Not good enough?

The image is of 10 matches standing upright on a pink surface. One of the matches is bent and burnt-out. This symbolises feeling not good enough.
Do you often compare yourself to others and feel like you’re not good enough?

You may not believe this, but thinking you’re not good enough is one of the top ten self-limiting beliefs people have. Its power lies in the vagueness of the statement “I’m not good enough”. You can’t argue against it because it’s not specific. For example, what are you not good enough at? What are you not good enough to do? What are you not good enough for? Itleaves you to fill in the gaps of all the ways you don’t measure up. If you say it often enough, it can creep into your psyche and attack you at the very core of who you are.

How did you learn that you’re not good enough?

You may have learned it growing up. Perhaps you learnt to be small to keep safe around a critical, demanding parent with unrealistic standards. Maybe you tried hard to meet those standards and still didn’t get the love or approval you were entitled to. Or perhaps you stopped trying altogether. Either way, you may have received a strong message that love was conditional, based on what you did, and determined by someone else’s needs. Consequently, this may have led you to believe that you didn’t measure up and were flawed in some way.

Common traps for people who believe they’re not good enough

Comparing yourself unfavourably to others is a common pastime of people who believe they’re not good enough. Another common habit is avoiding situations in which you fear people will judge you. Equally, fear of failure can contribute to you not putting yourself forward in situations that could disprove your belief that you’re not OK.

Imposter Syndrome can mean that you are quite good at something but fearful that you’ll be exposed for being a fraud.

Perfectionism can drive home the message that everything must be perfect and nothing you do it good enough. Yet we know that the standards of a perfectionist are unrealistic. It’s more than having high standards; it’s that they can’t stop when something is already the best they can do. The angst they may experience in trying to make something perfect can be torturous. So much so that often the thought of starting something brings aversion and anxiety. Or they may finish something and not meeting the deadline because it’s not perfect.

Procrastination is also a common habit. Alternatively, so is the opposite habit of overcompensating for your perceived flaws.

Core beliefs are learnt in childhood

We develop our core beliefs in childhood as a way of making sense of the world, other people and ourselves. We can carry these beliefs throughout our adult life, using them to inform our choices and actions. If left unchallenged, they can create a lifetime of self-doubt and self-judgement. Consequently, it would make sense that this could hold you back from fully being who you are.

Whilst you probably learnt the art of social comparison from other people, it may have been used to judge you and put you down. Perhaps it was intended to make you try harder, be tougher, or more resilient. But it may have had the opposite effect of making you fear negative evaluation or failure. The result may have been that you excluded yourself from things you would have liked to do, such as going on a merry-go-round!

This black and white image is of a young boy watching a group of children playing on a merry-go-round. They are a blur of movement whilst he is excluded and off to the side. Is he thinking he’s not good enough to join in?
Is he good enough to join in?

Don’t blame yourself for believing you’re not good enough

Before you start blaming yourself for believing you’re not good enough, let me point out that it’s not your fault. There’s a lot of pressure to fit in and meet the expectations of parents, partners, society and peers. This may be further complicated by a history of being abandoned as a child, instilling in you a sense of not being good enough.

Of course, it’s natural to compare yourself to others. But when you believe that you’re flawed or not equal to others, you tend to compare yourself only to people you perceive to be better than you. This one-way comparison is bound to leave you feeling ‘less than’. Therefore, comparing yourself to others becomes a vicious cycle of self-blame and self-defeat. Further, it decreases your sense of self-worth.

Let’s work with this self-limiting belief that you’re not good enough

I’m not going to argue with you and tell you that you are good enough. You believe the opposite is true, so I respect that. Instead, let’s explore that belief. Get curious about it.

  1. What does it mean to not be good enough?
  2. Tell me all the ways you’re not good enough.
    e.g. if you answer, “I’m not good enough at life”, be specific. How are you not good at life? All of life? Which parts? How do you know? What’s your measure?
  3. What else are you not good enough at? Same drill. Get specific and be curious. Complete these sentences:
    a. I’m not good enough at …
    b. I’m not good enough to do …
    c. I’m not good enough for …
    d. I’m not good enough compared with …
  4. Let’s do a reality check of your list of the ways you’re not good enough. Are there some things on your list that others would say you’re good at?

