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Feeling That You're Not Good Enough

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

The belief that you are "Not Good Enough" is born of the story you tell yourself. Tell yourself a different story and you start meandering down a different road. Believe the new story and you live in a new world.

Jean was a chunky kid. If she didn't change her eating patterns, she'd be heading straight to fat. And nothing was worse than a fat kid. Unless it was fat and stupid. And Jean was convinced that she was both.

Her parents told her she was too hard on herself. "I know," said Jean. "But I don't know any other way to be." It's not that Jean never told herself that she was ok. It's just that two minutes later, she'd notice how everyone else was better than her. This would then plunge her into a long stream of negative self-talk, ending in an orgy of eating and self-pity.

How did all this endless dressing down originate? As with many things in life, it's complicated. Jean was always a serious kid. A kid who wanted to do well. A kid who wanted to please. She was born into a high achieving family who emphasized grades and studying and getting ahead in life. All in the service of avoiding the sea of mediocrity.

Of course, her parents never intended to make their kid feel that she wasn't good enough. Indeed, their aim was just the opposite: study hard, get good grades and you'll always feel good about yourself. Not a bad message. But when a kid has a perfectionist nature, good messages often go off course. And, when it is reinforced by an over-the-top competitive academic atmosphere, watch out!

Such an atmosphere promotes a belief that good is not good enough. To be good enough, one must be exceptional, outstanding, unsurpassed. Is it any wonder then that though Jean had it made in the smarts department, she felt stupid, not good enough.

I would like to tell you that our girl's self-doubt dissipated after a few positive experiences. And in all fairness, she did ease up on herself for awhile. However, it was always short lived; for her "not good enough" judgments continued to haunt her. Negative energy is like that. It has a habit of becoming your default mode of being.

The art of living well requires you to find your own truth. This does not come easily to many. But when you are ready to let go of your old story and tell yourself a new story, momentous change is in the works.

Jean's momentous change was precipitated by a dream she had in her 2nd year of college. "I saw myself standing outside in the cold rain, peering through the window watching my friends inside laughing, dancing and having a great time. And me? I was left out in the cold. I could have walked inside to join them but I stopped myself from doing so. Why, I wondered. When I searched for an answer, I recognized that I was short on self-love, long on self-shoulds. "

"No more," she declared. "No more using my rear-view mirror to guide my journey forward. I'm resetting my expectations. Not lowering them. Just making them more down-to-earth. I've had enough of not being good enough. It's been making my life miserable for too many years. "

As Jean spent time pondering the meaning of her dream, she wisely concluded that sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you learn. Sometimes you do all three. And those are invariably your very best days.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Copyright © 2013: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.


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