These are the words I recited in a recent M&S film for the charity Breast Cancer Now.
The casting of the film began back in June, in London’s Hatton Gardens. I was asked to recite some lines, and then to chat about my cancer journey. I was asked the question: how has cancer changed you? I hadn’t been ready for it and it threw me a bit. After a moment I replied: ‘I have realised I am enough’ and promptly burst into tears! Then the others shed tears, I think because it is real for so many of us. We don’t feel ‘enough’.
I remember thinking as I left: if I get this gig, it’ll be a miracle. After effectively crying in an interview and making everyone else cry too… not cool!
But I did get the call. I did get the part and I was able to share my feelings. It has given me pause to understand just why we feel this way…
We live in a culture where criticism outweighs praise exponentially. Where fixation on and searching out what is not going right or what is imperfect, is rife. I think we feel afraid to be proud in case we get hounded for being vain or a show off, or in case bad karma comes and bites us on the bottom! We have these habits, habits that bond us, especially women, that are found in the foothills of self-doubt and self-criticism. What better way to connect with a total stranger than laughing at our insecurities…? And we do this thing, this trying to fix our faults while our talents lie around watching daytime telly, waiting for some attention.
I think we feel we are protecting ourselves if we find the imperfections in ourselves first, before anyone else can. I grew up in society believing that there was one good type of person and I was not it – must try harder. We have these images EVERYWHERE that are beyond perfect. They’re not real but we don’t filter them for their reality, in fact such is the bombardment we often don’t filter them at all. We exist with them, absorbing their perfect, false messages.
Is it too much of a generalisation that not being ‘enough’ underpins depression? I work using holistic therapies and the level of my clients who now have auto-immune disorders or are on medication is staggering. It wasn’t like this when I started fifteen years ago. I wonder if the advent of 24/7 tech means that people are effectively short-circuiting with the pressure of not being enough? Me included, I had cancer, and while I don’t have the credentials to say why I got it at thirty-three, I know it also coincided with much un-enough-ness.
But what cancer gave me was an opportunity to stop. To get off the merry-go-round of life and ponder… what am I trying to prove? To who? And why? And I started to experiment with feeling enough… for me. What happened was a revelation! I am enough! And it was so freeing!
I read books and blogs and infopics about how to be happy, I watched the documentaries: Embrace and The Illusionists and they opened my eyes to how I feel about my body. I realised that what I was expecting out of me was ludicrous and based on sinister motives of people I don’t even know (hello capitalism, that’s you I’m talking to). I also realised that the parts of me that were unique and valuable were being crushed in the process.
It made me start to question a whole lot of things, like all sorts of images that I see, comments I was making about myself, to my kids, about my kids, to friends, to strangers.
I asked myself: ‘do I like me?’ And the answer was: ‘actually, yes’. I experimented with how it felt to praise myself – pretty good in fact. And I wondered if I would become a self-obsessed, narcissistic megalomaniac…
I don’t think I have, I actually feel more compassion now that I’m not expecting too much out of me or others. I really hope that a sorority amongst women is teetering on the brink of a trend where we gently say, ‘Hey, it’s not ok to diss yourself like that anymore’.
I questioned relationships, opinions, values and beliefs that I’d held for a long time. I’m not saying it was easy; that stuff was actually quite scary. And the work goes on. The experience of the M&S campaign has been wonderful but there are voices in me that I have had to regularly check, in order to enjoy it. To feel worthy of all the positivity that has resulted. But work at it I do and it is totally worth it… to feel enough.