What does Western society want you to believe about yourself? What message is our culture continually sending you?

According to author and psychologist, Joyce Nelson Patenaude, the core message that bombards us every waking moment is: "You are not enough the way you are," and "If you follow a certain path, this will lead you to being 'enough.'"

Billboards assault us with messages telling us to buy this product, become a member in this fitness center, drive this car, wear this designer's clothes. The point is, if you purchase, wear, drive, vacation, achieve academic success, only then will you be "enough."

"By the age of seven, we have become conditioned and internalized our parents' belief and the belief from their culture, society and religion," Patenaude asserts in her book Too Tired to Keep Running, Too Scared to Stop.

As a result, we are left feeling unworthy, inadequate and longing for fulfillment. We feel we will never measure up, and the desperate emptiness doesn't go away even when we achieve some degree of success.

"Though the original messages that formed our limited beliefs may have been long forgotten, we continue to send similar messages to ourselves through our thoughts, interpretations, assumptions, judgments, ideas, prejudices and in our inner voice and self-talk," claims Patenaude. "We become so conditioned by these messages that we are no longer aware that they are there. We believe there is something basically wrong with us that needs to be fixed. The truth is, there is nothing to fix… And only we can change that belief…"

Religion, too, reinforces this message by making us believe we are "bad" or a "sinner" and that there is something "wrong" with us, or that we'll be punished and will never "measure up" in G‑d's eyes, no matter what we do.

Lately, I've been thinking about this message of "not enoughness."

To be sure, many of us have internalized an inner voice that constantly criticizes us with its self-defeating messages about how we just don't measure up.

Society, the commercial world, our parents, teachers or religious belief systems seem to contribute to these disheartening messages of inadequacy.

But are all these messages negative? Can't striving to be more than we are—in the spiritual arena, and even in more mundane but purposeful areas of our lives—lead to positive growth?

Suppose the beautiful model advertising a fitness center motivates you to take daily power walks because you, too, want to look your best and achieve health.

Or, suppose you're a child living in a poverty-stricken, drug and crime-ridden neighborhood, but in your heart of hearts you dream of a better future. It is a dream that has materialized because you saw the handsomely-dressed men and women in ads for higher education and it was those smiling men and women who motivated you to leave your dead-end culture and recognize your potential.

Or, suppose your inner voice, mimicking your early religious teachers is preaching to you to be a kinder, more giving individual by taking a moment to say a compassionate word to a stranger, or by inviting a relative to your Shabbat meal.

Has anyone lost out from such self-talk?

A better self — a more knowing, sensitive, accomplished self — is a self better equipped to find fulfillment and happiness. Indeed, the making of this better self is the fulfillment of the purpose of creation. Ultimately, improving the self is why we are all here.

And yet, critiquing voices that tell that you are not enough can be so self-defeating, paralyzing you in their grip. So, when are "not enough" messages positive and empowering, and when do they become debilitating?

Perhaps the great Rebbe of Kotzk expresses it best: "If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you."

What is my motivation for wanting more out of life? Is it because I have a deep-seated belief that this is something positive for me and the world? Or is it simply a meaningless search and endless competition with those around me?

The Chassidic master Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli is reputed to have said: "If it were offered to me to exchange places with Abraham our father, I would refuse. What would G‑d gain from this? He'd still have one Zusha and one Abraham."

If this holds true in the realm of spiritual strivings, how much more does it apply in the realm of the material. We are not meant to achieve the greatness of Abraham or Zusha or even our "perfect" neighbors, the Cohens'. But I am meant to achieve the greatest "me," and you – the greatest "you."

The self-defeating and paralyzing message of "not enoughness" compares you to others and demands that you follow the rigid standards and definitions of success set by those around you—parents, bosses, corporations, and society.

But an awareness of "not enoughness" that originates from the infinite potential of our divine core, and realizing just how great each of us can become, is ultimately the most positive and empowering message we can live.

So, the next time you hear self-talk reprimanding you that you aren't enough, why not try answering it by telling it just how much you, yes, you, can be?

And then, go right ahead and be it.

So, what do you think – are you enough?