When you don't feel 'enough'

"I’m boring", "I’m not intelligent", "I’m unattractive. I’m too this or that……"; these are words heard frequently in the therapy room.

And lying underneath these derogatory statements is a fundamental belief of "I’m not good enough". 

This inner feeling of unworthiness then permeates every area of life, through choice of relationships, work progress and social engagements. It’s like having a millstone around your neck, as you carry this heavy psychological baggage into every situation.

Fundamentally, it causes lingering pain, which you then seek to avoid through eating or not eating, through alcohol, drugs, shopping or workaholism to name a few. The coping strategies bring temporary relief from the turmoil bubbling inside your head.

Much of this coping may be quite unconscious. You might not have the words to express your feelings, rather you sense that something is off kilter. You may feel lost in the jungle of life, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Once upon a time, you would have felt enough, even if for a momentary phase.

As a baby, you were born feeling good enough. You came into the world without shame or embarrassment. You expected your needs to be appropriately met with nourishment and care. You brought all-of-you to the table with boldness and bracing honesty.

Then, you grew up and life began to shape your development and self-belief. Early experiences with caregivers, school and friends influenced how you felt about yourself. You may have learned that love can be conditional, and you began to mould yourself to fit the world.

Striving to be good enough is like spinning on a hamster wheel that never stops.

If you predominantly felt love, support and encouragement, then you’re likely to have greater resources of self-belief, feeling that you are worthy as you are, without having to meet a multitude of requirements to be acceptable.

If you experienced criticism, bullying or unhelpful comparisons with others, then you might doubt your lovability, feeling that conditions must be met to avoid rejection. This can place you on a relentless treadmill of striving to achieve – through work, appearance, fitness, eating and relationships to gain approval.

Striving to be good enough is like spinning on a hamster wheel that never stops. The illusion that worthiness arrives once a goal is achieved is futile. The goalposts always move, and you will always need another qualification, more money, a lower number on the scale or additional likes on social media.

Illustration of woman hugging herself

3 ways to change not feeling good enough

1. Validate yourself

Realise that the current paradigm is outdated and not serving you. No amount of external validation (from your boss, social media or a parent) can make your feel enough.

Instead, turn to yourself with warmth and compassion and acknowledge the little child, who didn’t get what she needed. You are not to blame for this. You are not flawed or unworthy. 

As an adult, you can begin to praise and validate yourself, from the inside out. Tell yourself that you are enough with your words. Say it aloud. Write it in your personal journal. 

Treat yourself with the love and respect that you would show to someone you care deeply about.

2. Stay in your own lane

Put the blinkers on to comparisons and focus on your own special values and qualities. It’s so easy to get side-tracked and out of balance with your true identity, rather than being who you ‘should be’ and not following your unique path. No one in the world had your distinctive set of qualities and gifts. You have everything you need within. Begin to shine a light on these qualities yourself.

3.  Perfection is a myth

Striving to be perfect is like trying to hit the bullseye on a dartboard every single time. When you’re not hitting the bullseye, you feel as though you’re failing at life. This is an exhausting and ineffective way to live, as human beings are inherently flawed. 

And striving for perfection leaves you isolated and alone, as you feel you can only share the good parts of yourself, whereas you’re imperfect parts become hidden and shameful.

Remember that in truth, human beings are not perfect. We find the imperfections and quirks of others to be endearing and authentic. We are naturally drawn to genuineness and someone being real. 

Allow yourself to embrace your whole self fully, the light and the dark.

It can feel extremely challenging to shift core beliefs and to feel enough. If you are struggling with this, you might wish to seek out further support through counselling.

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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Cambridge, CB1

Written by Harriet Frew

Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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