I am enough from Jolie Guillebeau

I am enough from Jolie Guillebeau

For a long time, I felt deeply inadequate as a person. I was missing something important. As a grown adult, I was incapable of tying my shoes, or riding a bike, or jumping rope. What twenty-nine year-old can’t tie her own shoes?

See, I had a crazy childhood. I’ll avoid the details, but it’s enough to say the inadequacies I felt weren’t my own fault. And though I could easily entangle myself in the past and bury myself in the angst of that story, I searched for ways to change. First, I worked in Africa for four years, and discovered that despite the crazy, I’d lived an amazingly privileged life. So I began to rewrite my story.

On my 30th birthday, I made a list of 30 things to do while I was 30. This was my chance to look forward; to relearn patterns and find a way to change the story I’d been living for so long. Tired of slip-ons, I decided to learn to tie my own shoes. I also decided to search for happy memories from my childhood in my paintings—so I found old toys. Things I remembered playing with as a kid, alone in the closet or in the back of the car on long trips. I searched for good memories alone in my studio, and found these paintings. I was rather proud of myself—whereas before I had only bad memories, now I saw such whimsy and joy.

Last fall, as I was finishing the series and preparing for a show, I laid them all out to look at the whole picture… and I saw something I’d never noticed before. Most of the objects in the paintings were missing something: a piece was detached from the whole. I’d been painting self-portraits the whole time, essentially. Because I felt like I was missing something too.

Over the next few weeks, I realized something. Teaching a friend to knit, I said, “I can do this, and I can barely tie my shoes— you can do it too.” And I realized that someone had taught me to knit long before I learned to tie my shoes, and yet knitting is moving string around, too. So I was capable of learning; it’s just that no one taught me. Maybe I’m not as inadequate as I thought.

Riding my bike around Portland, gaining confidence, I began to see that the problem was more about how I hadn’t had a chance to learn things when other kids were learning them. It wasn’t that I was incapable—it was that no one had bothered to really teach me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t enough—it was because someone else didn’t show me, they just handed me the shoes and hoped I’d catch on.

I gradually moved to paintings of whole and complete toys, and this year as I’ve begun a daily painting practice, I stopped painting toys altogether. I wear a new mantra around my neck these days. It says, “Look forward.” I’m still learning exactly how strong and capable I am, but I finally know that I am Enough.


About Jolie Guillebeau

Jolie Guillebeau still wears mostly slip-on shoes, but at least now she has a choice. She paints everyday (almost) in her studio in Portland, Oregon. You can see her paintings and read her stories here, and you can say “Hi” on Facebook.



  • Corinne
    Posted at 14:17h, 28 September Reply

    I'm so struck by the missing pieces… and how they were there all along, waiting for a bit of attention and love.
    Thank you for sharing your journey…

  • denise (musingsdemommy)
    Posted at 17:56h, 28 September Reply

    this post–your story, your words–are just beautiful. thank you for sharing, especially this line: "so i began to rewrite my story". i am at the precipice of the same editing and reworking. and, of course, you ARE enough.

  • Kim
    Posted at 18:26h, 28 September Reply

    I love your story so much! I love how you reframed your childhood and found that whimsy and how you found your new mantra. I really want to pick myself up and move forward now that I've read your story. Thank you!

  • Jess
    Posted at 19:08h, 28 September Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing part of your story, Jolie. I really connected with your words. And I adore the painting used as the picture on this post!!! I'm looking forward right alongside you! 🙂

  • Nathan
    Posted at 19:09h, 28 September Reply

    such transparency is encouraging. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Tianna
    Posted at 20:21h, 28 September Reply

    Love this Jolie. You inspire me. 🙂

  • Heidi
    Posted at 20:47h, 28 September Reply

    thank you for sharing such an incredible part of yourself!

  • Stephanie M.
    Posted at 20:59h, 28 September Reply

    Thank you for sharing this; I'm sure it took strength to write it down and publish it for the world to see! I love that you are "looking forward".

  • Meghan
    Posted at 23:46h, 28 September Reply

    Thank you for sharing this gorgeous post. I resonate with SO much, including the not learning to ride a bike part (learned last year!).

  • Jolie
    Posted at 04:51h, 29 September Reply

    So honored to share here today– the I Am Enough Collaborative is soooo powerful. Thanks, Tracey, for creating this wonderful space for encouragement and truth to grow.

    You guys are wonderful– I learn so much and I'm so encouraged by your comments! Thank you. Thank you.

  • Jackie
    Posted at 19:11h, 29 September Reply

    I love your story and your honesty! So inspiring to see how you moved from feeling like something was missing to being whole!

  • Jenny
    Posted at 05:06h, 30 September Reply

    Wonderful story, Jolie. Thanks for your honesty and bravery in sharing this! Hey, learning to knit is on my Mondo Beyondo list – maybe you can teach me!

  • Jolie
    Posted at 06:31h, 30 September Reply

    Jenny, I'd love to! Teaching people to knit is a secret obsession of mine. 🙂

  • angie
    Posted at 04:16h, 01 October Reply

    beautiful, inspiring and raw, and beautiful.

  • Amy Lee
    Posted at 21:07h, 05 October Reply

    Your words and paintings, the something missing and your direction of "moving forward" is incredibly moving to me. Sending you much love on your moving forward. I feel like collecting quotes and stories on this theme, as stuckedness if that's a word has caught me before. Thank you! I'll be sure to share them with you.

  • Jolie
    Posted at 04:35h, 06 October Reply

    Amy- I'd love to see them! Thank you!

    Angie- thank you. thank you.

  • Elizabeth
    Posted at 19:38h, 09 October Reply

    I love the idea of looking forward.

    This is beautiful and inspiring. Thank you. And that painting always makes me smile.

  • jennifer
    Posted at 19:15h, 11 October Reply

    love this post; bravo jolie!

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