Enough with “Never Enough” {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}


This past week, I sat in the orthodontist’s chair for the last time. The doctor took pliers to the brackets and snapped them off of my teeth one by one.

He had done that to my skepticism, too.

I had come to him a mess after two and a half years in braces at another provider. Teeth that should have curved around instead formed a straight line out across my lip. My bicuspid was so far gone from the arch that its root just about poked through my gums. A periodontist had told me I’d need to try a bone graft and even then may end up having to get it pulled. I’d gone through two unnecessary dental surgeries and rough recoveries with swelling, infection, and dry socket. My mouth was tender and so was my sense of trust.

Then, I kicked myself while I was down. Why did I get the braces at all? My husband had told me he didn’t think I needed them. Why hadn’t I left my bite as it was, dealt with the little bit of crowding and the off-center mid-line, and saved myself all those years of awkward smiles and kisses, saved myself from looking worse than when I started, saved the tooth with the protruding root that would possibly have to be removed?

If there’s one thing the whole fiasco had done, it was to show my perfectionist self the virtue of “good enough.”

My new doctor studied the X-rays and photographs, recorded precise measurements, outlined a plan and handed me tissue after tissue when depression and doubt locked in like the stubborn brackets and wire.

“It’s not going to be perfect…” he told me. I knew there was no way to make my smile completely symmetrical due to the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore, not to mention  the extractions I’d endured before finding my way to his office. He went on, “…but it will be good.”

I’ve long dealt with the “never enough” sickness just like the rest of our culture, so I nodded my head the other day as I came across a quote from Lynne Twist in Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”:

“We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of….Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack….This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life….”

In my saga, my own “never enough” surfaced in my insistence that I get braces when they weren’t really necessary. I’ve seen the “never enough” of other people come out in other ways. I remember not too long after we’d moved into our home, someone asked my husband and I if we had a dream house in mind. “We love where we are,” my husband said with a puzzled look on his face.

Sure, maybe we’d like a little more land or an extra upstairs bedroom or a garage on the side of the house instead of the front. But to focus on what this house doesn’t have would be to look past the gorgeous craftsmanship, the quality fixtures, the ample square footage and the fact that it sits right in the middle of our dream life…a walkable town with easy access to our son’s school, the library, restaurants, shops and all kinds of seasonal festivals. This is dream house enough for us. It’s not only good enough– it’s more than enough.


Then there’s the scene of two authors chatting at a party thrown by a billionaire friend. There, Kurt Vonnegut jabbed his friend Joseph Heller and told him that the host of the party “had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.” I’ve never gotten over how Heller responded: “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

Emotional wholeness eludes until we can say we have enough, we are enough, this is good enough…enough! Ironically, the vulnerability of physical distress or sickness can have a way stripping us down bringing us to that place of enough.

You know what Brené Brown calls the opposite of the “never enough” mentality? She calls it “wholeheartedness.” It has to do with the courage to be imperfect and an openness to life even though it offers no guarantees, like our Take Heart focus these last several weeks, like my orthodontic treatment these last four years.

Right on schedule, visit by visit over the next 18 months, my doctor worked the miracle. He pulled my wayward tooth back into the curve, closed my horrid gap and made my bite line up. My mid-line will always be off and my smile will always sit a bit asymmetrical, but it is good, more than enough.

On de-band day, some brackets held tight, bonded complacent from the four years of drama and trauma. The doctor and my friend, his assistant, rocked them back and forth, chiseled them away, and little by little the chains fell off, braces and perfectionism.

{What experiences have revealed/transformed your own “never enough” attitude?}


Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical challenges illness or emotional struggle. Body and spirit together form our complete nature, designed by God. I hope you’ll take time to read the amazing array of posts from our guest writers this month and let us know what resonates with you and your experience.

12 thoughts on “Enough with “Never Enough” {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}

  1. Love this line: “This is dream house enough for us. It’s not only good enough– it’s more than enough.” It’s how I feel about our house, especially when people also asked us if it was our dream house when we moved in.

    And your smile is gorgeous, as are you.

