (+humor) or schedule a phone session, please visit alexandrahopeflood.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Alexandra,

    Splendid! We have it all within. Introspection, silence and continual diligence allows us to see this truth.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  • Patricia

    I find myself trying to be what I think would be most accepted, but I fail to realize that my authentic self is more than enough. To think that I always go through the trouble of trying to impress others, to no avail. I’ve shackled myself to a false persona.This was definitely a wake-up call for a lost college student ^.^ Thanks Alexandra!

  • Louise Watson

    Thank you. After a lousy day, I needed this!

  • Kimberly

    Thank you I needed this in my life right now! I will be 30 soon and I feel everyone knows exactly who they are and I am still trying to figure me out! I drive my self crazy analizing everything I do or say! Plus I need to learn to forgive I hold on to pain way to much!

  • Michael Scott Dembesky

    Funny but I used to tell people, if there was a manual on living, mine must have gone through the washing machine too many times to be able to read it. Your story was awesome, thank you…!! & congrats on your transformation, very powerful. Loved the 11 bits of advice at the end, def. the icing on the cake!!

  • Danny

    thank you for this one ” 4. There is always more to learn, but that is not failure, it is a gift. It can be fun too.” that made my day.

  • Charlie Victoria

    Thanks

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    I enjoyed reading your journey – that need for outside approval is so enduring even when we know that we are enough (it would still be nice if others told us so!). I’m a work in progress on that one.

  • Ash

    Alexandra you write BEAUTIFULLY! Thank you. I am SOOOO sharing this on all my networks.

  • http://risingdaily.com/ CJ Rising

    Thanks for sharing your story! I love the list. I am definitely working on cultivating these attitudes in myself. Another thing I would add is to recognize that everyone has unique gifts to give the world.

  • alia

    amazing!

  • raya

    Do you have any advice for helping a child who I see has an extreme case of being the victim for attention?

  • Burned by a guru

    Alexandra – this is a fantastic set of instructions for life. Thank you.

  • Nikhil

    Thanks for sharing your life experience and the lessons and wisdom.

  • http://www.breakingthehabitofme.com/ Breaking The Habit Of Me

    Hey Alexandra,

    What a brilliant post and such brutally honest self-reflection.

    “I was like a junkie for other people’s approval, permission, information, and maps.” This just jumped out at me. I know I have definitely suffered from this in the past. There are so many people that are living someone else life, their true selves wrapped in a cocoon of fear of rejection. Unfortunately there are too many triggers out their to stimulate this way of living, from the advice of adults to children, teachers, what kids are told they need to do to ‘get on’ in the world and advertising. The underlying message unfortunately is ‘you are not good enough’. ‘You need to be [this] in order to get [that]. It is rare that the points you outlined are contained in the message we tell our children and even other adults, but if we start with kids it wouldn’t be such an epidemic.

  • Sleyths

    How to feel “enough” with yourself when you get NO positive feedback from the world?

  • Harmony

    Nice post. I could totally relate to: “I thought everyone except me was issued a handbook about life.” Was I missing something? I wondered. Recently I have noticed that other people are have their flaws and issues just like me. It was quite a relief!! It’s all about feeling whole, feeling worthy & important, loving myself just as I am and not worrying about what other people think. And forgiveness and compassion is essential; especially for myself!

  • Harmony

    Yes, wouldn’t it be great if we could teach children these vitally important things!!

  • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

    Throughout life we’re constantly being bombarded with information telling us how we should be behaving — especially when we’re teenagers. I remember reading magazines at 15 telling you what men hate and how to behave in a relationship or how to please your boyfriend…it’s pretty shocking when you think about. I totally agree with what you’ve written here — you should always be yourself, no matter what.

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Patricia, thanks so much for sharing and I’m so glad that you found my post helpful. And you’re most welcome! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Thanks so much Ryan! :) And I completely agree we have it all within… so much of growth is about returning to who we truly are, don’t you think?

