Have you ever felt like you weren’t enough? Good enough, smart enough, thin enough, rich enough? The passing feeling is normal, but if the feeling is frequent or long lasting then this article is for you.
We all have an inner critic. That little jerk in our heads that tells us that we aren’t good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or whatever it is we are focused on at the moment.
While the inner critic occasionally can be helpful (more on that in a minute) often the thoughts are just painful. Unfortunately, like all thought patterns, they can become a habit. Especially if you’re not challenging the thoughts and digging in to see if what you’re thinking is useful or not.
Today I’m talking about some of the reasons we go down the I’m not good enough road and how you can either find a use for that line of thinking or move on from it.
Read on for 7 ways to kick your not good enough thoughts to the curb (or at least make them use their powers for the good).
FAILURE ISN’T DEATH
As weird as it sounds the not good enough thoughts are your brain’s attempts to protect you from all the things it’s afraid of – primarily failure. Our brains are evolutionarily back in the stone age where failure often equaled death.
Back then, making a mistake by taking on the wrong predator, or eating the wrong berries, or offending the tribe, basically spelled death.
The problem is that your brain still equates failure with death even though there’s relatively few things that will kill you – as compared to 100,000 years ago. Being late for work doesn’t equal death. Not having beautiful instagram photos isn’t going to kill you. Offending some people on social media – not even a scratch.
The thing is failure is still scary, and often the not good enough feeling stems from us wanting to do something amazing with our lives.
I’d love to get that job but I’m not smart enough. This stops you from trying to get that job that you might not land.
That person is so attractive, but way out of my league. If you never tell them your feelings, you can’t be rejected.
I want to try out for that team, but I’m not good enough. If you don’t try, you can’t fail.
If these are the sort of things that you think when you get the not good enough feelings then there are several things that you can do to help. If the root is a fear of failure, it’s time to examine what your definition of failure is in the first place.
Some people consider failure as not achieving a goal – while others see it as not doing something perfectly. Perfectionism is a common way that fear of failure manifests. And if you’re afraid of not doing something perfectly, then the best way to avoid that is to never start.
Here are 3 ways to deal with that:
Accept the Imperfection
My nine year old son has a computer and every time it freezes up or a program spontaneously crashes – as they do – he is so surprised. He can’t understand how a computer could have errors.
I remind him that the computers were made by people and people make mistakes. There’s no way around it. Even these amazing feats of technology that we are able to accomplish still have errors. Nothing will ever be perfect.
This concept is so freeing when you internalize it. If you stop striving for perfect and start striving for doing your best, you can release all that crap in your head that you associate with perfection. By letting that go you can move forward and actually attempt something without all the emotional baggage slowing you down.
Accept Where You Are
If you want to figure out how to get somewhere you’ve got to know where you’re starting. Even if you were to pull up the most sophisticated mapping system on the planet, if it can’t figure out where you are now, it can’t tell you how to get where you want to go.
As much as you might want a different life than you have now, this is the life you have. It’s not to say that you can’t change it, but you have to come to terms with what you have.
Start with what you have, where you are.
Sometimes this reality hurts. You might not be in a good situation so all you do is imagine not being there. But if you can’t come to terms with what life is like now, it’s hard to make a roadmap to get someplace new.
Even if life doesn’t look like how you want it to look, there is probably still some good in every day. And focusing on that good, is what’s going to help you accept where you are so you can change where you’re going.
Journaling is a great way to do this. It doesn’t need to be some long dear diary to make an impact. Just a quick list in the morning and/or night can change your whole mindset.
The not good enough mindset focuses on lack, where as gratitude focuses on abundance. You can train your mind to look for the good by making yourself write down 3-10 good things you find in every day. Start with 3 and work your way up.
Along with this you can also do a list of things that were good today that you want to continue. Maybe you had fruit instead of a sugary snack. Or maybe you had a good talk with your teenager or spouse. Whatever good behavior, no matter how small, that you want to continue, write it down.
