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Not Being Enough is a Killjoy

Jill Castle looking into the African sunset

I’ve been on the hunt for peace and joy for a long time. In fact, in 2011, when I lived in Nashville, and I was at the height of my private practice days, I started to feel unsettled and discontent.

I hired a business coach. I had started to write my book Fearless Feeding, was writing for online outlets, and traveling quite a bit for speaking engagements, plus managing 20+ hours a week of private clients.

I found myself constantly juggling my work life with my four kids, their school schedule, their after-school activities, and our family life, not to mention my relationship with my husband.

I never felt like I was doing enough.

I wasn’t volunteering in school enough. I wasn’t marketing my business enough. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t entertaining and socializing with friends enough.

I wasn’t enough.

This sense of not being enough has followed me throughout my motherhood and my career. And while it has pushed me to go further than I ever dreamed I could, both personally and professionally, it has also been a source of nagging guilt.

Not being enough was a killjoy.

I thought the answer to this feeling was to be smarter about the way I ran my business.

The answer was to do more, because obviously, I wasn’t doing enough.

I wasn’t efficient enough, smart enough, organized enough, or moving forward in my career fast enough. I wasn’t dedicated to my kids or their school and activities enough. I wasn’t sacrificing enough– my time, my talents, my self.

The Quest for Peace and Joy

I was, and wasn’t, the issue.

I was the issue because I was getting in the way—in other words, I was the obstacle in finding my peace and joy. Why? I believed that if I just did more– worked harder, sacrificed myself, and kept pushing– I would find it.

I would find that age-old, elusive dream of contentedness and happiness.

For me, peace and joy means having the time to enjoy the moments of every day. Feeling relaxed, not in a rush to fit in exercise, meet work deadlines, feed the family, get to school for the pickup on time, attend my kid’s events without stress or thoughts that I was cutting out something important (dinner!).

Rush, rush, rush. Never, ever feeling relaxed or peaceful.

Joyful? Yes, I have felt that. But there are times when I have had to look hard for the joy. The joy has often been clouded by trying to keep up. Get ahead. Push for the next great “thing”—the next level of my professional career.

It’s easy to lose sight of joy and peace when there’s so much turmoil, so many demands, and your brain is jumping ahead into the future all the time.

I Changed My Perspective

When my oldest daughter left for college this year, my perspective changed. I recognized that my time living with a growing family was short. This time was going to be up, quickly.

I didn’t want to get up in the morning and write my a** off any longer. I didn’t want to load my schedule with deadlines and contract obligations. I didn’t want to be tied to social media every waking moment. What I did want was to get up and sit at the counter with my coffee (in peace) until my kids came down for breakfast.

I just wanted to sit there, watch, and be with them. Morning and night—and whenever I could.

Quietly. Peacefully.

I didn’t want to skip out on their events because of an appointment, or a call. In fact I didn’t want to have a call at all when they were doing and experiencing something that I wanted to witness.

I recognize at this moment in time, there is nothing more pressing or important than this family of mine.

Nothing more important than my sense of peace and joy.

Once this was crystal clear, ironically, an enormous sense of peace came over me, and has remained.

The Balancing Act

One of the recurring questions I have received since returning to the workforce in 2009 is, “How do you balance it all?”

Sometimes that question would make me cry on the inside, and certainly made my gut lurch. Clearly, the world wondered how I was doing it all—working and raising a family. Truthfully, I often felt that I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Not only did I feel I wasn’t enough, I was keenly aware of the sacrifices I was making, some of which were in conflict with my values. 

I couldn’t say I’ve been “balanced,” but I have worked hard at “balancing” everything.

All that effort to “balance” my life squelched some of the peace and joy I could have felt. 

How many balls can a juggler juggle anyway?! There will always be a limit and a sacrifice that comes with it.

The Get-Ahead Trap

The rat race is real, folks. I’ve learned that I don’t love the push to get ahead. Funny, I get the sense that a lot of people feel this way but are afraid to step away from this trap. I’ve been drawn into this vortex before, and I know it’s counter-productive to my peace and joy (and creativity, productivity, and on and on).

I know it’s the root of feeling like I’m not enough.

Chasing balance, peace and joy sent me down a path that led me to believe I was not enough. That I had to do more, and had to work hard to create what was dangling just outside my reach: balance, peace and joy.

The irony is this: pursuing a “balance” didn’t necessarily create peace and joy—it often created chaos, missed opportunities, stress and self-doubt.

Balance is a necessity. But, my peace and joy has been found in knowing that I am enough, in doing what I love (just the right amount) and loving what I do, and in surrounding myself with the things that matter most (and sorry, Facebook, it’s not how many likes you gave me today).

Where do you find your peace and joy?

P.S. This is not a pity party–rather, my wisdom– years in the making, which I hope might help you find your peace and joy if you are looking for it. 

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  1. Jill, thanks for sharing. I had this very conversation with a coworker yesterday. It’s refreshing to know others (especially in this profession) have felt the same way I do. I am still early in my parenthood journey, but I appreciate your reminder to keep things in perspective.

