I’m not good enough
This is the most common underlying fear among my clients, and it’s the biggest and most difficult to overcome. Gone unchallenged, this belief will seriously limit the extent to which you truly live your life, and will hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams.
The feeling that you’re not good enough is one that affects everyone, although it shows up differently in different people. It can manifest itself as overachievement and an attempt to prove that you are worthy or accomplished; it can cause you constantly to make comparisons; it can also lead to perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance or an inability to complete tasks or projects. Unfortunately, it can be possible for people to experience all of the above – depending on the time and situation.
Where does it come from?
Buried inside you are hidden beliefs that are currently running your life – beliefs about the world, about other people and yourself. These are formed during childhood, and as a result, are extremely simplistic; yet they have the power to dictate many of your daily decisions. As discussed in Conquer, when you are a child the most influential adults are usually your parents, followed closely by other relatives and teachers. Whatever you are told you take on as being the truth.
When I hear debilitating beliefs from my clients, I look at the root causes and over the years I have identified four main types of saboteurs that lead to feelings of not being good enough: The pushy parent will tell their children to ‘work harder’; ‘there are only winners and losers’; ‘you need to be top of the class. This is the most common one I see, and it generally leads to over-achieving, stress and burnout. I
t stems from the deep belief that you are only ever worthy when you are achieving. There is also little acknowledgement or joy in the wins along the way and a need to always do more. The nervous over-protector uses phrases such as ‘be careful, people might not like that; ‘do you think that’s really possible for you; ‘what if you can’t do it?’
Commonly coming from mothers, this one leads to doubt and fear and settling for the safer option. The comparer will say ‘your brother’s the academic one’; ‘why can’t you get an A like Alice’. Always falling short, you will constantly compare yourself to others.
The labeller uses phrases such as ‘you’re lazy’; ‘you’re naughty’; ‘you’re too unfocused. A classic style of parenting passed down through the ages, people honestly believed this helps children to correct their behaviour and achieve more in life. On the contrary, this leads to a deep level of shame – that you feel inherently bad or wrong at your core.
All of these parenting styles basically leave you believing you are not good enough as you are right now – enough meaning deserving, worthy of love and mattering to others. Unchecked, this fear could have you spending your whole life either not bothering to try things or trying so hard to prove you are good enough, and never feeling satisfied or enjoying life.
Easy as it is to label these sources, it’s important to note that most parents, even if they fall into these somewhat simplistic categories, didn’t actually intend to make you feel bad about yourself – they genuinely thought (again because of how they were raised), that this was the right way of helping you have the best life possible.
When you are a child, the most important thing to you is gaining the love and affection of your primary caregivers – usually your parents. However, if your parents are unable or unwilling to give you the love and affection you need, want and deserve, you do not have the capacity at that time to understand that this is their problem and is nothing to do with you. In fact, what happens is often quite the opposite – you think ‘it must be me’, you try to resolve the situation, and when this does not happen you feel it is your fault – that you are not good enough.
This is a heavy burden to carry. Those with family experiences of alcoholism, depression and domestic violence often form unconscious beliefs from an early age such as, ‘If only I behaved better, this wouldn’t be happening’; ‘If I do really well in school and get a good report maybe my parents won’t fight’. As children, we learn early on that if our parents are happy, they are much more able to give and express the love we need from them. Children cannot fix their parents’ problems, so the negative message of ‘I couldn’t fix it, so I am not good enough,’ tends to stick.
Comparison is crippling
It is not only as a child that we need to feel loved, accepted and to belong. In order to survive as an adult, we also need this from the society and culture that we are part of. Like our families, there are many ideas and expectations in today’s world that we are expected to live up to – whether we like it or not. In order to be accepted, we can’t help but compare ourselves to others who appear to be achieved, those who are ‘successful, and those who have the ‘ideal’ life.
Thanks to social media we are forced not only to compare ourselves to the people around us, but we are also now party to the lives of billions of others. This is an important point. Think about it: what you are focusing on, and comparing your whole self and ‘worthiness’ to, is someone’s carefully selected highlight of a chosen aspect of their life.
You will never see the anxiety, fear, tears, failure and all-around human condition of this person. Just recently, I was on a business accelerator course and had the misfortune to fall into this comparison trap. I literally got to the point of freaking out every time I read one of the #wins posts – posted by other people on the course celebrating their achievements. It filled me with complete anxiety, fear, terror even.
It was crippling. It was only when I went away for the new year to a remote part of the country that had a very limited internet connection that I started to feel better about myself. I turned off all my social media notifications to stop them flooding in when the connection was restored. I immediately started feeling better able to acknowledge what I was doing in my business, what I was achieving and the lovely clients I was already working with.
When I came back after that holiday, I noticed such a difference that I decided to keep those notifications turned off – something I have maintained to this day. In doing so, I was able to go at my pace but most importantly, I was much better able to acknowledge my own achievements.
We live in an age when we can receive an instant hit of the feel-good hormone dopamine, as well as a simultaneous boost to our self-worth, simply by someone ‘liking’ our post or ‘following’ us. The problem is that this becomes a literal measure of our self-worth – and there is always someone who has more likes or more followers. What happens when you don’t get as many likes the next time you post?
An instant feeling of despondency. On top of that, if we try and do something or achieve something that doesn’t give us an instant result, once again this makes us feel that we are ‘not good enough. Not only does this have an immediate impact on our self-worth, focus and motivation, it also leaves us with an increased lack of patience to work at things and to appreciate that things take time to achieve.
It has been widely noted that this is extremely worrying for the next generations of children, who are growing up with social media. So you can see how all of this – our family history, the expectations of our wider culture, and the global ‘standards’ we are exposed to on an hourly basis – can lead to us feeling ‘not good enough’, and unable to see that it is possible to make a change, because why should we bother when we will never be as good as ‘them’?
Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Think about how much time you spend on social media and how this makes you feel. Answer the questions below.
- List the ways in which you don’t feel good enough. For example: my body is not good enough; I don’t do enough; I’m not motivated enough. Allocate these beliefs a score on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the least satisfied and 10 being more satisfied.
- Turn off your social media notifications. Check social media just once a day.
- List the people and social media threads you follow most frequently. Identify which ones make you feel the least positive about yourself. Unfollow them.
- After one week rescore your old beliefs about yourself – what do you think and how do you feel about them now?
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