BOTH Not Enough AND Meaningful

By Alex Jenny, LCSW

I often hear from people in my workshops, “There is so much work to do and no matter what efforts I make, it never feels like it’ll be enough.” As people who understand just how much work there is to be done, we may feel weighed down by this feeling that our contributions aren’t actually meaningful. Of course, this feeling is exacerbated if you also hold feelings of not being enough generally in your life. Here is some guidance I have offered that I hope helps you work through this feeling.

Know your role. What is the role you play in movement building? What skills do you offer? In organizing and anti-oppression work, our natural inclinations, personalities, passions, experiences, and knowledge will inform the ways we show up to do the work. We can’t expect to do it all or be good at doing everything. Knowing our role also helps us remain intentional and boundaries in our work, because it is often not actually helpful when we try to act outside of our roles.

For example, as a therapist who has heard clients struggle with not having someone to put down as an emergency contact, I may be tempted to say, “I can be your emergency contact.” However, that would be acting outside of my role, which ultimately may not actually be helpful for that client. In this context, I can make the biggest impact staying within my role as a therapist and I have to remind myself that that is enough. If I were to try to act outside of my role, it may actually be harmful to the client. So, if we’re able to reflect on what roles were best suited for, we can focus our capacities on that role and commit ourselves to doing it well.

Another reminder that has been helpful in my work is the reminder that, especially for white and non-Black people who may be grappling with their privilege and figuring out how to contribute to racial justice movements like Black Lives Matter, our efforts are, in fact, not enough and won’t ever be enough. There is so much violence that happens on individual to systemic levels and it is humbling to remember that we aren’t doing nearly enough and could probably never do enough. It can be helpful to reflect on what that is so distressing and to process any feelings of insecurity, or a desire to want to be seen as a “good ally.” If those feelings are present, it’s all the more important to humble ourselves and remind ourselves that this is not about appeasing our egos.

Our individual contributions may not ever be enough to undo the injustices of the world, however, our individual contributions are absolutely necessary in the fight to transform the world. This is about both admitting that there will always be more work to do and what we contribute is still meaningful. This is about a lifelong commitment of recognizing that because we can never really be doing enough, we settle for what we can do while trying to survive in this world ourselves, while recognizing the worth and importance of the efforts we do make. The roles we play are meaningful and we can be intentional about the commitment we make to movement work. We are doing the best we can, and; we can absolutely strive to do better. We may never be able to do enough individually to magically change the world overnight, however, our collective, intentional, and measured commitment to the work is what will lead us to a better tomorrow.

Alex Jenny, LCSW (She/They) isThe Drag Therapist, writer/poet, actor, and model.

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