One time, in middle school, I played this game with peanut butter m&ms. I was with a group of girls I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with, but we all sat in a circle, in a (chilly) cabin in northern Michigan, and each person took one of each color m&m. I can’t remember specifics exactly, but the overall point of the game was to get to know one another (but secretly, as I later found out, to get us middle school girls to tell stories and to explore and vocalize some of the deeper and more emotional parts of our hearts we were too timid to share without the chocolate courage… but we were middle school girls, so I would bet many of us had no idea there was more than one simple objective). Each color stood for a different category. For example, red might mean “family” while blue would mean “career aspirations” and green would mean “fears.” As you went around the circle, each person choose one color at a time (blindly), until each of her colors was gone. When it was your turn, you’d pick a color and share a little bit about each category as it related to your own life.
Now, if you don’t know this already, I was shy in middle school. And I mean really shy. The kind of shy that was embarrassed every time I had to approach a middle school guy, or if we even talked about approaching one, for that matter. But also the kind of shy that was burrowed deep in insecurity and fear and self doubt. I still am, to some degree, although many would argue I’ve spread my wings at least a little bit. So when our group leader (my fearless and outgoing YL leader who would later become one of my strongest female role models and cheerleaders) said, “tell me about your family,” I had absolutely no idea where to start or what to even talk about. Why did or would these people really care about a random group of people they didn’t even know? And how was I supposed to just start talking about it without a script or specific question? What on earth did they expect me to say?
I didn’t know it then.. but that was probably one of the first times I realized how terrified I am of open-ended questions. Having to write your own script. Vocalize incomplete thoughts and brokenness and worries and pain without having time to self-edit or put up a facade. Ugh, I still don’t like the open-ended question. The blank space. The white screen. The overwhelming thought of having to create something out of nothing. It’s humbling, right? Can make you feel insignificant, broken, lost, incomplete, or overwhelmed.
Aside from being shy, which I now appreciate and acknowledge as one of the reasons I’m such a deep thinker, I’m also one of those people who expects everything and more out of herself. The perfect answers. The next big accomplishment. The step closer to the dream I’ve built in my own head. So when I’m faced with a blank screen, with an open-ended question, it’s easy for me to feel defeated. To feel insignificant and unworthy. Like a failure, almost. Like if I can’t turn that blank screen into an essay of beautiful words and sentences that maybe, might just help someone somewhere, then why even start? If it’s not going anywhere, why not just pretend the blank space isn’t even there to begin with. If I’m being honest, a lot of times that’s what keeps me from writing. From chasing those bigger dreams I’ve only told a handful of people about. The fear of the blank space. The fear of starting from scratch. Sometimes, it’s that fear that makes me delete entire blog posts. It’s that fear that keeps me from stepping forward into something that makes me 110% uncomfortable, and instead hanging back with what I already know. What I’ve already achieved and impressed people with.
I have this folder on my desktop called, “You. Are. More. Than. Enough.” (And if you’ve never done this, do yourself a solid and START NOW. I’m serious). It’s full of love letters and tweets from readers and text messages with lovey-dovey birthday wishes and emails and Facebook messages from people with incredible reminders of how not only my words but also the way my life has impacted their own, or the way they’ve viewed a situation, or given them a little extra courage to take that step they’ve been dreaming about for years. I typically only take a peek in the folder on the hard days, and I always forget exactly what’s in there. But I ALWAYS end up a sobbing mess and then all of the sudden inspired to fill that blank space with words and poems and love notes. Because there is something about seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes that is one of the most beautiful things in the entire world. It’s like having new vision. Like all of the sudden the blank space in front of you is full of extraordinary color and wonder and confidence. Because knowing people have confidence in you, changes everything.
So the next time you need a reminder, or an little inspiration, or the courage to take on that white space, open-ended question that’s been bugging you for days, remember that you are always more than enough. And take a look at what your friends and family love and appreciate you for. Ask them about their favorite memory of you together. It might just make you cry. But Sundays are for crying anyway. And if you need a hug through the phone (or in real life), I’m only a dial (or plane ride, taxi cab, road trip, etc.) away.
So take a green m&m.
Fill that blank space.
Answer the question.
You’ve got more than enough in you, I know you do.