What Does Enough Feel Like?

The supports are there to use

My two favorite yoga instructors lead very different-feeling classes at different studios, but they have one thing in common: they always encourage me to play, let go, and meet myself on the mat just as I am. This week’s practice came with the message “If that is enough, stay there…,” and I felt empowered, maybe in a different way than I have before, to decide for myself what “enough” was.

It’s funny to look back at the evolution of my yoga practice. Those who know me know that I am not a competitive person. Competitions actually drive me bonkers–extrinsic motivation is a motivation killer for me and competitions often foster a win-at-all-costs mental model–but I often find myself aware of my own “performance” and with a desire to “do better” than I did the last time. This message gets a little bit lost in translation when it comes to physical activity, especially yoga, because what does it mean to “do better” when the starting place is different every time?

Past-Jess saw each yoga class as a challenge: be limber and strong enough so that I didn’t need the blocks. And each practice, I just kept falling short of this elusive state. The message I had internalized was “if you use the supports, you’re not good enough,” which pushed me to dump myself into a posture I wasn’t ready for (sometimes) and completely robbed me of connection to myself (most of the time).

This week’s practice reminded me that my goal should never have been “deepest” or “without blocks;” I needed to be really in-tune with what was happening in my body to be able to say, “There. That’s enough. This feels like where I need to be.”

The supports–blocks, a bolster–are what allowed me to stay right where I needed to be.

In yoga, as in life, I needed to redefine success.

Although I can see how “better than yesterday” might seem innocuous on its surface, comparison, even to myself, perpetuates a shame cycle. Where I might feel excited at a new running PR today, it rapidly shifts to shame and disappointment when I don’t PR tomorrow, or I plateau, or–heaven forbid–I miss my workout altogether. The question I began asking was, “How can I hold space for both things (PR joy + missing a workout) within my definition of success?”

I love the idea of having a window of acceptability when setting goals for myself. There’s a baseline expectation–“enough”–and an aspiration that I’m reaching for. When it comes to physical activity, maybe success just means that I do the thing some number of times each week, and what I aspire to is to build in some way (speed, endurance, reps, distance, etc).

When I reflect on this goal, it’s a lot easier to look at the week objectively, and a lot easier to plan my inputs intentionally. If I met my baseline, where can I celebrate a win/where did I build? If I didn’t meet the baseline goal of “x times/week,” what got in my way and where were the failure points? Usually, this happens because I didn’t properly prepare and/or prioritize. Which leads to my final point…

Schedules are a support, too.

I told myself for the longest time to just “prioritize exercise.” It was somehow a badge of mental fortitude to have exercise so front of mind that I just did it every day without prompting or a plan. Then, when I failed to prioritize exercise, I felt pretty down about it, and that made it even harder to prioritize it the next day.

What was actually happening was that I didn’t have a system in place, and then when I failed to meet my “goal” of “prioritize exercise,” I couldn’t point at a system failure, so I pointed at myself, instead. Unconsciously, I had an expectation of myself that I would suddenly become an entirely new person who didn’t get distracted and who knew exactly which workouts to do and who always had enough water and sleep to function optimally. Of course I wasn’t successful! I didn’t have a system for success. What I had was wishful thinking, unattainable vague goals, and self-judgment.

What do you need?

I was listening to a podcast recently where Beth Kessler talked about the different support needs people have, and it got me thinking about what supports I need to be successful. To feel human in the morning, I, too, rely on coffee to jumpstart my brain. To feel grounded, I rely on my favorite PQ Reps to bring me back into my body. To feel connected, I need daily conversation with the people I love most. To meet my nutrition macros, I need to track what I eat and be intentional with my choices. To prioritize exercise, I need to have it planned and scheduled, AND I need to remind myself that there are very very few things that will be more important than those 30-60 minutes to myself.

While this post is about my relationship with physical fitness, that’s not all it is. It’s about peering inward to find what “enough” feels like and which narratives have been internalized (but are maybe no longer useful, if they ever were.) Maybe how this shows up for you is different–the tidiness of your home, the behavior of your children, the composition of your weekly meals, the way you lead your team, the way you manage your time and/or finances–but the underlying structure (unspoken expectation + inadequate system support) might follow a similar pattern.

So now I ask you–where do you feel that pull in your life of “not enough,” (or maybe “never enough”), and where is there an opportunity to peer inward to find what “enough” feels like? If you’re not sure where to start, I have just the tool to help. Head over here and use code MAMA to snag it for less than $5.

Be well and stay safe.

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