I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Staci Backauskas On Why So Many Of Us Are Feeling Unsatisfied & What We Can Do About It
An Interview With Drew Gerber
Do the work to reconnect with who you really are. This calls for radical honesty to answer the question, “Where am I telling myself I’m not enough?” That I’m not being supportive enough to a friend who just lost their job. I’m not doing enough to help my community. I’m not being a good brother or sister to a sibling going through a divorce. Being asked to do this interview is a perfect example of this for me. After reading the questions, I felt very pressured and very not enough. My ego was on fire. I’m not good enough to do this. How am I going to answer these questions without sounding like an idiot? To do this interview, I had to do the work to connect with who I really am because my ego was determined for me to feel less than and unworthy.
From an objective standpoint, we are living in an unprecedented era of abundance. Yet so many of us are feeling unsatisfied. Why are we seemingly so insatiable? What is going on inside of us that is making us feel unsatisfied? What is the brain chemistry that makes us feel this way? Is our brain wired for endless insatiable consumption? What can we do about it? In this interview series, we are talking to credentialed experts such as psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, brain science experts, as well as spiritual and religious leaders, and mind-body-spirit coaches, to address why so many of us are feeling unsatisfied & what we can do about it.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Staci Backauskas.
Staci Backauskas is a super smart, highly sensitive, non-linear creative *with a touch of trauma, who offers perspectives from the cutting edge of societal evolution so you can live your destiny, not your fate. A benevolent rabble rouser, she writes, speaks, and produces content that reaches beyond the standard binary options to inspire change and personal expansion.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I was a pretty good kid. Mostly obedient and compliant — thanks to the influence of the Catholic Church — except for my mouth. In fact, the only times I really got in trouble were for talking. Disrupting class. Sassing my parents. Offering my opinion when it wasn’t asked for.
Because I associated using my voice with the shame that came from punishment, although I wanted to be heard, I was also afraid to be. This internal struggle drove me to work in jobs where my voice was necessary to succeed — selling, teaching, facilitating, writing. But restraint and modulation were also critical. It was a high-wire act disguised as a way for my voice to be heard when I was merely parroting the company line or crafting groups of words to achieve a bigger profit.
The fear of being shamed for speaking my truth lived deep inside me. So, every time I ventured out on my own to talk about what mattered to me without censoring myself, I didn’t make a lot of money. This means my professional life was like riding a pendulum — from one extreme of using my voice to make someone else successful in order to earn a living to the other of reaching a point where it felt so bad that I once again leapt into the breach with no financial security.
This vacillation created a resume the length of a novel. I told myself it was because I was curious and got bored easily. These were the reasons that after walking away from a successful (aka, made a lot of money) corporate advertising job nearly twenty-five years ago, I floated from job to gig in a vast number of capacities — outplacement counselor, professional artist, ranch hand, standardized patient, teacher, writer, PR consultant, produced playwright, publisher, life coach for ex-offenders.
Along the way, I wrote seven books and coached other authors, created a card deck called Out Your ego!, was a serial entrepreneur, developed curriculum for and facilitated workshops on everything from Haiku to How to Find the Early Trauma That Lurks in Your Career, and earned an MFA in Writing for the Stage and Screen. I also became a caregiver.
Returning to the city where I grew up has been the single biggest challenge of my life. Caregiving is a job like no other and there is no manual. No HR department. Or EAP. It has taught me how to bear witness without trying to control something I cannot. I’ve learned that most intervening is motivated by my discomfort, not an interest in alleviating someone else’s. My edges have softened, and I’ve come to appreciate my mother in ways I never imagined.
The timing of coming back coincided with a quantum leap in the field of mental health and the understanding of Complex PTSD and trauma recovery. This piece of my life has felt like climbing Mt. Everest at times as I have identified how many of my “quirky” ways have really been trauma responses. In fact, I see that many of my choices, both professionally and personally, have been driven by early traumatic events being reactivated in my nervous system by something occurring in the present.
