The first six weeks of my life are a big blank. All I know is that I lived in an orphanage in Seoul, Korea until I came to the United States just after my first birthday. When my mother told this story, she always said that I was abandoned at a police station because it was the safest place for me. Recently, however, she shared with me that this is a fiction. A police officer found me on the street or in alley or something. Apparently, they still use the term "foundling" on adoption papers.
As you can imagine, being an adoptee can lead to a whole host of insecurities. Stories of my abandonment -- while I appreciate that they were never hidden from me -- are probably the source from which I began to craft the image I have of myself in the world: not good enough. Numerous experiences since my birth have further demonstrated just how not good enough I am. So to compensate, I work harder. I read more. I study longer. I do the things that I think will mask my lack of good enough-ness.
The end result is that I've gotten to place where it seems like I am finally good enough: a great marriage, a beautiful (seriously, folks, BEAUTIFUL) daughter, a career that is fulfilling, and an artistic outlet that gets my creative junk in motion.
And somehow, it's still not good enough. No matter what changes I make, what status I acquire, the dissatisfaction remains. The need to be more is always there. The need to prove -- to whom, I'm not entirely sure -- that I'm good enough never seems to go away.
Well, I guess this is how life is, isn't it? You learn to cope and to move beyond and to just live with your idiosyncrasies.
Recently, during a check-in with my coach -- I believe that all coaches should have their own coaches as a matter of professional integrity -- she said something that I didn't know to response to: She reflected that I was equating my value with being heard. Hrm... I accepted it as something she noticed and as something I should consider, but it didn't seem quite right. I had never distinguished being heard as one of my "things." Yes, I like to write and to perform, but since I'm not famous, I was unconvinced that her reflection was anything substantial. I got off the phone and didn't think about it further.
Later that night as I was drifting off to sleep, I let my mind wander through the chasms of thought, memory, and imagination, and...
Being heard... is the difference between life and death...?
What?! What does that mean? And my brain dug deeper.
My birthday is in December. If I was abandoned at about six weeks old, it would have been mid-February. Even if I don't know any of the details about my origins, I am pretty certain that it was cold. The average temperature in Korea at that time of year is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. When babies need something, they cry. As an infant left alone, outside, in winter -- for a long period of time -- what was I doing?
Being heard is the difference between life and death.
If I'm not heard now, I won't die. Will I? What happens when my needs aren't met now? How does it make me feel? What does it make me do? How then do I relate to others?
At this point, I did what most people do when faced with such a revelation: I curled up into a fetal ball and cried. The reality that I'd accepted, and had bought into for decades, isn't. I made it real with all the "enough-ing" I've done in my life. Not only did I make it real, I nourished and nurtured it, until it had grown so large it was all I could see.
It's not to say that I haven't grown, and it's not to say that I haven't learned new things. I have, and that's the seductive part of my perspective, isn't it? I have achieved a great deal and have been rewarded for the behaviors that have grown out of this way of interpreting the world. That's the crux of it, isn't it? How can I discard something that has helped me so much?
I then realized that if real change is going to happen -- if I want real happiness and fulfillment in my life -- I must let go of this familiar, known, comfortable way of being. I must let go of all the things I "know" I can and cannot do. I must choose to step into the impossible and believe that it doesn't matter whether or not I am enough.
The Talmud says: "We do not see the world the way it is. We see the world the way we are." How do you see your life? How is it affecting who you are and what you're doing?
I invite you to consider the possibilities.
For more by Christine Sachs, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.