    1. You bet–I think it’s natural to go through these phases in life where mentally you want to be so much more than you are able to be at the time! Hang in there…;)

  2. Jill, I’m with you momma! I lost my 1st born, “my girl” to college this year as well and like your daughter, she is amazing in every way a female can and should be and I am so very proud. Back at home, I can and will continue to struggle with work life balance but sense I’m improving with age. Just as I see in you, I am passionate about whatever I do and it’s hard to give anything less rather more! So cheers to 2016 may we continue to balance even when we over extend, not fumble when we juggle and enjoy our one life to it’s fullest cause that’s the way we roll!

    1. Sheryl–
      I love this line: “may we continue to balance even when we over extend, not fumble when we juggle…” –so great!

  3. Jill,
    My mom shared this with me because she knows I’m going through this rat race. Except, I’m only 29. I’m a senior in a dietetics program plus I work full time because I have a mortgage to pay. I’m in the process of applying to graduate programs and internships all over the US and I feel as though everyday is a struggle and time is sailing by. Some day I would like a family, but even then I think, “where and when will I have time?”
    I’m glad there are many others that feel the same; however I feel my rat race won’t end until I’m settled in the professional world and have the time to think about what is most important to me. Thank you.

    1. You definitely have your plate VERY FULL. Hang in there and plug away–once you nail down your profession, things will open up. Your internship should open some doors for you. I feel your pain!

  4. Thank you for writing this Jill. I feel like I saw myself in your story, only 15 years or so earlier. I have a newborn, a two-year-old and a five-year-old and I’m trying to do it all… and even in my sleep deprived state, trying to reach the next level in my career. I think I needed to read this as a reminder to slow down and enjoy these years. It’s hard when you’re in private practice and don’t have a 9-5 job that you can just leave at work… our work is always with us and it’s hard to set boundaries.
    Thank you for your wisdom and wise words!!

    1. What do they say…”Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” Those young years FLY BY and they are some of the BEST! The work will always be here!

  5. Jill, thank you. I recently have been discussing this very topic with a dear friend and fellow working mom. I have a one and two year old, and soon to be another! Life is moving by so fast and I never feel at peace, except for those moments when we are simply playing as a family.

    Family fun. That right there is all of my peace and joy.

    I love work, I love the nutrition field, but I love my family more. Contemplating some major decisions right now and very much appreciate your perspective.

    Merry Christmas, Jill!

    1. Thanks Jessica! I am too!! The New Year will bring changes for me, as well. Keep talking–it helps a lot while you’re going through change. My husband can testify to that! When my kids were young, I semi-retired. Yup, full-time motherhood. No regrets. Yes, I fell behind in my career a bit (9 years worth!)–but I am proof you can come back and catch-up. There are a lot of ways to mold and cultivate a career…for one, I am heading back to private practice (in a very limited way), so that I can connect with families face-to-face and feel traction and experience their successes (and challenges). One thing that has helped me is using a “filter” which helps me decide what I let in and what I sift out. As I get older and my kids get older, the family stuff filters in more and the work stuff filters out more. Funny how that works! Congrats on the blessing of a third child!

  6. Jill, thank you again for being a mentor and a source of inspiration for me. The whole balancing act has been such a struggle for me, especially heightened now that my girls are turning 4 and I see how quickly time is going by at the same time as social media and the work part of my life is becoming harder and harder to keep up with. I certainly feel like nothing I do is enough and some days I just want to turn off the whole world around me except for my kids and me, so I can enjoy them in uninterrupted bliss.

    1. I can totally relate to the turn the world off feeling–I’ve had that feeling many, many times. I think it’s always been hard for working mothers, but since social media has become such a prominent part of the entrepreneurs work life, it really sucks precious time away from the more important things in life, such as family and downtime. SO that leads to needing to be smarter and more efficient, which leads to that feeling of not being good enough. It’s a no-win cycle. I just keep saying to myself that social media will ALWAYS be there–and so will work–but not my kids…

  7. I came upon a pair of tiny toddler socks in the laundry room today, which my girls outgrew long ago. It was yet another reminder of how quickly time passes and we can’t miss a moment. I think I will print this out and put it up in my office as a reminder. Facebook doesn’t hold a candle to face time with my family. Thanks Jill.

  8. I struggle on a daily basis with feeling like I am not doing enough – not enough for my business, for my family, for myself. This has a tendency to take the joy out of living and I do not like it! This has motivated me to spend a bit more time being, and not doing. Wish me luck, and thanks for the inspiration!

    1. You’re welcome! At some point, we each probably have to grapple with “what is enough? or when am I enough?” Professionally, the sky is the limit, but realistically, nobody who has any interests, family, etc can reach the sky…i think you can only do that alone. And in the end, who wants to be alone??!! Not me! For me, as I embark on the empty-nester phase, it is so apparent how quickly my mommy life has gone by! NO regrets, but also no need to push and feel “less than” along the way. Good luck Janice!! I’m here for ya! 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing your story & your wisdom. I can really relate, and it’s helpful to hear the experiences of others who are ahead of me in parenthood…a great reminder that the days are long, but the years are short and we will be most joyful and peaceful if we savor each moment!