I’ve also had wonderful realizations like many of times I got in trouble for my mouth as a kid, it was really because the person hearing me didn’t like what I said, not because I’d really done anything wrong.
Many call it a healing journey, but I think of it as reconnecting with who I really am — before experiences and people gifted me with beliefs and behaviors that weren’t aligned with the real me. I continue to invest energy in reconnecting every day because I believe that the reason the world is where it is today, the core of feeling that you don’t have enough, is rooted in that disconnection. So, I’m here, sharing my opinions on these questions. Naked and alive.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
A friend of my father’s once told me when I was seven, after I shared with her all the things I wanted to do when I grew up, to slow down! The present moment has so much beauty. Do the work to stay present.
I would remind myself that “there is nothing wrong with you.” I spent decades trying to figure out why I felt so different and beat myself up for it. Instead of trying to figure out why you’re different, accept that you are and that it doesn’t matter, and put the time toward finding people who are more like you.
Everything becomes clear when you write a Haiku. There is something about the 17-syllable structure that leaves no room for what is not important. Brainstorm words around your issue and then select the ones you connect to the most. Arrange them in three lines with five syllables on the first, seven on the second and five on the third and what really matters to you will be revealed.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
I wouldn’t be where I am without my mother. She has supported me in every way she can, especially since I returned to Pittsburgh. She has seen me at my best and worst, cranky, kind and everything in between, and she’s still here. She gave me my love for the theater and an insane level of curiosity, a deep appreciation for history and the understanding of how important it is to recognize those who came before us. Our relationship has been the greatest teacher of my life and I love her with all my heart.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I’ve recently wrapped up publication of my new book, The 10-Minute Self-Care Journal: How to level up your self-care game in 10 minutes a day. After decades of journaling, I’d grown weary of writing about my own angst but missed the ritual of journaling. I mentioned it to my therapist, and she suggested I do a brief morning check-in instead.
As I experimented, it felt like the Universe walked alongside me, making suggestions, and providing experiences that showed me there was more to it than a simple, “Hey, how are you doing today?”
Over the next six months, I developed a morning check-in process I could complete in ten minutes that focused on being honest with myself about how I felt and what I needed. This leveled up my self-care game in ways I never could’ve imagined, and eventually led to writing this book. The feedback has been very affirming, and Woman’s Day included in their Best Gifts Under $30 for their 2022 Holiday Gift Guide.
The other exciting project I’m working on is a meditation process I’ve developed for non-linear thinkers. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve come to understand I am not neurotypical. Language around these issues did not exist when I was growing up, so I tried to hide a lot of what made me different.
Now that people are talking about things that were once taboo, I see clearly that I have been neurodivergent my whole life. The way I’m wired has made meditating in the standard “full lotus, hands on your knees, palms up” manner very challenging for me.
The process I’ve been working on was a happy accident and I’m recording now. I’m excited to see where it goes because I think a lot of people who are neurodivergent (this can range from being highly creative/sensitive to having ADHD traits to a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum) have problems meditating in the traditional way, which can lead to feelings of “there must be something wrong with me.” I would love to be a small part of connecting people to their intuition and life force in a way that feels easy for them.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about feeling “unsatisfied”. In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. What has led to us feeling we aren’t enough and don’t have enough? What is the wiring? Or in other words, how has nature and nurture played into how humans (in an otherwise “safe and secure” environment) experience feeling less than, or a need to have more than what is needed for basic survival?
I’m not sure the hypothesis that humans in the Western world typically have their survival needs met is accurate. We believe that the majority of people in the Western world have adequate food and shelter, but I think the word “need” is ambiguous. Because food apartheid is a real thing. Does “need” include access to fresh food? Do fast and junk foods count as fulfilling the “need” if that’s all someone can afford? I think this is a much more nuanced topic and the underpinnings are never examined the way they should be.
