“If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take to name yourself.” – Anon
There is no shortage of reasons why we sometimes feel like we flat out aren’t good enough. Maybe it’s low grades in school, or we think we are too thin, or too fat, or too young. Maybe our partner makes us feel inadequate, or our parents seem to believe we can’t do anything right.
Sometimes we do it to ourselves. We compare our home, or clothes, or cars to where someone else lives, or to what they wear, or to what they drive. If we believe their things are better than ours, then we tell ourselves we are less of a person.
Society doesn’t help us believe that we are unique, or that being unique is seriously “good enough.” There is constant pressure to be the best team, the best student, the best assistant, the best employee. We compare ourselves to models in magazines and hold ourselves to a certain standard of perfection that is as unrealistic as it is attainable.
It isn’t a Feeling. It’s a Thought.
When you don’t feel “good enough” it’s often because you are telling yourself you’re stupid, or ugly, or incapable. The thoughts you use to describe yourself make you unhappy. These thoughts make you feel depressed and worthless. According to Ali Miller, MFT, this is an important distinction. She believes that once you recognize these as judgmental thoughts, you can then work to reframe them.
Miller, who practices psychotherapy in Berkeley California, states that your inner critic is good at tearing you down and making you feel inadequate. How did you become so critical of yourself in the first place? Maybe you had critical caretakers or teachers. Maybe a coach was excessively hard on you. Maybe you were just born into that type of personality. The good news is, you don’t have to live feeling like you are not good enough.
Miller believes that even though the critic inside us can be cruel, the intentions may ultimately be good. She says the inner critic is actually trying to protect us. By telling us we are not good enough, it is trying to motivate us so we can survive.
We are human beings full of compassion and the desire to do good things. When treated to relentless and cruel judgment and criticism, we do not respond with eagerness to try again. It steals our inspiration and takes our motivation leaving us exhausted and depressed. This can lead to low self-esteem, shame, anxiety, isolation, addiction, relationship problems and so on.
It gets hard, really hard, to think positive and push through when you are in the middle of all that negativity. It’s like swimming in a pile of crap. It stinks no matter which way you go. Except up.
When All Else Fails, Go Up
Look up into the sky (even if it’s raining) and take a deep, deep breath and remember this quote, “Never believe everything you think.” Stand up tall, seriously, do it. Look around you. Almost every person you see compares themselves to other people too. It’s easy to do when you find someone who has more things or better stuff than you do. Comparing yourself to other people is human nature. Believing you are somehow less of a person in the comparison is not.
Do you compare yourself with the poor homeless man on the street? No. It doesn’t occur to you. You don’t look at him and think, “I am not good enough to be that man. I’ll never be able to measure up.”
You also don’t think, “I am better than that man. He could never measure up to my standards.” You don’t think that because like everyone else, you are busy comparing yourself elsewhere. I realize there are cynical and judgmental people in this world who would turn up their nose at the sight of a homeless man desperate on the street. Those are the same negative people that no one wants to be around anyway.
Find a Way
There was a time in my life when I felt small and insignificant. I wasn’t popular at school, and I was always “in trouble” at home, but never could figure out what I did wrong. I was discouraged and depressed and had no ambition or hope for a happy life, ever.
I also had something that went deeper than my inner critic. It was a sense that I was valuable regardless of what the people around me said. I knew it was there, but I didn’t know how to pull it up out of the muck and put it to use. Not for a long time.
I found myself reading self-help books and combing the internet for the magic that would make me feel whole. I read everything I could find that fell under the umbrella of the “not good enough” syndrome and gradually came to the realization that what I was trying to find was already inside me.
I was missing something in my life. Something I longed for but couldn’t find. I needed a sense of belonging. I never do anything just a little. I go all in. So what did I do to meet my need? I joined the Army. I am not suggesting this avenue of approach for everyone. We are all unique. However, it met my need x10. I belonged to a special group of people that were closer to me than my own family. Shared experiences do that to people.
Figure Out What’s Missing
So what about for you? Joining the military might be a bit extreme so how do you go about finding what is missing? How do you stop feeling “not good enough?” Ask yourself some questions. What are your fears? What do you long for? You will likely find answers like, acceptance, appreciation, security, independence, love, happiness.
Once you have figured out what is missing in your life, you must take steps to find it and bring it into your life. You don’t have to join the military. Instead, find a support group, volunteer, work with animals, join a church and become active in it. Surround yourself with people who value you and above all, be kind to yourself. There will always be someone who does something better than you. That’s just the way life works. It is not a reflection of your goodness or badness. It just is what it is.
True happiness does not make its way into the heart of a person who believes they are worthless. Believing you are worthless won’t make you more worthwhile either. How do you navigate to inner peace and happiness? You pave the road with self-confidence and never detour to self-doubt. You are wonderfully, uniquely you and that is good enough.
Remember, if you are busy hating yourself, you will never find room to love yourself.