1. Who are you?
My name is Mariska van Aswegen. I am a South African living in Switzerland for the past 3,5 years. I built a career in the pharmaceutical industry over the past 20+ years, starting as a rookie sales representative and progressing over time through sales, marketing and leadership roles to where I am today heading a European regional business unit in Switzerland.
2. What does “I AM Enough” and/or “Journey2Enough” mean to you?
When Fortune shared her ambition to start this movement with me, an overwhelming feeling of “I’m not alone!” washed over me. Looking back at my journey to where I am today, I realise that I have always been in situations of uncertainty and self-doubt if I am capable of delivering what is expected of me. Unknowingly, I lived with a constant fear that this next time I will not be enough.
3. Ancient research and psychology have shown that it is believed that our source of inadequacy or our wound, starts very early in our childhood. What would you say was the source of your inadequacy when you were growing up and why? Or maybe it started in your adulthood. Speak to whatever makes sense to you.
This is difficult to say! I was raised by very supportive parents, who always believed in me. Reflecting on my childhood I guess I grew up not wanting to disappoint them. So it could be that I pushed myself into situations that I did not feel comfortable in as a result of my drive to not disappoint them. On the other side I am quite an adventurous person – I thrive on the accelerated feeling of not knowing what comes next. But with this drive towards uncertain situation comes the constant fear that this time I won’t be enough for it, this time I won’t take that jump, or deliver on the expectations of a certain job or project. It is like there are two polar opposing sides to what make me “me”, though the adrenalin junky in me wins every time!
4. How have you conquered it?
Even though there will probably always be an underlying “fear” that I won’t have enough knowledge/experience/talent, one of my profound “Aha” moments during my EMBA were when I realised that the role of the leader is not to be the most knowledgeable /experienced/talented in a given field or situation.
I found immense peace in the understanding that my role was rather to create the environment where those who do have the knowledge/experience/talent for a given task or project can do their best job. I wouldn’t however say I have been able to conquer the fear of “not being enough” yet as I still have to regularly remind me that it is ok to not be the expert in the room as it is not my role to be the expert.
5. I believe we live in a world that is riddled with what I call the comparison pandemic that magnifies our inadequacies rather than magnify what we already have, how do you relate to this comparison pandemic?
The struggle is real, but even if we are today perhaps more aware of how easily we compare ourselves to others, I hardly think that “Keeping up with the Joneses is new. We grew up comparing ourselves to others and being compared to others. The cars we drive, the clothes we wear, our sports or academic achievements, the careers we choose, being part of the “cool kids” at school, etc.
The very nature of our “reward” systems underscores the notion of comparison – being praised or rewarded when we do well, that there is always 1 winner who by definition was “compared” to others and found to be better at sport/academia, etc. Being second on the podium screams to the world that you were “not enough” to beat the guy with the gold around his neck – not even if you broke your own personal best to get that silver medal!
Perhaps the world became smaller as a result of digitisation and social media, which escalated the age-old comparison “epidemic” into a global pandemic. But I think we need to rethink the real drivers of this “infectious disease” if we want to see real change.
6. What do you practice if you do, to magnify what you have rather than contribute to the “i am not good enough narrative”
As mentioned earlier, it does take very regular self-reflection and the conscious awareness of the risk of falling into the trap. I am a religious person, and I try to focus on the talents I’ve been given instead of longing for what I see in others. It’s definitely easier said than done, and I would say a daily practice, but it definitely helps to get perspective through gratefulness.
7. Research has shown that women suffer from “craving of being liked” as compared to men who will rock up and do what needs to be done without considering repercussions, have you experienced that? The likability challenge? And how have you dealt with it?
I can honestly not comment on whether the craving of being liked is gender specific as I have seen this need from both men and women. I can however just share my own experience as this is indeed one of my big personal challenges. I am an introvert, especially when I don’t know people. I have throughout my life compared myself to others that appear more outgoing, and always felt like they are more self-assured and confident. I have always had the perception that these people are more easily liked, as it appears that they easily find commonalities with others. This used to make me try harder, with the result that I felt even more inadequate as that is not who I am.