I also don’t think a lot of housing is affordable. Salaries haven’t kept pace with housing prices and because I don’t think it’s discussed honestly; a lot of people live beyond their means. Does spending more than you can afford to live somewhere that’s comfortable for you meet the criteria of “need”? Not to mention the homeless population has exploded. In my county alone, it has risen 21% in the last year. Does a tent count as shelter?
So, I want to challenge that premise that everybody has their food and shelter needs met, because I don’t know how “need” is being defined.
In terms of what has led us to feeling we aren’t enough and don’t have enough, that is a complex question and to address it we need to look at history, our collective macrocosm, and our individual microcosms.
Let’s start with history and how it impacts our nature. The great majority of people living in the Western world are immigrants. People don’t emigrate from the country where they were born because they’re having a great time. The bags checked through Ellis Island were not the only luggage they arrived with. They brought with them the fear of not having enough to eat, sometimes terror from the threat of violence, the anger of governments who took advantage or betrayed them, the sadness of leaving loved ones behind. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
They came to the United States in search of the American Dream, which honestly is just a trauma response — a form of magical thinking that says if I work hard, I will be abundantly rewarded. After the changes created by COVID, we are now seeing the disintegration of that thesis in ways we haven’t before. Why? Because it’s an ineffectual trauma response that requires the equivalent of a lightning strike. Yet, millions of people have come here over the years hoping to make it a reality, unable to acknowledge how they feel about leaving their homelands, much less being in a place to talk about it.
This is the population we’re talking about when we ask about feelings of not having or being enough. I’ve called it emotional DNA for years and now science is finally catching up with the truth, recognizing generational trauma and its myriad ripples. This is the wiring from which we start, and marginalized populations, those who have experienced systemic racism or oppression, are affected even more deeply.
The result of this buried trauma in many cases is Complex PTSD. The reality is we live in a world filled with people who have undiagnosed trauma, walking around with Complex PTSD ignorant of the impact it has on their lives and the lives of those around them. The irony is that it can’t even be diagnosed because it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the bible mental health professionals are required by insurance companies to use for diagnosis.
Although it may not be official, I know it’s real from my own experience, from the stories shared with me by people in my circle, and even those who have just touched the periphery of my life. This is an enormous barrier to having your first-level Maslow’s needs met. There are progressive therapists and psychologists who have studied this subject and are working diligently to identify all the characteristics and symptoms, as well as treatment protocols, despite the DSM, which is an antiquated product of the patriarchy that makes change difficult.
Just as important, regardless of the level of trauma you carry, we as humans are born with egos, which always want more. The ego is never satisfied with what it has. It either has to feel superior or inferior. One or the other. That’s the pendulum of the ego — I’m better than you/I’m not as good as you.
The collective macrocosm is part of the nurture and includes external factors like entertainment tropes, politics, the news and other media, and religion.
Our entertainment sources show us gorgeous NYC apartments being lived in by folks who are not wealthy and superficial relationships disguised as “true love. The media shoves Hollywood and other famous people and their extravagant lives through our TVs and phones. And the foundation of modern Christianity, still the predominant faith in the Western world, is the punishment/reward paradigm, which is threaded through our culture and feeds the ego drive for more while setting you up to feel bad when you don’t achieve it.
This all makes it very easy to feel like you don’t have enough if you are not in touch with your true self.
Add to this the individual microcosm — the experience of being raised by people with unresolved trauma. Yes, there are those fortunate enough to have grown up in situations where all their physical needs were provided for, where they received enough emotional and mental support to evolve into spiritually mature human beings. They aren’t the ones chasing the American Dream, questioning why others have more than they do or trapped in a cycle of eternal trying — if I can just acquire “this,” I will have made it.
There is also how egos are managed within the family unit. The more unsafe you feel — whether it’s from physical or emotional needs not being met — the larger your ego grows in order to protect you.