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Louise, I’m so glad you found it helpful and you are very welcome. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Kimberly, thanks for sharing. I am glad you found my post helpful. Be assured, I’m sure it seems as though those around you have it figured out, but I bet if you did some digging you might find that at least some of them are just trying to figure it out too. Please be patient with yourself. I remember getting ready to turn 30 (almost 15 years ago!) and thinking that I was hitting some kind of finish line, but instead, to my surprise and delight, I was really at the starting line of so many wonderful things. One more word of advice, if you can figure out a way to forgive, it will offer a boundless amount of personal freedom. It’s not always easy, but so worth it. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Sleyths, I’m sorry to hear that you get no positive feedback! That must be very hard. I can tell you, without having met you, that you ARE in every way amazing enough. And since I am part of the world, you can now you can count me as some sincere positive feedback that you have so deservedly received! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Burned,
    Thanks so much and you’re most welcome! Happy to be of service. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Nikhil, You’re most welcome, it is my pleasure, and thank you for your comment. :)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thanks for sharing your story, Alexandra, and your journey from requiring validation to self-validation and being your true self. All of your life lessons resonate and are true wisdom. I know several of your points touch on forgiveness and I believe that’s the most important rule of all in life. If we can practice radical forgiveness (for small things and big) we can continuously allow our gigantic egos to be tamed! Not only does forgiveness allow us to be our true selves but it allows us to self-sabotaging ourselves. Often, the people we hurt most by not forgiving is ourselves. Excellent post!

  • Angela

    What an uplifting and beautiful message. Thank you very much. My first read of this morning and I just happened stumbled upon this article and so glad I have thanks again I feel great.

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Raya,
    As one of those former kinds of kids and as a parent today who knows pretty much every trick in the book from having been one of those kids, I can tell you that it’s important (and challenging) to walk that fine line between validation and compassion for hurting (or perceived to be hurting) kids and calling out the victim consciousness we’re witnessing. When I am in this position, I get very present with the kid (no noise, no distractions) and give them my FULL attention. I listen with intent to their side of the story and I validate them sincerely. Then I help them by talking about the larger meaning of what they’re experiencing e.g. is there a helpful lesson here for them? Is there a silver lining, etc.? What is this here to show you? By getting really into their space with them, it’s possible and probable that the child can begin to see that experiences serve purposes, first and foremost, for our greater good. If a being, especially a kid, can begin to recognize this perspective, you will be giving them a great gift. I am raising my own children this way and they are not only open to it, they now do it almost as second nature. I hope this is helpful. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Thank you, Alia! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Ash, Thank you so much and super thanks for sharing!! I’m so grateful!! :)

  • Ash

    It would be a travesty not to share such great content. The pleasure was all mine! :-)

  • Ash

    Looking forward to buying your book. When is it out? (I published my first article in a fairly major magazine here in Australia – really excited)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Breaking, Thank you so very much! I’m right on board with you regarding the messages we’re bombarded with and raising children in this way — telling them from the git-go that they’re more than enough! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    You’re most welcome, Charlie. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Michael, thanks so much + for sharing your perspective! I love your “manual went through the washing machine line” — too funny. :) See? More proof that at one time or another, most of us are winging it, right?

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Danny, you’re welcome! And thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi CJ, Thanks so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful. I agree 100% that EVERYONE has unique gifts to offer the world — a great and vital point! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Kathy, thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it + I hear you. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Here! Here!

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Harmony, thanks so much for sharing! I’m happy you found it resonant. We really are in this together, except it takes us a while to recognize it sometimes, right? :)

  • LWTBP

    Thanks. You describe it beautifully. But did you have a method of finding your true self? Meditation? Or are these affirmations you found to be helpful?

  • lv2terp

    I love the handbook!!!! :) Thank you for this great post, and wonderful message! :) Thank you for vulnerability, honesty, and sharing your story!!!

  • Caroline Porter

    This is truly wonderful (like all of us!). As someone whose “tastes” have never been in line with what the masses and media perceive are age or gender or time in life appropriate, I have often struggled with this. More than wanting to feel like I “belong” to some world that isn’t in line with what I truly believe in my heart and gut, I want to work on self-acceptance and compassion.
    Day by day…

  • Eva

    I know a lot of being a victim, even until now I love when people feel symphatize. But I know it’s not right, I want to change. But how? I hope you can help :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Angela, thanks so much!! You’re most welcome!! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Vishnu, thank you very much! It was my pleasure. I love your term “radical forgiveness.” That is a great way to put it. It’s like, leave no stone unforgiven. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    :) :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Thanks for asking about my book. It’s still in progress (but closing in on being finished) so I hope to get it published within the coming year. Congratulations on publishing your article! That must be a great feeling. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Eva, not to worry, here is what you can do to shift. First, it’s perfectly normal (and nice) to get sympathy when we’re genuinely hurting. It’s a good thing and one important way in which we are meant to support each other as humans.

