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‘Not doing enough’ syndrome: The female affliction of the 21st century


by Edaein OConnell
13th Jan 2020
‘Not doing enough’ syndrome: The female affliction of the 21st century

It’s an affliction that seems to affect every female. It’s called the ‘not doing enough’ syndrome and we need to find the cure… 


It happened while I was sitting on the Dart on my commute home.

I was idly watching the world go by outside while half-listening to a podcast on how to get my ducks in order when I was hit with a realisation. One which felt like Katie Taylor had just given me a belt with her right hook.

I wasn’t doing enough.

In work, in life, in health and in sorrow. I was severely lacking and now the cracks were showing and everyone in the world would finally see me for the farce I am.

Just a week before this moment of enlightenment, I wrote a note on an affirmation tree. The note said: “You are enough”. And as I sat and felt the internalised panic I had come to know as a companion, I realised how much of a hypocrite I was.

The not-enough syndromes

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I began to feel this Rocky Horror Show of doubt, but I do know I am not alone in feeling this way.

It’s as if women are predetermined to catch both the “I’m not doing enough” and the “I’m not good enough” syndromes. From work to home, motherhood to sisterhood, relationships to friendship – we find fault in everything we are and do.

Related: Sophie White is having a low-grade life crisis, and that’s no bad thing

In a recent article for the Sunday Times Style magazine, writer Dolly Alderton finally put into words something I had been feeling for the majority of my life. She spoke of this impending sense of doom that she and her friends constantly feel. It’s as if someone is about to pop out from behind the door and scold you for something.

It’s the feeling that you are about to lose your job even though there is no reason for you to even entertain that idea. It’s thinking you’ll be a bad mother even though you don’t plan on having children for at least 10 years. It’s the feeling that this thing you call ‘life’ is actually an ongoing reality TV punchline, like your very own Truman Show.

Richter scale

But, maybe it’s the world around us?

Women never feel good enough. Whether it’s our bodies, our careers, our friendships or our relationships.

My friends and I spoke at the weekend of how quickly our lives are moving. We’re on the go but that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Being busy is the life equivalent of the Richter scale, showing just how powerful we are and how good we are doing in life. One of my friends pondered the idea and said: “We all just have so much going on all the time —  that’s why we don’t see each other as much anymore. But I just feel like I am still not doing enough“.

The word enough is like poison and for many women it’s our chosen form.

Whether it’s our bodies, our careers, our friendships or our relationships; we still feel inadequte. All around us, there are images and stories of someone better, who is doing more, fulfilling life’s prophecies and making us squander our own abilities in the long run.

Self-doubt

Self-doubt is the killer of joy. It’s one of the easiest manifestations to create and the hardest to shake, and without a doubt has been the cause of many lost opportunities and what if’s. We put off life because of a determining factor. We say “I’ll go for that job when I lose weight” or “I’ll make the move when X and Y fall into place”.

We put our present selves on hold for a future version we have never even met.

Related: How to best use your three-hour commute? Do nothing

I can’t speak for men, but I have a hunch that this feeling of ‘enough’ isn’t as debilitating to them. Women are strong, vivacious creatures but we are oft times the creators of our own tragedy.

This feeling of ‘not enough’ is the 21st-century affliction. Imaginary or real, there are pressures on us now. Are we good enough mothers? Do I spend enough time with my family? Am I neglecting my friends? Has my work become shoddy? Am I the cause of my own ruination?

Love Island

The reality TV phenomenon Love Island has begun its winter edition and over the next few weeks we will be subject to funny meme’s and think pieces looking into the romantic psyche and ego of men and women.

On last year’s show, contestant Amy Hart spoke of how, at age 26, she had never had a boyfriend before. “Boys just don’t like me,” she said. When she was coupled up with Scottish lothario Anton on the first episode, she was worried he had picked her out of politeness and not out of attraction.

At one point in our lives, we’ve lived that feeling but we can’t let the sweltering fever of ‘enough’ take over.

Her lack of confidence in herself was palpable and heartbreaking. She was afraid of being made look like a fool, when in fact, she looked nothing of the sort. And when he showed his true colours, he was the butt of the Twitter jokes.

Being blocked from the outside world, she couldn’t see this. But I know the way she was feeling, we all do. At one point in our lives, we have lived that feeling but we can’t let the sweltering fever of ‘enough’ take over.

Changing thinking

More times than I like to admit, I find myself on the negative side of my own thought process. My thoughts range from being bad at my job to being a bad daughter to being a bad customer in Tesco.

Surely, it can’t be as bad as I think.

We have to begin to change the way we think about ourselves. I am not a shrink, or a life coach, or a book of life-affirming quotes. It’s inextricably hard to change a cycle of thoughts when the negative is much easier to accept than the positive.

Related: How to reach your potential while avoiding burnout

However, for our own health and wellbeing, we do need to take a look at ourselves and assess where we are at. You aren’t ugly, you aren’t a bad mother, you aren’t bad at your job, you aren’t a bad friend – you’re learning just like a human being is supposed to.

We will equally fail as we will succeed. Sometimes bad days outweigh the good but you get up, you try and you hope for the best.

Be kind to yourself. Remember, you are doing enough. You are enough.

It is enough.

Image: Unsplash 


Read more: Unable to ‘switch off’ during the summer holidays? This will help

Read more: ‘I didn’t think I’d ever be able to work again – burnout can destroy your life’

Read more: We could all learn something from Jacinda Ardern’s ‘wellbeing budget’

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