Someone raised in a place where they look out the window and see an Aaron’s Rent-a-Center truck, but aren’t sure if a neighbor’s getting furniture delivered or if the DEA is hiding inside waiting to bust somebody for selling drugs, is going to have a completely different outlook on what is needed to survive than someone who was raised in an Edward Scissorhands-type gated community where you choose from two mailboxes and three front doors.
This combination of nature and nurture has many believing they need more than they have because they believe that their worth is calculated solely by their possessions and status. And it leaves the door wide open to victimhood, waiting for the knight on the white horse (aka The American Dream) to rescue them. The other part of feeling like a victim is that there has to be a perpetrator, someone to blame for your circumstance — the government, parents, the wealthy, immigrants. Anyone but the person in the mirror.
To feel like you have enough, you must believe YOU are enough. The only way to do that is to invest the energy in reconnecting with who you were before all the muck of societal mores and familial beliefs covered your mind, coloring how you see the world and preventing you from feeling the wonder and joy of being you.
How are societies different? For example, capitalistic societies trade differently than communists. Developed nations trade differently than developing nations. In your opinion, how does society shape a human’s experience and feelings of satisfaction?
I believe satisfaction has more to do with the society’s values than how it trades. Values impact everything. The values in America, and a lot of the West, are about acquisition of power, wealth, and control. But if you look at a culture like Japan, their values are about family, thinking of others, and respecting their elders. Being polite is important. Being considerate is important. Those values dictate what is enough.
If someone in Japan is living with and taking care of their parents while having their own professional and family experiences, the bulk of their satisfaction and their sense of having enough comes from fulfilling the values of their society. Here in the United States, because our value system is so different, that is not the case. Here our elders are invisible for the most part, housed in tiny spaces unless they have the money to afford something more grand.
Our primary value here is obtaining — whether it’s wealth, power, fame, or material things. The onslaught of social media is now a major factor that enhances the value of fame and fertilizes the drive to leave a job for the opportunity to become the next Richard Branson or Kylie Jenner while praying for a lightning strike, the 21st century version of the American Dream.
What we really need to examine are our values and standards of integrity as individuals because together they comprise the values of our country. A lot of people blame capitalism for a lack of satisfaction. What I see is the conflation of capitalism and greed. Capitalism does not have to be greedy. But it’s easier for those on the left to blame capitalism than to deal with the real issue. And it’s easier for those on the right to tout all the freedoms they assert come with capitalism instead of owning what they’re willfully ignoring — greed. Greed is a value in this country, whether or not we want to own that
It’s society’s values that shape our experience of satisfaction, of what is enough. If we want to change what it takes for us to feel satisfied, we have to look to changing our values individually, which is the only way the collective values can be modified.
With a specific focus on brain function, how has the brain and its dominion over the body and beliefs been impacted by the societal construct?
I want to push back a little bit on the use of the word brain, because the brain and the mind are not the same thing. The conscious mind may live within the brain in our skulls, although it’s now known we’ve got a brain in our stomachs, so who really knows? What we’re beginning to recognize now is that the nervous system really has dominion over the body.
Neuroscience has come a long way in the last twenty years in exploring the nervous system. We’re now beginning to understand that it’s an enormous factor in how we respond to and feel about things. It may not quite be in the mainstream at this point, it’s predominantly a field of interest to those who are studying trauma or those recovering from it, but what has been discovered is true for every human being.
The first time I ever heard of these theories was in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?, released in 2004. In part, the movie discussed the work of Candace Pert, a neuroscientist who was with the NIH for over a decade and wrote the book The Molecules of Emotion. The information was revolutionary to me.
If you’re five years old, and you want a toy and your parent refuses to pay for it because they can’t afford it, that has now created a specific neuropeptide chain about how not having enough money feels. Every time something similar happens, your nervous system remembers and instructs your brain to produce more of that specific peptide chain so when you finally become responsible for your own budget, your own income and spending, that piece within your nervous system is reactivated. But now, because you’ve experienced this feeling numerous times, your body is flooded with that particular neurochemical.
