How to be Good Enough

I spent most of my 20s and early 30s living in a state of “I’m not good enough.”

If he didn’t like me, I wasn’t pretty or thin enough.
If I couldn’t stick to a certain way of eating, I wasn’t strong enough.

At some point in our lives, we all feel unworthy and inadequate.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t function  and appear successful, happy, and accomplished.

Just the opposite – we are very practiced at appearing to be all these things.

I experienced this daily when I was a solo full-time RVer.

When I described my lifestyle to people (I travel anywhere I want and create my own schedule), they responded with, “You are living my dream! I want to do that someday!”

I would smile and agree with them, but inside I was miserable.

I was lonely all the time and felt beholden to a job I didn’t love so that I could pay for my dream lifestyle.

On top of that, I constantly beat myself up with thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel like I’m living the dream?”

I never sought out help because I thought I would seem petty and ungrateful.

If I had sought out help, I might have discovered that these thoughts were perfectly normal. I could have learned tools to help fully live a life I did want to live.  

In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach talks about the strategies people use to cover up their own perceived unworthiness.

All of these thought patterns are variations of, “I’m not good enough.

As you read these, notice which ones feel familiar.

  • Do you embark upon one self-improvement project after another?
    • This was a big one for me. I tried new diets so that I could tell people I achieved an ideal body. I pursued career paths I didn’t love just to avoid being a barista or an office manager.
    • If you are pursuing self-improvement to grow, you are coming from a place of feeling good enough and wanting to get even better. If you are pursuing self-improvement so you can look better to other people, you are coming from a “not good enough” place.
  • Do you hold back and play it safe rather than risk failure?
    • Do you avoid being too intimate with someone to avoid rejection? Do you keep yourself from applying to your dream job because you think they would never consider you anyway?
  • Do you keep busy to avoid feeling?
    • Do you constantly distract yourself with comfort food, Netflix, your phone, or work to avoid the feelings that might come up if you just stayed still for a moment?
  • Do you beat yourself up for not being perfect?
    • Do you have a constant line of dialog in your brain that says, yeah, why bother, you’re not good enough anyway? Do you tell yourself you shouldn’t be satisfied with what you currently have because you should be better than this? (smarter, prettier, thinner, wealthier)
  • Do you focus on other people’s faults, instead of looking at your own thoughts?
    • It can be so much easier to blame other people or other things to avoid looking at our own stuff. Blaming feels like such a relief in the moment (If he just called me more our relationship would be better) but could actually be covering up another thought you have like, him not calling me means he doesn’t actually love me and I’m going to be rejected soon.

If you said yes to any of these: please don’t use this as a reason to beat yourself up.

It is very human to feel or act these ways.

If we all do this, why rock the boat?

Tara Brach reminds us that “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves – the neural pathways – that generate feelings of deficiency.”

Basically, the more you practice thinking you are not good enough, the more you train your brain to believe you are not good enough.

What you can do instead is start paying attention to when these things pop up in your life.

If you notice yourself feeling stuck, inadequate, or not good enough, stop and be curious about those thoughts. Write them all down on a piece of paper. Ask yourself why you are thinking them.

Bringing these thoughts out of hiding and noticing them every time they come up is the first step to feeling better.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I talk about the next step: practicing new thoughts.

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