    • Thank you, friend. It’s so freeing not to be daydreaming about something better all the time…unless we’re talking about Him making all things new, that is. :)

  2. Very pretty smile Darcy!! I loved this post. It’s true and inspiring. You’ve reminded me not to wait to be happy, or motivated when “that magic change” happens. Now is the time. I tell myself I’ll start working on painting when my studio is perfect (new furniture, perfectly organized etc.) Why? I should do it now. Nothing’s stopping me. Body image, weight, fear of failure – All of these are topics in my life that came to mind. Thanks!

    • I write in a very messy office most of the time. I wish it were clean, but I’m glad I’m writing anyway. I remember my mom painting oils and acrylics at our dining room table when I was a kid. Paint whenever you can, it’s good for you, good for your kids to see you’re using your own creativity and not living vicariously through them, and it’s good for art-loving souls like me to see what you come up with. Speaking of…you should check out the recent guest post by Annie Barnett, watercolor artist: http://messageinamasonjar.com/2013/02/21/framing-fragments/

  3. Definitely love and am accepting that enough is enough, and enough (especially in our cushy American lives) is often too much.

    PS, congrats on getting the braces off! Do your teeth feel so smooth?! :)

    • So true. As for the enough being too much…I keep wanting to get rid of things. If I can’t take care of it all, it becomes a burden instead of a blessing. As for my braces, the biggest difference is in not having to rearrange my lips to go over my braces after I smile. And it feels a lot more natural kissing my husband. :) That was a long time to feel awkward.

  4. Darcy, I’ve spent the last two days in an African hospital. It does seem that it’s never enough here. Seriously. Sometimes I just want to throw-up. And then I can come back to my home, where it is always enough. Because truly, what do we lack that we need? Other than the physical strength I need, I can’t think of a thing. And even that, God provides enough. Maybe not all that I want, but I must trust, all that I need. Gratefulness. I just read Ann Voskamp stating that Adam and Eve feel into sin because they were not grateful for what they had. Such a journey, isn’t it? But it’s worth it. I know it was a hard 4 years (and I never noticed your teeth looking unattractive like you surely did. you were always beautiful to me), but surely your gratefulness grew toward God as you struggled along the journey. I rejoice with you. You look beautiful. (duh.) And I wish you were here with me today. It is so very hard to serve among the impoverished. I often want a friend to to it with me. If you decide your house isn’t quite right, I think your husband could work remote from here. :) Karibu Tanzania, rafiki.

    • My gratefulness grew most certainly as God led me to a doc who was prepared to deal with the complexities of my case. So I don’t think it’s perfectionism to ask for proper medical care, all the while realizing He is ultimate provider and Great Physician. I wrote somewhere recently that God uses both our perseverance and His divine serendipity to get us where He wants us to be for our best and for our growth. I love what Ann Voskamp brought out from the Eden scene. One of my favorite scenes in the fictional Perelandra by C.S. Lewis alludes to the same thing, that if we go looking for the fruit we want and He gives another, we can make His gift taste insipid by clinging to the idea of the first. I will have to at least visit and serve alongside you one of these days! I think of you and pray for you often as you serve in the midst of your own health challenges. P.S. Did you change medicines?

  5. We read Daring Greatly in our book club this fall, and I’ve been struck by some of Micha Boyett’s posts on the topic of Enough this year. (Do you know Micha? She’s one of my favorite writers. I think you’d enjoy her writing.) This post really resonates, and I can feel myself swinging between the desire for perfection and the frustration with my lack of contentment. I think whole-heartedness and gratitude are such a huge part of this, and very much linked. This was good, Darcy, thank you.

    • Thanks for the tip! I know I’ve come across her Mama: Monk blog at different points, but haven’t visited lately and need to get back there again.

      Funny how many run-ins I’ve had with my perfectionism since writing the post. There’s nothing like stating something publicly to make you that much more aware of it.

      I’m switching back and forth between Brene Brown books right now as someone else had Daring Greatly on hold at the library before I could finish it! Grrrr. ;)

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