Can you remember how old you were when you first felt you were not good enough?
By the time we are 3 or 4 we have developed the ability to make physical comparisons and by kindergarten comparisons are further embedded in our psyche as we experience approval/disapproval from someone other than mom and dad. At six we equate our behavior with positive or negative outcomes; “If I am a good six-year-old I get to sit at the front of the class if I am a naughty six-year-old I will be kept in at recess”.
Not being good enough is wired into our brains at a very young age and the ability to make comparisons has to be present in order for us to be able to problem-solve.
Our core beliefs are developed through our experiences in childhood and before our teenage and young adult years we have formed a framework from which we view ourselves in the world and gauge our worthiness on how others respond to us.
Feelings of not good enough can result in adult behaviors such as spending longer than required hours at the office to prove our value, attending the gym to perfect our bodies, buying certain clothes, cars or other material goods to help feel good enough. Everyone who is human has, at one time or another, experienced the feeling of “not good enough” .
Capitalism thrives on our feelings of “not good enough”, the diet industry is a $60 billion industry, not to mention the beauty industry and its billions earned on women’s “not good enough” mindset.
How can you help reduce the feeling and change core beliefs?
Self-Compassion: When you approach “not good enough” from a place of self-compassion and understanding you can reduce the harsh judgment of self. Being kinder to yourself, and demonstrating self-compassion is absolutely vital to overcoming the feeling of not good enough. Allow yourself permission to accept yourself as you show up on any given day.
Get friendly with your inner critic; Feelings of not good enough are usually accompanied by negative self-talk from your inner critic. Getting to know your inner critic will reduce its ability to pull you down. Pay attention to when she/he/they show up and become familiar with the critical voice. Ask yourself where that voice was first heard, whose voice is it? Can you reframe what the inner critic is saying and acknowledge the voice is from your past experiences and no longer serves you?
Be picky with whom you share with; There is nothing worse than sharing your fears or vulnerabilities with someone who doesn’t support you and who ropes you in and then adds to your insecurities by putting you down further. Surround yourself with people who genuinely support you. Decide who you feel you want in your life and then take action to actively build a connection with them, let go of negative people who further entrench the feelings of not good enough and avoid spending time with them where possible.
Be conscious of the language you use; Avoid phrases such as “never or always” these are all or nothing statements i.e. “I never get things right” or “I always mess up” etc. The phrases “never” and “always” are from our “controlling parental voice” and will not serve your quest for improved self-esteem.
Set boundaries; I know, the phrase “set boundaries” is used a lot in therapy but let’s look at what a boundary can be. A boundary doesn’t have to an elaborate action, you can set boundaries with others by reducing your time with them, limiting the topics of conversation, taking time before you jump in to do things for others, unfollowing certain people that make you feel bad about yourself on social media. You can also set boundaries with yourself too; limit the time you use to scroll social media, stop following sites that feed comparisons, set a time to be in nature or the outdoors, connect with others, go to bed at a good time so you are well-rested. Boundaries are not complicated, think of them as something you do to keep your emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing intact and they are about the safety of self.
Sleep 8 hours a night; I cannot stress the importance of sleep enough for self-esteem. How many times have you been so tired that your emotional balance is off-kilter and everything seems to be self-sabotaging? When we are not well-rested we can take things personally when they are not and the lens from which we operate can be skewed. Make every attempt to sleep 8 hours a night, see my previous post on additional sleep hygiene and the impacts sleeplessness has on our bodies.
Acknowledge the path you have traveled; Who has got you this far? You. That is right!. Acknowledging the path you have traveled your accomplishments, your strengths, and positive attributes no matter how small you feel they are. All too often we are quick to dismiss our achievements and in doing so we discount part of ourselves that has shown up in a very “good enough” way! You have gotten yourself to where you are today, you are reading this article, and that in itself means you are taking an active interest in your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Affirm your presence in this world; “I am enough” – A simple statement at the end of the day or first thing in the morning to help reshape core beliefs will support you on the path of self-acceptance, build self-confidence and help you have radical acceptance of being enough.
You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to have the approval of others, you don’t have to impress or convince anyone of your worth, all you have to do is show up, be you and know you are truly good enough.
Finally, if you do need professional support reach out to a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can help you identify where the limiting beliefs originated from as well as support a shift in thoughts that impact behaviors and outcomes. Psychotherapy can build self-esteem, self-confidence, and develop a new lens from which to view yourself and how you walk in the world.