Enough is enough

Being confident in college

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the word “enough” a lot. The odd adverb-adjective hybrid seems to wind up all the time in the sentences of students, friends, professors and strangers around me.

It can be a word of practical use, as in “Is one-page, double-spaced, enough?” or “Are 12 chicken nuggets enough? I feel like we should get more.” Its connotation is often tinged with doubt — e.g. “Did I study enough?” Still, the word can be used more nefariously. “Am I cool enough? Pretty enough? Smart enough?”

It’s the latter use of the word, in which personal qualities are questioned, that is the most vexing. At a school chock full of wunderkinds, it’s far too easy to turn inside oneself and ask questions of self-value.

I’ve always thought it was better to err on the side of being self-critical rather than being puffed up and pompous. No matter the pros or cons of this view, it’s an idea I’ve held as a truism for as long as I can remember, something that makes up all the little monomers of who I am.

I think it’s time for me to reorient this principle, for some middle ground from which one can view oneself not lackadaisically or harshly, but kindly and realistically. Come to think of it, I know plenty of people who admirably occupy this mindset.

My friend, who grew up in Oregon and goes to the University, is now spending his second semester abroad in Jordan. His updates describe his travels all over the world — he’s visited 20 countries in the past six months. One new friend wears his confidence as a badge of kindness toward others. For someone who does as much as he does, he treats each person I’ve seen him encounter with an equal amount of enthusiasm and respect. Another friend, though modest, channels his competence into service, helping tutor kids around the community multiple times a week.

When I look around and see the action that can come from something as simple as self-confidence, I feel happy and inspired, and I feel enough.

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