anna brones

writer + artist + activist

You Are Enough

with 3 comments

When I was 16, I was offered a scholarship to go on a 21-day Outward Bound course in the High Sierras. While I had spent ample time outdoors, I had never been mountaineering before, and never on a backpacking trip that long. I would go and spend three weeks navigating the backcountry with strangers, all of us in that awkward teenage stage where we were already trying to navigate our own lives, trying to find our way across the invisible map that is life.

I don’t remember packing for the trip (I’m certain there was a list) and I don’t remember the flight down to Fresno, where we all met before hopping into vans and heading to base camp. I don’t even remember what base camp looked like. All I remember was that feeling in the pit of my stomach as I lay in my sleeping bag trying to fall asleep.

It was that slightly warm, slightly spiky feeling, one could call it “butterflies,” but that sounds too light, too friendly, too sweet. This is the kind of feeling that’s uncomfortable and off-putting, you might want to throw up, but you’re not really sure. You’re uncomfortable certainly, but not enough to indicate the kind of fear that’s intense enough to make you stop what you’re doing. And so you stick it out.

This is a feeling that I have experienced throughout my life, and still do. It’s a feeling of fear and trepidation, it’s a feeling of standing on the edge of a precipice and diving into the unknown, it’s a feeling of anxiety, it’s a feel of nervousness, it’s a feeling of not being good enough, or not being equipped enough to take on the task at hand. It’s a feeling that says, “I’m out of my comfort zone and I’m not so sure I want to be here right now.” Age has taught me that this is a feeling to be endured, because there’s usually good stuff on the other side.

This week I taught an outdoor cooking class. I spent most of the class being upbeat and effusive, throwing ingredients together without measuring them, spewing off ideas for variations that one could try, and generally trying to get the class to be excited about making food outdoors. Internally, there was a different scene taking place. “You’re not outdoorsy enough to be teaching this class. When did you last go backpacking? Three years ago? What do you know about packing light? You only go bike touring, that’s not outdoorsy enough. When was the last time you even cooked a meal outside? Two weeks ago when you went on a bike camping? Yeah, but that was an easy overnight that’s very close to home. What’s adventurous about that?”

I am not the only one to deal with that voice. We all have it. We all experience impostor syndrome on some level. The feeling that we are not truly qualified to be doing the thing that we are doing.

A few people bought cookbooks, and everyone thanked me for the class. Internally I told myself that I should probably figure out a way to go camping in the next five days, because otherwise, how could I prove that I was outdoorsy enough?

I got in the car to drive home. I had downloaded the latest episode of the podcast She Explores, hosted by my friend Gale Straub. I figured a friendly voice would make it feel like we were driving together, even if I was solo. I pressed play on the episode, titled “Something New.”

I knew that Gale had been on a trip to Colorado recently. We had talked about the fact that she was going on a trip to go do a bunch of things she wasn’t used to doing – downhill mountain biking, trail running at altitude, etc. Just a few minutes in, Gale was explaining how in producing a weekly podcast about stories of women in the outdoors, she struggles with how much time she spends indoors to make that happen. Sometimes she feels like a fraud. “Do you ever feel like you’re not outdoorsy enough?” she asked in an Instagram story. An overwhelming amount of people responded yes. People who love the outdoors, spent time in the outdoors, and yet so many of whom don’t feel “outdoorsy enough.”

It felt good to be reminded that I wasn’t alone. But also: why are so many of us struggling with this fear and feeling of inadequacy?

I have spent the last year thinking a lot about the word “enough.” Today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of my book Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way. The world lagom roughly translates to “not too little, not too much, just enough.” The book is all about finding that “just enough” space, whether it’s with work, personal life, creativity, food, etc.

But even after writing a book about “just enough,” I struggle constantly with finding that balance for myself. It’s easy to talk and write about, it’s harder to put into practice. There’s the inner critic that kicks in regularly, there’s fear and doubt, and there’s that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’m standing on that precipice about to jump off and I have no idea where I’m going.

Do you feel that way?

We all do.

We all experience fear, we all experience doubt, and we are all navigating those waters, trying to stay afloat and trying to move forward.

The only time that inner critic stops? It won’t disappear, but we can take the keys from it and make it sit in the back seat. We can take charge We do so by showing up. We focus on the present. We acknowledge the fear but dive in anyway. We put one foot in front of the other. We do the best that we can with the tools that are available to us. We keep moving forward.

Uncertainty is part of the human experience, but it doesn’t have to stop us.

“You Are Enough” papercut, digital print, Anna Brones

Since it’s the middle of summer, I have been trying to go swimming regularly. I am lucky to rent a house that has beach access, and at the end of every day, I walk down and throw myself in the cold salty water. I swim out to the middle of the bay. I turn over so that I can float on my back. My head sinks down into the water so that my ears are covered, and all I can hear are the echoing depths of the underwater world around me. I close my eyes and float.

This has become an exercise in focus and presence. At first I have to calm my breathing, heavier from the physical effort of swimming. Then I have to focus on my heartbeat, always going a little faster because of the fear of some creature lurking in the water below. I have to mindfully quiet that fear. I try to be as still as I possibly can, both physically and mentally.

Time passes, and eventually it’s hard to determine where I am. What part of me is out of the water and what part is under becomes indecipherable.

In this moment, the inner critic is gone. The voice is quiet and my mind settles. It is me, the water and the world around me. It is a silent solitude. In that moment, there is no “I should.” There is only “I am.”

I am enough.

You might not get there through a swim. It might take a walk. It might take reading a poem. It might take five minutes of focused breathing. It might take jumping jacks. It might take scribbling on a piece of paper. Whatever it is, do the thing that let’s you acknowledge the fear and then release it. Be kind to yourself. Master the doubt, and find the flow state.

Because:

You are courageous enough.

You are smart enough.

You are outdoorsy enough.

You are creative enough.

You are strong enough.

You are compassionate enough.

You are enough to challenge yourself.

You are enough to learn from the new situation.

You are enough to take a leap.

You are enough to survive.

You are enough.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 27, 2018 at 11:46

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for powering thru on all that you do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so well and thanks for being in all of our lives.

    Claudia

    July 27, 2018 at 16:30

  2. I read aloud this timely piece in our L&D room, our hopefully not soon-to-be-born daughter’s heart beat filling the space during a trace. Quite fitting for both her mother and I as we take stock on this entirely new type of adventure where at least as new parents, we are expected to know little. And even so, we believe we will do all that we can. Thank you, Anna.

    bsherwoo

    July 27, 2018 at 17:39

  3. […] Fear is part of our best work. Remember that. […]


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