How a difficult breakup helped me finally realize that “I’m enough”
It was around 10 p.m. in the evening and I was sitting in the back of my dad’s car with my then fiancé. My parents were driving us back home to our Brooklyn apartment after throwing a dinner celebration for my fiancé who had just been offered a new job. They had even opened a new savings account to help us put money aside for our wedding. But something didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to hold my fiancé’s hand on the car ride home. I didn’t even want to look at him. There was a piercing feeling in my stomach that told me, this was the night I had to leave him.
We had been having issues for months now. These were problems we always had that intensified after the engagement. But the bigger issue was how he made me feel after every single argument, like I wasn’t enough. That evening, I looked him in the face with tears filling my eyes and asked him: “We’ve been together for eight years now. Do you still love me? Do you really want to marry me?” He was silent for a while, then looked me dead in the face and said, “I do love you. But I’m not in love. It’s not enough.” I ended our relationship that same night and two weeks later I packed my stuff and temporarily moved back in with my parents. It was the fall of 2014.
My life only improved from then on. It was like the universe’s way of telling me this man wasn’t good for me. He was holding me back from my true potential and my true purpose. I hired a life coach to get my life back in order and a month later an amazing career opportunity fell on my lap.
I landed a job working as one of the founders and editors of a cool and innovative website targeting millennial women. It was in many ways a dream job. At around this time I was also seeing a new man and having the time of my life. I was over my ex (for the most part anyway) but what I didn’t realize was that those words “not enough” had stayed with me. They had engraved themselves deep down inside my core and they came up every single time something didn’t turn out the way I had planned.
After six month seeing this new guy, I had decided to remain just friends. It was a clean and mutual split. I wanted more and he wasn’t ready to commit. It was simple really. But the words “not enough” would replay in my head over and over. Why didn’t this progress I thought to myself? I was quicker to look for fault in myself than to accept that him and I just didn’t want the same things. It was a painful experience that hit me harder than I had ever anticipated.
Then 2016 came with it’s fair share of obstacles: health challenges, professional challenges, and more romantic challenges.
The more I experienced not feeling enough in my personal life, the more it would slip into my professional life. I felt rejected and so therefore I needed reassurance. I put my ALL into my work; into my writing but it didn’t matter how well a piece performed or how much praise an editor gave me, in my mind it wasn’t good enough, because I wasn’t good enough. It needed to be better. It needed to be perfect. I needed to be perfect.
All this pressure I was placing on myself was now taking a toll on my health. Within the first few months of 2016 I had developed chronic IBS, a degree of insomnia and eventually periods of anxiety. My gastroenterologist believed that my new health issues were all a result of being overly stressed. He told me to relax and take things easy. I didn’t listen.
A few months later I found myself dating a really sweet real estate agent. The kind of guy that holds your hand on the first date, texts you all day, and holds you in bed throughout the entire night, never letting go. He was nice and I liked him but I quickly realized that we just weren’t compatible. We eventually ended things amicably. Even though saying goodbye to that relationship wasn’t a big deal, the way I felt about myself afterwards was. Not feeling like I was enough was becoming a recurrent theme, again. I couldn’t understand why these relationships weren’t working out. Was it me? The more I thought about it, the worst I felt. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough, maybe I wasn’t beautiful enough, maybe I wasn’t funny enough -- maybe I really just wasn’t enough. I couldn’t get the words my ex-fiancé said to me out of my head.
I broke down later that summer, in my mother’s arms to be exact. I cried and told her how I felt like I was originally on this very clear track and somehow got lost along the way. I had convinced myself that because my dumb ex-fiancé didn’t love me, that I not only had to earn other’s love, but I had to prove to myself that I was loveable. I did this by basically working my ass off, obsessing over my career, and attempting to be perfect at everything I did. But I didn’t want to be perfect and I no longer wanted to depend on anyone’s reassurance. I just wanted to love and accept me.
A month later I rehired my life coach. It was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But this time we weren’t just working towards goals, we were doing the most important work a person could do: deep soul work. It was working with her that allowed me to open my eyes and really see myself for who I am, a phenomenal woman, like she likes to call me. A phenomenal woman with a purpose. But it wasn’t until I fought off the deep-rooted fears of “not being enough” that I was able to come to that realization.
“The easiest way to identify someone who thinks they are not enough is by looking at how hard they are trying to be everything,” my life coach, Kamari Chelsea told me. “In the beginning Jo, you did what a lot of women are doing, living busy over-extended, disjointed lives.”
Over-extending myself and trying to perfect everything was my way of proving to myself that I was in fact enough. But it was that same constant over-extension that caught up with me and forced me to dig deeper.
“If we don’t tackle the phenomenon of “not being enough,” we can tragically waste our entire lives, living for an image instead of living for a purpose,” Chelsea says. So much time and energy gets devoted to the wrong things -- to proving ourselves -- that we never seem to have time to figure out our true purpose or achieve any goals in life. It’s the reason why so many of us struggle to get important, meaningful things done and then wake up at 45 wondering, ‘What happened?’”
“Individuals who see themselves as enough do not spend time feeling bad or blaming themselves when they fall down,” says ICF coach, mental trainer, public speaker, and my good friend, Tommy Dvdc. “They brush the dirt off and try another approach, because they know that if one way doesn’t work, they try another. It also makes them more creative, persistent, and most importantly, open to learning from their mistakes.”
I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’ve forgiven myself, and I’ve accepted that I do not need to be perfect to be enough. I can now look at my “summer breakdown” through kinder, gentler, and non-judgemental eyes. In fact, it wasn’t a breakdown. It was more like what author and researcher professor, Brené Brown would call, “a spiritual awakening.”
I now recognize the value that I bring to this world. Regardless of where I am in life, it doesn’t make me any less worthy of love, happiness, and belonging.
Written by Johanna Ferreira
Johanna Ferreira is a multimedia content creator, lifestyle expert and writer. Born and raised in queens, she now resides in Brooklyn with her college best friend. Currently working as a staff writer (who specializes in all things lifestyle) for Mamaslatinas.com, she's interned at magazines like Self, Latina, and InStyle and previously worked as the beauty and fashion writer for Mamaslatinas.com and was one of the founders and associate editors at Vivala.com.