This causes one of two responses. Either you become the victim: Poor pitiful me. I can’t afford this. It’s just not fair. I feel like crap because all my friends have a Jet Ski and I feel left out. Or you swing to the other end of the ego pendulum and get a credit card so you can go buy it: Screw it, I’m a good person, I pay my taxes. I volunteer at the food bank. I do all these wonderful things. I deserve this.
In true Western-society fashion, you are treating symptoms and not the problem. Because the problem will always come back to being disconnected from who you really are. If you were truly connected to who you are, you would understand that a $25 toy is not a comment on your worth. Any more than a $5,000 Jet Ski is a comment on your worth. And that’s where the issue is, for me. Because the societal construct of “you’ve not arrived until you have X (fill in based on your personal beliefs)” has become hard-wired into our nervous systems.
The combination of the values that have developed over the last forty years and the way our nervous systems function leave all of us vulnerable to feeling like victims unless we do the work to reconnect.
Do you think the way our society markets and advertises goods and services, has affected people’s feelings of satisfaction? Can you explain what you mean?
I was immersed in the world of advertising for twenty years, ten of them in New York City so the answer is an unequivocal yes!
Without ever having watched an episode of Mad Men, I know how the manipulation happens and it’s all motivated by greed. When you start with the fear of not having enough, how can the results produce anything else?
What drives advertising in America is the mantra of “perception is reality.” It’s also something that fuels our culture. Going back to what I said in the last question — if I can’t afford the $5,000 Jet Ski, but all my friends have them, what does that say about me? — is seeded in the “perception is reality” mantra. You feel less for not having the appearance of a good life.
I learned a long time ago that you don’t ever know what goes on inside of someone’s house unless you’ve lived in it. A friend once joked about all the affluent housewives in his wealthy neighborhood having bottles of sloe gin stashed in the toilet tank. How many times are we surprised to find out about the domestic violence going on in a neighbor’s house? Having a Jet Ski means nothing in light of that.
It’s the “perception is reality” doctrine that our feelings of not having enough is rooted in. And it is prevalent in the world of advertising and marketing. This method helps create profits by producing narratives that counter the truth because we have centuries of information about how miserable the lives of people who have “everything” can be. It creates automatic assumptions about people who appear to have more than we do.
The woman at the fundraising luncheon in the Chanel suit with the Gucci purse and Louboutin’s may seem to have more than you, and when you equate possessions with your worth as a human being, that can really reactivate things in your nervous system. Perhaps you put her on a pedestal, wistfully longing to have the money to buy even one of the items she displays. You’ve made a lot of assumptions that have little to do with the truth. But what goes up must come down.
So, when you see her belittle a waiter or push past someone to get into the ladies’ room, your illusion is shattered. Now you’re taking a ride on that ego pendulum — I’m more than/I’m less than. It’s got to be one or the other. The “perception is reality” paradigm pollinates what already exists within us from societal values and our early wiring and intensifies the feelings of not having enough.
I left my corporate job in 1998, and it has only been in the last year or two that I’ve chipped away at the final pieces of that belief about perception being reality. When you deal with something that’s in both your microcosm and the macrocosm, good luck with that. Because you’re not just dealing with your own belief system, your own experiences, and the energy that surrounds you in your social circle. You’re dealing with the energy of the macrocosm. And that “perception is reality” mantra is a part of our society in this country.
Look at Donald Trump. On paper, the man’s a billionaire. In reality, he’s nowhere near as wealthy. The perception of how wonderful he is because of all the money he has is a house of cards built on the beach with zero foundation and zero ability to withstand a wave, much less a hurricane. Yet, people believe in his wealth because they are only looking at the narrative of the perception he’s written.
