Feeling Not Good Enough

Watching the achievements of the amazing young athletes at the Olympics the last few days has led me to think about the messages we give and receive in our normal lives, and the effect these have on us

Seeing and listening to the responses of competitors interviewed, I noticed differing reactions. Elation from those who believed they had done their best, and were ‘good enough’, and conversely disappointment from others who felt a sense of ‘failure’, even though they admitted they could not have done any more – whatever the result. Each of these athletes are winners, as they are the best in their country, and have been selected to represent their country to vie against other equally talented athletes from competing countries. What an amazing sense of achievement and one to be celebrated.

So what are the parallels for people leading ordinary, every day lives? Some are able to accept they have done their best and that is ‘good enough’ whilst others see themselves as a failure in whatever they do. So what is the difference between those who are proud of their accomplishments, and those who see themselves as a failure, and strive to do better but never seem to reach their often unattainable goal or what they believe others expect of them? 

Much of this is rooted in early childhood. It is well documented that bonding between mother/caregiver and child is important, as it is the early formation of a close personal relationship and the beginnings of feeling being wanted and loved. When this love is deficient, there is a danger the growing child may develop low self-esteem. As the child grows, negative comments may add to this feeling of low-self esteem. How many times do we receive those negative messages either spoken or unspoken, which make us feel worthless? School reports which say ‘Could do better’, disapproving messages from parents or other caregivers such as ‘you haven’t done that properly’, and there are many others. Together with negative nicknames such as ‘fatty’ ‘ four eyes’ from other children can chip away at an under developed self-esteem. Peer pressure is often tied in with gaining approval, and a young person who’s self esteem is already damaged by lack of approval may not be able to resist peer pressure demands on their behaviour, and if not accepted by their peers can result in not feeling by them.

Often the negative messages received in childhood continue into adulthood. The effect of these negative messages received can result in a sense of failure, and low self-esteem. Individuals become used to hearing the negative responses, and believe they have no self worth. When they do receive praise or a compliment they don’t believe them, and they can be uncomfortable to hear, as they are unfamiliar.

The important thing to remember is that it is possible to raise anyone’s self-esteem, no matter what their age.  Since the feeling of low-esteem has been learned, it can be unlearned, and something new learned in its place. This is where a professional can be helpful. By working with a trained counsellor individuals can explore the root of their unhelpful beliefs and work together to build on improving self-esteem, recognising they are ‘Good Enough’.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Wendy Capewell - Trauma and Relationship Specialist

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Written by Wendy Capewell - Trauma and Relationship Specialist

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