Let’s explore the opposite belief that you are good enough

I’m curious about what it means to be a ‘good enough person’? Do you know someone who is a good enough person? What are their attributes? What makes them good enough in your eyes? Are these things important to you in your life?

  1. What does it mean to be ‘good enough’?
  2. Tell me some of the ways you’re good enough. How do you know?
    What’s your measure?
  3. What else are you good enough at? Complete these sentences:
    a. I’m good enough at …
    b. I am good enough to do …
    c. I am good enough for …
    d. I’m good enough compared with …
  4. Let’s do a reality check of your list of the ways you’re good enough. If you gave this list to your best friend, favourite family member, or partner, is there anything missing that they would add?
  5. From your list choose some things prioritise some things that are important for you to be better at. What actions could you take to develop the skills and confidence you need to become better at these things?

Finally, give some thought to whether judging people (and yourself) as being ‘good enough’ or ‘not good enough’ really makes sense? Rarely are people all good or all bad. It’s an all-or-nothing concept with no in-between ground. Instead, if you put ‘good enough’ on a scale from hopeless to exceptional – where does it lie? And is this something you aspire to?

The image is of two young children, a girl of about 7 or 8 and a boy of around 5. The girl is dressed as an angle in white, whilst the boy is dressed as a devil in red. They carry a wand or a pitchfork. The image symbolises the concept of something being all good or all bad.
Angel or devil? Are people all good or all bad?

Family belief systems

These are complex and often unspoken. Members are expected to follow the rules, even when they don’t make sense. For instance, your parents may have had a limited belief of what was possible in life. If this was the case, it may not have been acceptable to go beyond the family boundaries. Consequently, there may be fear attached to crossing those boundaries, especially if you’re told you may fail or that there’s not point in trying. Conversely, you may have been pulled back when you became too big for your boots because of a parental fear that life will disappoint you.

So, not being not good enough may maintain the status quo, whereas aspiring to something better may rock the family boat. For example, when everyone follows the rules in the family, things may run as they usually do. Whereas, when someone aspires to something better or different, this may challenge the family system, which may see this as a threat

So, if that is true of your situation, it’s time to change your belief and adjust your self-talk. Forgive yourself for thinking you’re not good enough. Be compassionate, kind and encouraging to yourself and start entertaining the idea that in fact, you may be good enough.

The image is of a beautiful yellow sunflower at sunrise in a green field. It is pulsing with life and vibrance. It feels more than good enough to be alive and enjoying the sun.
Feeling more than good enough

Take away thoughts

When we aspire to be or achieve things that are important to us, I think we want to be more than good enough. Have you ever heard anyone say that they want to be a ‘good enough’ at their job? Or ‘a good enough partner’; ‘a good enough friend’; or ‘a good enough person’? Generally, they want to feel better about themselves, more competent or confident.

What actions could you take to develop the skills and confidence in being good at the things that are important to you in life? And be specific about the personal qualities you value in a way that you aspire to.

Further work
I’d encourage you to view yourself in a more holistic way. Acknowledge all the parts of you that exist. Use the stem I am… to tease these out. All statements with this stem refer to your core beliefs about who you are as a person. They are powerful statements. Make sure they truly reflect all facets on who you are currently, not from a historical perspective.

In short, it is important to forgive yourself for believing a childhood message that may have been reinforced throughout your life. Forgive yourself for not believing you’re good enough. There is no such thing as good enough or not good enough. Rather than you believing you are flawed, I think the whole concept of being good enough or not good enough is flawed. I wish you all the best at learning that life can be better when you believe you’re OK.

Useful resources

What is self-worth and how do we build it (including worksheets). Courtney E. Ackerman, MA. 6 Nov. 2018.

See my blog for anything that catches your attention.