Again, this comes back to being disconnected from who you really are. When you allow all the external forces to be the scope of your worth and value, you are destined to feel like you don’t have enough.
How is the wiring of the brain, body, and beliefs shaped by marketing, language, and how humans trade?
Our nervous systems and beliefs are wired in layers and language is a foundational layer.
From the time we’re born, people talk to us even though we have no comprehension of their words. But I imagine we feel their energy — delight, frustration, love. Just as important, is non-verbal communication — messages that can be felt even though they aren’t verbalized. This form of communication can carry more of an impact because it’s left to the recipient to determine the message through their own perception.
If you sense your parent is displeased, even though they say nothing, that can cause a variety of responses. Fast forward thirty or forty years and when you can tell from the facial expressions and body language that your boss is displeased, it’s likely that the specific neuropeptide chain created the first time your parent was upset, which was then reproduced in subsequent experiences that were similar, is once again duplicated and coursing through your body in short order. This completely clouds what is happening in the moment.
How we are shaped by language, whether it be verbal or non, either takes a step further from who we really are, or it brings us closer. It takes work and awareness to break that chemical loop so you can remind yourself that although there may be similarities, what’s happening now is not the same experience.
Marketing often uses language that plays on people’s fears and insecurities to motivate them to take a specific action. The industry uses psychology, statistics, and other data to figure out exactly what words to use to get people to the thing they want them to do. This is largely done by employing words to create the feeling of either fear or relief.
I’m sure there are times the shaping done by marketing brings us closer to our true selves — any time you experience pure joy you’re in the neighborhood, so if driving a particular car brings out that joy, then the marketing that got you to buy it is not a bad thing. A lot of the time though, the “sale” happens because we’re trying to avoid something we’re afraid of (not being seen as equals by our peers) or that brings relief (a payday loan that gets you over the hump, but for usury-level interest).
We are constantly being shaped by the language that is around us. And now that critical thinking isn’t even a part of most public-school curriculums, the odds of language used by marketers and advertisers taking you further away from who you really are is much higher.
Trade is a fairly new concept for humans since it didn’t really become popular until agriculture and exploration of territories outside the one in which you lived evolved. Before then, our ancestors were content to live off what they found and killed.
As technology and global exchange have grown, so has trade. And so has our drive and ability to influence the people who want what we have. This is another area where greed comes into play. Trade as we know it today has nurtured greed and I believe it influences how we are shaping young humans.
If you’re existing in a way that doesn’t recognize there is a large possibility you are not living a life aligned with who you really are, and you don’t the work to discover who that is, it is a given you will be unconsciously shaped by what’s around you.
I work in marketing so I’m very cognizant of this question. In your opinion, how do you think marketing professionals can be more responsible for how their advertising shapes humans’ health and experience of happiness overall?
During my career in advertising, I attended meetings where they studied the target socio graphic — a woman between 25 and 35, who has a husband and two kids. Household income over $75k. She works outside the house and volunteers for at least two organizations every month. She drives a late model car and spends $150 a week on groceries. How can we make her want to buy our vacuum cleaner?
We know what that ad looks like.
Zoom in on mom washing dishes. Voiceover: There’s always more to do. Pan out to a disorganized kitchen. Voiceover: No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get it done. Widen the shot further to see a chaotic living room with two toddlers wreaking havoc. The floor is littered with toys and crumbs. Voiceover: Your family counts on you. Close-up on mom feeling bad. She’s disappointed everyone by not keeping a cleaner house. What’s a girl to do? Voiceover: You don’t have to let them down anymore! Cue magical vacuum.
You ask how they could be more responsible. How about telling the truth?
Despite what Jack Nicholson said, people really can handle the truth. Yes, it might be a little painful at first. Most of the time it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid — like when you finally discover after three hours that the plane taking you from Philadelphia to Miami is still in Chicago.