This works because when you know you’ll have to be writing down things you’re grateful for, you’ll begin to look for them. Being in this state of mind makes feeling not good enough much less likely.
Take a Step Back
One of the hardest things about dealing with the inner critic is that it’s you – talking to yourself. Firstly it’s impossible to get away from since it’s your head, and second you tend to feel that since you’re saying this stuff to yourself, it must be true. I mean you wouldn’t lie to yourself, would you?
The answer is maybe. Not everything you think is true or a good idea. And just because you thought it didn’t mean that you would do it. I’ve driven near the edge of the mountain and had that weird momentary what if I drove right off this cliff thought. It doesn’t mean I would do it and it certainly doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
The same goes for all the thoughts about your worth and character that you come up. Not all of them are true or good.
What helps is to pick a different person to hear these thoughts from to give you perspective. Not someone that you dislike, but someone either neutral or that you know has your best intentions at heart.
If you imagine them saying these things to you, what does that change? If it’s not something you think any one that loves you would ever say to you, well that should show you not to give that thought any weight.
If you imagine them saying it, does it seem like something that’s just said to be hurtful? If so, disregard the thought. If it seems like something that might be useful in helping you progress then you can give it your attention.
The ones that might deserve your attention are the ones where the inner critic might be helpful. Sometimes we generally aren’t living up to our full potential. That doesn’t mean we should beat ourselves up over it, but sometimes those negative thoughts actually do have good intentions.
By seeing them coming from an outside source you can have a mental conversation about whether this thought is true and helpful. If I start calling myself lazy and I think about it and I’ve done nothing but work my butt off, then I just redirect my thoughts.
But if I find myself calling myself lazy because I’ve been avoiding working out or refusing to write – well then there might be some merit to this line of thinking. It’s not likely that I’m actually being lazy – it’s more that I’m procrastinating or avoiding something – but at least I get the chance to go down that road and examine the thought instead of sitting there and allowing myself to get beat up by, well, myself.
IT’S NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD
While the older parts of our brains are seriously against failure, that’s not the only factor of feeling not good enough. We have an immense social pressure to be a certain way – especially women who get so much conflicting advice.
Maybe you had some seriously unsupportive people in your life when you were younger, or maybe you do now. Maybe you have a boss who is a perfectionist and nothing is ever good enough. Maybe you just get it from the media that is constantly bombarding us day in and day out.
Whatever the reason, the way your brain is wired is working against you. It’s bad enough that we’re told that we’re not good enough, but what’s worse is that our brains have evolved to internalize the bad rather than the good.
Again back to the stone age here, where it was more important for survival to remember the exact location that you got mauled by a tiger than it was to remember how funny your kid was being.
Because of this phenomenon, we are more likely to remember all the criticism people have given us, and few of the compliments. And what’s worse is that we often don’t even believe the compliments we are given.
We’re so rife with self doubt that as soon as a compliment rolls in we are picking it apart and disregarding any truth or meaning that it had.
One of the key ways to get passed this is to learn to take a compliment. I don’t mean saying thank you instead of brushing it off – though that doesn’t hurt either. I mean learning how to absorb it.
In order to help your absorb the compliment, Amy Gallo recommends asking these 2 questions:
What does this compliment mean to me?
Firstly, assume the person means the compliment. One of the ways we discount compliments is to assume the person is just flattering us or that they are after some sort of personal gain. Instead actually take the person at their word and think about how this compliment effects you. What does it make you feel to know that someone took the time to say something good about you?
Why did they genuinely compliment you?
Again, assume that the person is being kind – why would they compliment you? Did something you do positively impact them? Did you help them somehow? How does it feel to know that you were a force of good in someone’s life?
It can also be helpful to write down and/or relive the compliment a little bit. This can help to reinforce the positive impact in your negatively focused brain. The bonus is if you write it down it gives you something to go back and look through on the days you’re not feeling good enough.
