Your heart’s racing.
Palms are sweaty.
You want to hide in a bathroom stall instead of being here. But you’ve worked so hard to make here—to the executive table, the decision-makers club, to a place with the “big dawgs” and the get ‘er done crowd.
Now you’re in, and it’s not what you thought it would be. The big dawgs have sharper teeth and a more ferocious gaze than you expected. You’re strong and fierce, but this is different.
You think for just a second, “Do I even belong here?”
It’s like stepping into mental quicksand.
In the blink of a thought, you begin to sink into doubt.
One thought after another takes you to a place where your most accomplished self feels inadequate. You may be at the top of your game or in the company of peers, yet you feel like you don’t belong… like you’re just not enough.
You know you’re good at what you do, but this nagging thought leaves you doubting whether or not you have what it takes.
It’s uncomfortable to talk about. In many ways, you think you should be past this kind of self-doubt by now. But the question of “enough” doesn’t go away without a fight.
To defend yourself against it, you must know how to respond.
Your response to this tough task—this feeling of inadequacy and the mental gymnastics that follow—is really up to you.
You have a choice.
Let us tell you about a woman who faced this same choice. She was a woman with position and authority who had to wrestle with the question, “Am I enough?” She muscled through, and her example is why we believe you can too.
Her name is Esther, and her story is from the Old Testament.
You may know it. We recommend reading the whole Book of Esther, but, as a refresher, here’s our abridged version.
Esther was a Jew who married the Persian king, Xerxes. During her reign as Queen, there was a conspiracy to destroy her people. Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, found out about it. He told her of the plot and the man responsible for it—one of the King’s trusted staff, Haman. Mordecai asked Esther to go before the king on behalf of her people. Approaching the King was forbidden unless summoned. If she went and he refused to extend her favor, she would die. Esther went. Favor was extended. Her people were saved. Haman was killed.
One of the most recognized passages of scripture, especially when it comes to encouraging women, comes from this story. Mordecai is writing to Esther about the conspiracy. Here’s the part we remember most.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV, emphasis added)
Six words changed everything.
Packed with purpose and a compelling “why,” these words moved one woman to action. Instead of shrinking at the thought of death, Esther sent word to Mordecai asking him and her people to fast for three days. Then she went before the King.
Esther risked her life and reset the destiny of an entire people.
Since we know how the story ends, it’s hard to imagine anything except her success.
But just a few verses earlier, we read about a very different response from Esther… one where we see her mental gymnastics hard at work.
YOUR ROLE DOESN’T SECURE YOUR CONFIDENCE.
The message that moved Esther to action was Mordecai’s second attempt to get her attention.
His first message didn’t get any action from Queen Esther. It broke with tradition and conventional ways of engagement in palace life, so the Queen punted.
In essence, Esther’s response was to put the issue back to Mordecai. It’s as though she said: Um… Uncle Mordecai, you may not know this, but there are protocols in place. I have to follow the rules, even as Queen. If I go before the King without being summoned, I could die. It’s “Royal Rules 101.” I spent a year being told what to do and what not to do, so I know this lesson well. Everyone does! I’m sorry, Uncle, but you’ll have to figure this one out on your own.
Esther knew her role. She knew what to do and what not to do.
When Mordecai asked her to lead in a way that broke with tradition, she deferred. As Queen—a woman in a role without rival—Esther excused herself from responding.
Though she held a seat of honor, influence and even power, Esther focused on her limitations.
The same seat that elevated her to a position of prominence constrained her confidence and limited her ability to act.
So Mordecai called her up. Not out. Up.
Mordecai reminded Esther that though she reigned as Queen, she was called to more than just a role. She was called to a people.
Then he said the words we remember so well. What if... what if she was in the palace for this moment? What if she was destined to be queen for such a time as this?
HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, “AM I ENOUGH?”
The reason we go to Esther to answer this question is because she embodies success, and her success isn’t a birthright. It’s a Cinderella story.
Esther came from nothing. She was one of many who spent a year being prepared to go before the King. She was groomed for royalty during that time and made ready for her time with the King.
Esther learned. She was favored by those in charge of her instruction. She was chosen by the King.
But even after being chosen, Queen Esther had to come face to face with the question, “Am I enough?”
This happens to most of us more than we may admit out loud.
You’re chosen for something risky… new… or outside your wheelhouse. Instead of leaning to the moment, you wonder if you’re enough for it. Is your skillset enough? Are you educated enough? Have you seen or done enough? Are you smart enough? Are you pretty enough? Young enough? Seasoned enough? Boss enough? The list could go on and on.
When you lean into questions of “enough,” you feel justified. Just look at Esther. Her life was on the line. Literally. Do you blame her for punting the problem back to Mordecai?
When you defer, deflect or punt, you silence the question, but not indefinitely. It comes back. And it keeps coming back until you give in or stand up for yourself.
If you’re still being taunted by questions of “Am I enough?”, let us play the role of Mordecai today.
This may be your second, third or 100th time hearing it, but we’re here to tell you again:
Step away from asking yourself, “Am I enough?” and begin saying, “I am... made for such a time as this.”
You were made for a life of purpose beyond work or a specific role.
Everything you’ve done has prepared you for the life ahead. It hasn’t been a perfect journey, and it will never be. And right now, you may not even know where the road in this journey is even leading you… you just know you were made for more.
What matters today is that you keep pressing on and cultivating confidence in the face of adversity—the confidence it takes to build life well.
With confidence comes action that leads to your next step and then the next.
Like Esther, you will have to take a risk.
You will need to get out of the thoughts that run through your head that stop you from living in your purpose.
Today, you can stop the mental gymnastics and recognize: you were made for such a time as this.
Go get ‘em!