But what if instead of trying to make a woman feel bad that she wasn’t able to do everything that makes her a “good” mom, rather than playing on a combination of “perception is reality” (a messy house means you’re incompetent, lazy, that you don’t care about your family) and the hallmark of the ego “I’m not enough”, how different would the results be if you told the truth?
Now imagine the same visual from the ad above but with this voiceover: We get it. You do everything you can for your family. You work a challenging job, shop, cook, play chauffeur, clean, wash and fold laundry. No wonder you’re exhausted. No one can do it all, all the time. But it’s not about being perfect. It’s about what makes you feel good. And if you’d feel better coming home to a clean carpet, we can help with that. Cue magical vacuum that cleans the carpet on its own.
Would their profits suffer? My guess is they’d increase. Because I believe you can still be a capitalist and be motivated by other things besides money too. If your motivation to sell is also to remind a woman that mothering is the hardest job in the whole world and that you are not a bad person because your carpets aren’t clean or there are dishes in the sink, the entire energy changes
It’s “we have something that might help you feel a little bit better versus image after image of her being upset that she hasn’t fulfilled the expectations of society, her husband, and her family by not keeping a spotless house. Those are two totally different things. And there’s nothing wrong with accepting profits that come from an action that’s also motivated by kindness. It doesn’t always have to be such a calculated, hyper-analyzed, statistic-driven strategy that serves as the foundation for your commercials. It doesn’t need to be like that.
For you personally, if you have all your basic needs met, do you feel you have enough in life?
No, because I am not a bear or a possum. I am a mammal with a mind, cognitive ability, and emotional intelligence.
I do think it’s important to distinguish between wants and needs, however. For example, I need to write. I’ve often said that if I were trapped on an island and had to draw blood to use as ink, it wouldn’t even be a question. But I don’t need a $30,000 Birkin. So, I think the more important issue here is separating needs from the wants.
I need healthy human relationships to be my best self. I need to be able to create, whether that is on the page or in the kitchen. I need outlets for my thoughts in order to obtain clarity. To me, those are basic needs, too.
This is coming from someone who has done 30 years of work to try to reconnect to the person I was born as, who became someone else because that’s what I believed I needed to do to survive. I have dedicated my life to discovering who I really am beyond the beliefs and behaviors modeled for me by other humans. So perhaps what I consider to be a need is more than other people.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 things we can each do to address the feeling of not having enough.” Please share a story or example for each.
When you feel like you don’t have “enough” it is only a perception that YOU are not enough. There are several ways you can remedy this.
First, check your ego. Do you feel superior or inferior to whoever is involved in the situation? There are two ways to identify if this is true. One, are you judging? Two, are you telling yourself how you feel doesn’t matter, that you don’t deserve to have what it is you want? If the answer to either is yes, you have some work to do, but now you’re in a place where you can change that and find some peace. I remember sitting at a stop light and there was a Tesla in front of me. I watched my mind make a variety of judgments, all putting me in the position of being inferior. This person must be more successful than I am driving a Sentra. They must have a lot of money. They probably have a fabulous house and a tremendous career. The light turned and two minutes later he cut me off. Immediately, he was now a jerk — the stupid rich guy who cares about no one but himself. That ego pendulum can be a killer. But it helped me to realize that I was feeling like I didn’t have enough and provided an opportunity for me to see what I did have, which created the space for me to identify what I wanted and develop a plan to go after it. That experience empowered me to look at my own thoughts that made me feel that way. Once they were conscious, I could decide whether or not to give them oxygen.
Second, do the work to reconnect with who you really are. This calls for radical honesty to answer the question, “Where am I telling myself I’m not enough?” That I’m not being supportive enough to a friend who just lost their job. I’m not doing enough to help my community. I’m not being a good brother or sister to a sibling going through a divorce. Being asked to do this interview is a perfect example of this for me. After reading the questions, I felt very pressured and very not enough. My ego was on fire. I’m not good enough to do this. How am I going to answer these questions without sounding like an idiot? To do this interview, I had to do the work to connect with who I really am because my ego was determined for me to feel less than and unworthy.
