Have you ever read one of those self-help books, articles, or blogs that encourages you to think you’re enough? That who you are is “good enough” and you don’t have to keep trying to measure up to an impossible standard?
I’m sure for some people this is encouraging. But what about when you don’t feel good enough?
If you’re really struggling with feelings of unworthiness, then just hearing assurances that you really are good enough isn’t going to help much. Positive affirmations have their place but they can’t dislodge or replace thoughts that are really rooted into your mind. They’re not a substitute for personal growth work and (in some cases) getting help from a professional therapist.
So what do you do when you feel like you’re unworthy? How do you change things when you think you aren’t “good enough” and this belief is part of what defines you?
Figure out where this thought came from
When you struggle with ongoing feelings of unworthiness, combating the voice that says “I’m not good enough” can often be easier when we understand where it’s coming from.
Therapist Karyl McBride says, “this message of unworthiness” usually “goes back to the family of origin” (“Do You Feel Not Good Enough?”). At some point, someone or something that had a deep impact on your formation as a person put the message “you’re not good enough” inside you. It may have been deliberate or accidental, but the fact remains many people picked up the idea that they’re unworthy from other people while they were growing up.
We identify where this voice comes from not so we can wallow in self-pity about how bad we had it, but so that we can speak against the lies in our brain. For example, when I was doing schema therapy with my counselor we identified, “It is selfish to ask for the things I need or want” as one of the thought patterns that had worked its way into my brain. Figuring out where that came from and what lay at its heart lead to us countering it with “I am worthy of respect, love, and belonging” (and finding specific ways to support that change in thought pattern).
I highly recommend seeing a qualified mental health professional when you’re trying to work though something that has a serious impact on your life. The “Find a Therapist” database from Psychology Today can help you find someone in your local area.
Replace it with more helpful thoughts
To quote my first counselor, “Your brain can be a dirty, rotten liar.” It is lying to you when it says you’re not good enough for anything or that you’re fundamentally unworthy. But just telling yourself it’s not true probably won’t help all that much. You need to replace the negative thoughts with more helpful ones. We need to stop living as if we’re at the mercy of our negative thoughts and emotions and take steps to change things. This brings us to some very important points:
- You control what you think about and how you respond to your feelings. It’s tempting to think that thoughts and feelings just happen to us, but in reality we can choose how we respond. That belief is at the root of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the goal of which “is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.” It’s highly effective at treating a wide range of issues including anxiety and depression.
- Don’t give your inner critic too much power. Your inner critic can serve a role in pushing you toward growth. But if it has too much power, it’s just going to make you feel exhausted, unmotivated, and not good enough. Push yourself to answer questions like, “Not good enough for whom?” or “Not good enough for what?” and examine why your inner critic is so harsh in those areas. If you can figure out what your inner critic is afraid of and how your needs aren’t being met, you’re one step closer to finding healthy ways to meet those needs.
- Be kind to yourself and make peace with who you are today. Self-care is not selfish. Meeting your own needs is essential to keep functioning well. In fact, you need love the most when you feel like you deserve it the least. Making peace with who you are today is part of that self-care. Accepting yourself doesn’t mean you stop improving, but it does mean you stop beating yourself up for not being “good enough” yet. If you can learn to like yourself today, then you’ll like yourself even better as you move forward in the future.
- Get some help. We can all use some extra help dealing with stuff at times. Maybe you go see a counselor, as I talked about a bit earlier in this post. Maybe you check out some of the available self-help resources. I highly recommend the books Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and other Everyday Hurts by Guy Winch and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown (please note these are affiliate links which means, at no extra cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase).
- Realize you are worthy of love and belonging. I know this last point might sound a bit preachy, but this is a Christian blog so I’m going to go ahead and say it. Even at your lowest, God thinks you’re worth dying for. You might not think you’re “good enough,” but God says you’re worth the sacrifice of Jesus Christ because He loves you so much and He wants you in His family. When we learn to find our identity in Him, He replaces our thoughts like “I’m not good enough” with promises that we are beloved, precious, chosen, and blessed.
Always keep improving
Learning to see yourself as worthy of respect, love and belonging as you are right now does not mean you stop growing. We want to leave behind the negative self-talk that goes along with “I’m not good enough.” But we don’t want to get rid of our drive to continue personal growth. If you don’t think you have anything to work on then you’re going to find yourself stagnating instead of moving forward.
There’s always something we can work on improving. We just need to learn to balance a sense that “I have intrinsic value and worthiness” with a feeling that “I can always improve.” It can be a tricky balance. But it’s one that we can learn.
Featured image credit: E Holger Langmaier via Pixabay