You are not enough

What capitalist society ingrains in us is highly toxic

This question is keeping me up at night: when am I enough?

With that, I mean: As a human being, am I good enough as I am right now? Am I doing enough useful things? Am I productive enough?

What is the baseline of this concept? Is there even one? You wouldn’t expect the same from someone who is chronically ill compared to someone who is physically healthy. And at some point, people are allowed to stop working. We call that retirement. Then, finally, you are allowed to just exist without much pressure to perform (1).

But, think about it. There are quite some expectations that we place on life, our own life and that of other human beings.

We expect ✨things✨ from most people in a certain age group. You are expected to work and be productive (2). You’re not enough when you just lounge around, doing jack all.

What if you don’t do that? Or only do part of it? Are you enough?

I have a friend that is about my age (nearing 40, ouch) and he still lives with his father. He took a long time to finish his university degree (12 years, to be exact) and that was years ago. He still doesn’t have an “adult job”. Is he enough?

Everybody judges him. He “should do this or that”, he “should have had a normal job already”, he “should have left home already”. He’s also a great friend to me. I asked him some time ago if he didn’t like the idea of working, which would be totally logical to me. He claimed that this wasn’t the issue. To me, he is enough. But to society, he probably is not.

Think about the unspoken expectations that we place on ourselves and others. Chances are, you are highly influenced by them.

At the moment, I also don’t have a traditional adult job. Compared to you, I probably have a boatload of free time. I work, but most of it is unpaid. If I had to guess, I probably work around 20–25 hours per week. This means I can spend a lot of time on my hobbies or just dicking around (3).

Am I enough?

I am brainwashed enough by capitalist society to fear that I am, in fact, not enough. I feel a certain pressure to do more, to be more productive, to work more hours, to earn my keep. Otherwise, I am not worthy. Where is this pressure coming from?

selective focus photo of gray tabby cat

I wish I was a cat. Cats don’t need to do jack shit. They don’t need to validate their existence. They know they are worthy and humans are peasants. Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

I’m inclined to say that it’s coming from within, as I like to blame myself (is that a fetish or a hobby, who knows?!). But I don’t think that is entirely true, it’s not only me putting on the pressure.

I don’t know if this was entirely normal, but as a kid I was often told that what I did, or who I was, wasn’t enough. My mother was quite strict, and she had a strong vision of what/who I should be (as a girl). Naturally, this impacted me. Therapy was had at a later point in life, no worries.

Striving to be good enough for my mother served as a carrot and a stick type of motivation for a long time, until I decided that enough was enough. Puberty was good for something, aye! I rebelled and chose my own path. For a long enough time, my path and the normal path that society wants you to walk (get a degree, work a “normal” job) were aligned.

Superficially, I did well enough on this path. I was a good civilian, I paid my taxes, I bought a house and went on vacations. Inside, I was like: if this is what society wants me to do until I retire, I don’t fucking want it. Goddamn, this life was so boring to me. It felt like being in a prison.

It felt like only 25% of my time was actually mine, the rest was spent in service of….money. Do the math. You sleep 8 hours a night (if you sleep less: are you crazy?), you have to get ready for work, you have to travel to work, do the actual work, travel back, make dinner and then, if you’re lucky, you have a couple of hours to do what you actually want, if you even have energy left for whatever it is you actually want to do.

Feels like a scam, bro (4).

But, if you don’t do this, if you choose an alternative path, are you enough? Not for capitalist society! It’s a real mindfuck, because I realize that capitalist thinking (productivity/working as holy grail, making lots of money as the main result, buying expensive houses and/or cars and vacations as status symbol) was the default mode I employed to judge whether my life was “worthy”.

Hell, you can even solicit applause on LinkedIn if you post that you take regular time off work, to recharge or whatever (be sure to post a picture of you in nature with it). But, it’s always with the goal to come back as a more productive and “whole” person in the service of your job!

Let go of this whole charade, and what are you? How do you judge yourself? Are you enough? Am I enough?

I’m coming up strangely empty, yet I am determined to find an alternative mode of thinking about myself.

Just existing should be good enough, as a baseline.

Who knows, soon enough many of us might be confronted to face this question for real, if AI is advanced enough to make many people lose their jobs. Better pray for UBI (5), baby!

1 Except for free babysitting services for your grandkids, I guess?

2 I don’t mean paid work exclusively, raising children or caring for sick family members is also a lot of work.

3 Until my savings run out 🙃

4 A lot of it is a perpetuum mobile. You earn more money, you buy more crap you don’t need, you buy a bigger house, so your upkeep goes up, and you need more money. Ad infinitum. You are a slave to money.

5 Universal Basic Income

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