Third, ask yourself how you’re trying to squeeze your square rear end into a round hole. We all do this. We tell ourselves what is necessary to feel safe, to have our needs met and then we push and pull ourselves like Play-Doh until we fit into what we believe will offer us that, regardless of how it feels. And when we get glimpses of how bad it does feel, we push them aside with alcohol or food or whatever your substance or activity of choice is so those feelings can be ignored a little longer. I spent twenty years in the corporate world trying to squeeze my square derrière into a hundred different round holes. I went where the river took me and then got angry when I didn’t like where I landed. Because I’m a quick study and eternally curious, my default was to master the skills required to be successful without even asking myself if it was something I wanted to do. It took me two decades to finally admit it wasn’t going to fit! The belief that there was only one way to provide for my needs was so deeply ingrained in me that even though. I fulfilled the expectations of my father and society, it never felt like enough. When I realized what I was doing, that began to change.
Fourth, offer yourself space and grace. Give yourself permission to be exactly where you are at this moment, knowing that maybe you’re not happy with it but understanding that everything is transient. Nothing is forever and neither is this. Ask yourself, what can I do to give myself space and grace, to accept that this is where I am right now? It is acceptance that leads to the information you need to staunch the feeling of not having or being enough. I’m going to use this interview again for this example. I made the stakes of doing this very high, thinking that it might be “the thing” that propels me to a place where I can really do what matters to me — discuss topics like how human evolution is more than opposable thumbs, how our collective trauma impacts our individual lives, why taking time to reconnect with who you are is essential to the expansion of our species. When I gave myself the freedom to feel the anxiety and used some of the tools in my toolkit to re-center myself, I was able to remember that the insane pressure I placed on myself to finally capture Moby Dick was unnecessary. I still experienced other less intense moments of overwhelm while preparing for this, but I know that had I not given myself space and grace, my responses would not be what they are.
Finally, pull up “The Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts on your phone. (If you’re not a fan, choose another love song that you feel connected to). Go into the bathroom. Hit PLAY. And sing the lyrics to yourself in the mirror. You may think it’s sappy or ridiculous and that’s OK. All I ask is that you reserve judgment until you actually try to do it. Know that you may not get through the entire song the first time. That’s also OK. Because to express that level of appreciation for all you’ve done to just to survive, to stand where you are in this moment, is life changing. You can’t possibly feel like you don’t have enough or that you aren’t enough after this experience.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
Anything that makes me laugh brings me joy. I love listening to Conan O’Brien’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend because no matter who he’s interviewing there is always lots of laughter. Mayim Biyalik’s Breakdown podcast incorporates humor and education in a way I admire, and I really enjoy it as well. I watch a lot of stand-ups on YouTube. Dry Bar comedy offers hilarious content without cursing. Although I swear like a sailor, I also know it is much more challenging to create humorous material sans f-bombs, and I have enormous respect for that. I read incessantly and love everything from history and satire to memoirs and good fiction, but the thing that brings me the most joy is a good British murder mystery with a touch of camp and tongue-in-cheek humor. The Thursday Murder Club, and all the sequels, by Richard Osman are a perfect example.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I wrote a Manifesto for myself several years ago to remind myself that I am a link in the chain of evolution. Our society has become so narcissistically oriented and if I could start a movement, it would be to encourage people to look at their lives from a 10,000-foot perspective and understand that everything they say and do has an impact on somebody. Evolution is so much more than opposable thumbs. It is spiritual. It is emotional. It is intellectual. How are you contributing to the evolution of the human species?
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
The best way to connect with me is at https://stacib.com and on all social media, I’m @heyitsmestacib
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world. Schedule a free consultation at WasabiPublicity.com/Choosing-Publicity.
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Staci Backauskas On Why So Many Of Us Are Feeling Unsatisfied & What… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.