THE COMPARISON TRAP
The internet age is for real amazing. It’s so cool that I can text or talk to my family and friends all over the world at the tap of a touchscreen. However, that also comes with a side of the access to millions of people and their social media feeds. And even if those people normally inspire you – there’s a chance that you also compare yourself to them.
The big problem with comparison is that it can go two ways – either you feel like you come out on top which can lead to judgement and feeling smug – not cute.
Or you feel like you come out on the bottom and you feel less than. Also not cute.
And since there are millions of people, there are millions of ways to feel not good enough. It’s hard enough to be a runner, for example and know that there’s always going to be someone faster than you. But then if you realize that there’s always several someones better at business, relationships, finances, health, wellness, cooking, cleaning, gardening….on and on
No matter how proud you are of a project or accomplishment, if you go out onto social media you could find someone that’s done better or more than you in 2 seconds flat.
I’m not saying this to make you feel bad. But it’s a fact of life that we live in now and it’s something we need to learn to deal with.
Going out and beating yourself up by comparing your life to someone else’s highlight reel hasn’t helped yet, so maybe we should try something else for awhile?
Here are 3 ways to help you change your perspective on comparison:
Everyone’s doing it
While comparison is not healthy just about everyone is doing it. Even that super amazing person that you want to be exactly like is probably over there comparing themselves to someone and coming up short.
Often successful people don’t have time or energy to do much else except what they are successful at. They wish they spent more time with their kids, or meditated more, or could go on more date nights. Whatever it is, it’s helpful to think about how no life is perfect, regardless of the shiny images you see online.
The Pool Keeps Changing
Every time that you get better at something or have an achievement you move up to a different peer group. If you’re always comparing yourself to your peer group or to one above you, it’s never going to feel like enough. There is no finish line.
For example, let’s say you wanted to write a book. If you’ve started, that puts you ahead of everyone that hasn’t – but behind everyone that has. Then maybe you finish your first draft – again ahead of a lot of other people that want to write a book, but behind anyone that’s been published. Then you publish – that feels good for a minute, but now your peer group is all the people that have ever published a book. Now you’re looking at people with best sellers or multiple book deals or series deals. The group keeps changing.
If you would stop a moment and compare yourself to where you were, it would feel a lot better than continuing to compare yourself with people that are ahead of where you are.
Lower Your Expectations
This is going to sound ridiculous, but I’ve come to believe that it’s the MOST important thing that anyone can do when they aren’t feeling good enough.
I’m not saying to lower your standards. I think high standards are a good thing (not impossible, but high).
What I am saying is that given all of the causes that make us feel not good enough, most of them revolve around what others expect of us and what we expect of ourselves.
If we’re being honest I have this belief that I should
Have a perfectly clean, well organized, well decorated house at all times
Homeschool my kids with every amazing activity and experience we can give them – in 19 different subjects
Be able to work in my business full time giving speeches around the world, coaching multiple people, writing for my blog and as well as submitting multiple articles a week to other outlets
Be physically and emotionally available to all my friends and family so we don’t miss each other
Somehow put my health and well being and self care ahead of all of this
Does this seem like a realistic list to anyone? No, just me? Because I think about this a lot, and how I’m not achieving this because I am not good enough to do it.
When actually what I’m not is the 15 clones of myself that I’d need to have in order to accomplish this. I do not have a staff or much help of any kind, so this list is down right absurd.
And yet these are my expectations. Some have come from what society says, some have come from what my peer groups think are right, and some are just delusions in my own head.
But if I thought about this list any more than I already do I would NOT get anything done. I already use several techniques to control the overwhelm that comes from the expectations that have been set.
I bet you might have as an impossible list as I have to deal with. And so I charge you to write it down and have a long hard look at it. See it for what it is, expectations, not demands. You can have big goals without beating yourself for not being there. You can have high standards without shooting for perfect. You can change the life you have while still loving the life you’re in.
You just have to lower your expectations a little.
If you’re struggling with constantly feeling not good enough, contact me here. Coaching with me can help understand where that issue is coming from and help you move forward towards a better life.