    In my experience, the best way that I have found to stop being a victim is by taking full responsibility for whatever it happening in our lives. It may be daunting at first, but once we start, it becomes incredible liberating.

    Then, we stop acting like victims and start being powerful participants in our lives. We will still receive sympathy when it’s called for, but it will more grounded. Does this makes sense? I hope it is helpful. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi lv2terp, Gosh thanks so much + it’s my honor to be able to share with the Tiny B. community. !! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi LWTBP, Why thanks so much!

    My method, which isn’t for everyone, has be a lengthy process of elimination, “OK, I guess I’m not meant to do that,” “All right, this door has suddenly closed, there must be a reason…” etc. It’s literally been decades (I’m turning 45 next week), but there are faster ways. I suggest that the more quickly we can connect with our authentic gifts and start being who we really came here to be and do what we’re here to do — then we’re living our true purpose as our true selves.

    I have studied meditation a little, which was very helpful and I’ve worked with different teachers over the years. I’ve also successfully used affirmations (I love Florence Scovel Shinn’s ‘The Game of Life’ books, she’s the original affirmation master).

    I hope this is helpful. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Clare, I completely agree on all fronts! I remember looking at those same magazines that were so full of superficial mixed messages that it was just plain wacky. Thanks for your comment. :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Thanks for your message Caroline! That’s a wonderful goal! :)

  • LWTBP

    Yes. Thanks for the thoughts. :)

  • Feebie

    Hi Alexandra, thank you so much for sharing. your post made me feel great. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been appreciating myself and the way I am and accepting myself unconditionally until I started liking someone, i started feeling insecure like maybe i am not good enough. I feel so upset at myself for thinking like that :(((

  • Veronica Lopez

    Exceptional article! Currently trying to improve my life, spiritually speaking, and hoping to pass some of this to my 4 year old son, to show him how happy you can be when you are your true self. Thank you so much for sharing! Veronica from Argentina.

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Thanks so much Veronica!! I love that you are imparting your wisdom to your little boy!! Wonderful! Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Alexandra Hope Flood

    Hi Feebie, Thanks so much!!! I’m so glad you found it helpful. :) Don’t be hard on yourself about the creeping insecurities, it’s just a little test. I have found that so often this can be a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ process, and is quite normal. We grow, then get a test, then grow some more, and get another test. Just keep working at accepting and loving your amazing self. You’ll get there and then — finally — stay there!! :)

  • Halcyon Musings

    Beautiful, inspiring, and hilarious! Thank you.

  • Gregy Carter

    Excellent!!!!, This has definitely helped my life a lot. Plz just keep doing what your doing in the universe!!

  • Mark

    As I was reading this I thought to myself “wow, this is me.” I feel like I’m constantly trying to imitate someone I like or who I think other people like. I feel like I change personalities like I change my clothes. I never once felt authentic and true. The more layers I throw on the less I feel I know who I am. This is validation for me. You spoke it into the atmosphere. You are right about none of us being alone in this feeling. Thank you for this.

  • Chris

    Thank you so much for this post! I am currently 24 and always fear i have given people a false perception of myself, and now i’ve set up all these expectations of myself that are not entirely true. meanwhile, i’m slowly becoming more comfortable with who i am. however, i feel stuck and feel like i’m having to backtrack. i think also, my mental health issues (ADHD, anxiety, and depression) have largely been conflicted with what “mainstream” society values, and what i value/can handle, and it’s been hard to truly pinpoint what my way of doing things is and how to be comfortable with my perceptions, even if they may be different than what other people feel.

  • Searching

    Thank you Alexandra for your honest words. I am a college student currently in the process of trying to meet myself for the first time..I’m sure you understand what I mean.. :)