I think I have come full circle where I’ve accepted that I will never be “that person” who walks into a room full of strangers and just “own the room”. Where I have dreaded these situations in the past, I recently came to the realisation that I can leverage the adventurous side of my personality to find a different way of facing my fear of not being liked in these situations. I now look at a room full of new faces as a challenge to walk away with just 1 new acquaintance. This approach is still new to me, but I am now more excited than ever to use opportunities like these to build a network vs being focussed on being liked.
8. What would you say to someone sitting at home and is feeling inadequate in whatever sphere of their life? Because what we know is the feeling of inadequacy has levels and spheres. You could be making it in your professional life but something in your personal life is not going so well and is making you feel like you are not enough? How does one transfer that feeling of being whole from one sphere to the next?
It is always easier to give advice when you are not in the given situation, but what would have been helpful for me throughout my life journey is if someone introduced me to the perspective that we all have a purpose in any given situation/context during times when I was creating my own stress through self-doubt and feelings of being inadequate. We more often than not are our own worst enemies – we mull over what we did or say during that one meeting, analysing others’ responses, reactions and behaviours. What we forget is that these are still our perceptions, and there is a likelihood that what we think is not what was real. I am not saying we cannot learn from past experiences, but recognise when these reflections on the past are eating into your confidence.
I learnt the principle of “feed-forward” from a business coach a couple of years ago, and the value this approach has in focusing teams on the future compared to through feedback “dwell” on the past which we cannot change. This is a great practice to apply to yourself – during reflection, focus on what you would like to do differently next time instead of what you did wrong in the past. I believe that this changes one’s perspective from not feeling adequate to one of learning.
9. What is the one thing that you live by that helps you snap out of feeling inadequate?
“Trust the process”! These were the wise words of our module 1 EMBA course director a few years ago, and although he shared this perspective with us when he was teaching us a specific process of conducting business research, I have found them to be relevant in many situations since then. This of course is easier said than done, but in a way this perspective has been liberating as the VUCA world we live in gives us no certainty of where any journey will lead us. VUCA is certainly anything but comfortable, and “trusting the process” allows me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable so to speak. It allows me to focus on being enough right now without the stress of whether I will be enough in the future because I don’t know what that future holds!
10. What does courage mean to you?
I believe all of us have some level of courage in many different aspects of life – it takes courage to apply for that course at university and not knowing if you will be accepted, to walk through the doors of that new dream job for the very first time, to even apply for that dream job! It takes courage to put yourself out there to meet new people, to fall in love, to build a family. Therefore, for me, any situation you willingly put yourself into that has an element of not knowing what will come next takes courage.
11. What have you learnt in your journey that has contributed to your journey to enough?
I’ve learnt that I will never stop learning! A dear colleague of mine once used the analogy of wearing a backpack. We learn something new through every situation, experience, challenge, victory that we stow over our shoulders into this backpack. The thing is, we never take this backpack off, it goes with us wherever we go, AND it never gets full! All you have to do is to either reach over your shoulder to dig into the things you’ve learnt along the way or add something new for you to leverage in the future. Knowing that your backpack will never get full helps you to see every situation as an opportunity to add new “stuff” instead of getting bogged down with feeling inadequate that you don’t yet have what is needed in your backpack.
12. What would you say to your younger self?
There is so much I would want to say to a younger Mariska, but if I could tell her just 1 thing it would be that she is her own person, that she brings her own value to any relationship, job, project or situation, and to never doubt that. I would encourage her to trust that her journey will lead her to where she has to be, and to focus on being enough in the moment rather than stress about where that is, or how to get there.
13. What is your hope for this movement?
I hope that this movement will open a dialogue that I think many of us have been having with ourselves for a very long time. We are very good at hiding that we feel inadequate – we “fake it until we make it”, and that is a very lonely journey. My hope is that hearing the stories of others about their journey to enough would bring about change in how we see ourselves to truly become that person that each of us are meant to be. That is enough