Do You Feel Like You Are Not Enough?
In today's blog I am going to be exploring the ways in which feeling like you are not enough can impact you. I will speak a little about how this core belief can start (and grow), what impact it may be having and how you can change this narrative. I am writing about this today because although many people struggle with this feeling many have not made the connection between feeling like they are not enough and all the different ways this shows up in their life and impacts their behaviour.
Have you ever felt lost, overwhelmed and confused about why you do the things you do? Have you ever felt like you just don't know who you are anymore? Maybe you feel so overwhelmed and like you are on the verge of burnout but you find it really difficult to say no to people or to implement boundaries?
These things may be related to feeling like you are inadequate or worthless, that you are.... not enough. You are not alone. Feelings of low self worth and inadequacy are pretty much a universal experience, everyone feels this way at some point. Problems occur when you don't understand why you feel the way that you do and so heap shame and judgement on yourself, causing more suffering and inadvertently keeping you stuck where you are.
Feeling as though you are not enough can interfere with having healthy relationships, maintain boundaries, have a good work-life balance, limit your potential and prevent you from ever feeling happy or at peace.
Where do feelings of inadequacy originate from?
Each one of us has a totally different experience and grows up in a different environment, therefore there isn't just one reason for why people feel this way. However there are some common themes that crop up in people's experiences and maybe some of these may apply to you and help you to understand why you may feel as though you are not enough.
Children desperately desire the love and affection of their caregivers and are keenly tuned in to what gets approval from them and use this to shape their behaviour and personality. If our caregivers shower us in praise and affection when we achieve top grades or behave in a way they approve of we begin to attach value to these things and internalise the belief that these are the only things that matter. We form a belief that we are only of value when we are successful, productive or achieving great things and this causes us to feel inadequate if we aren't. This causes us to attach feelings of inadequacy to ourselves and develop low self worth as though showing up and just existing is not enough.
Parents or caregivers may also apply pressure to children to achieve by pushing them hard, criticising or berating them or explicitly telling them to do better. This may come from good intentions (they want the best for the child in their care) but it communicates to the child that they are not enough as they are and are not valued for simply being themselves.
It's not just parents though, society also may have a part to play in why you feel as though you are not enough. The education system we have is set up to compare children's academic achievements and pupils are sorted by ability and tested throughout their schooling experience. The job market can also ensure you are hyper aware of your perceived weaknesses by making you compete for roles and against colleagues for promotions. Even dating can make you feel not good enough if you are struggling to find someone for you and the nature of dating apps makes it super easy to compare yourself to literally everyone!
How does not feeling good enough show up in your life?
There are so many ways that feelings of inadequacy can show up in your life and keep you feeling trapped experiencing the same patterns over and over again. Listed here are some examples that I see often in my practice:
holding yourself back from opportunities
self sabotage (drink/drugs/shopping etc)
stress & burnout
fear of criticism & rejection
unable to be honest about your feelings
difficulty trusting yourself or others
unable to accept compliments
terrified of failure
low self esteem
lack of self care
inability to slow down and rest
fear of feeling emotions
lack of boundaries with self and others
Although the feeling of not being enough often begins in childhood it is common as an adult to perpetuate this belief by putting yourself down and holding yourself to an impossible standard. This inner voice is often referred to as the inner critic and it plays a big part in continuing feelings of not being enough. You can change the way that you speak to yourself over time but the first step is to notice when you are having critical thoughts and being a d*ck to yourself. You cannot change something that is outside of your awareness.
5 Tips: Learning How To Feel Good Enough
Be kinder to yourself I will never stop going on about developing compassion for yourself as it helps with whatever you are feeling whenever you are feeling it! As I mentioned above, feeling like you are not enough is a belief that you have internalised (probably from a variety of external sources) however you are the one that keeps you stuck there by reaffirming this belief over and over to yourself. Sometimes we even judge and criticise ourselves for feeling like this, making us feel even worse! Begin noticing when you are being harsh or critical to yourself and practise saying kind things instead. Slowly over time this changes your inner critical voice to an inner nurturing voice and this will make all the difference to how you feel.
Live your life by your values instead of seeking approval from others.
Feelings of inadequacy can make you look to others for reassurance and approval, which sometimes makes you feel better. However, it also reinforces that you need others reassurance and approval to feel okay, creating a need to continue seeking it out instead of trusting yourself. Thinking about your values and the qualities which you want to live your life by guides you in your decisions and choices and helps you to feel content. Remember, it is far more important that life FEELS good to you rather than looks good to others. It's not a success if others think you are a superhero for getting so much done however in reality you are constantly overwhelmed, burnt out and sobbing on the floor in the evenings.
Focus on the process not the outcome.
Moments of success and achievement may feel good but the feeling passes quickly and soon we are back to where we started, feeling not good enough and obsessing about the next thing we tell ourselves we have to achieve. The truth is, you will spend far more of your life working towards your desires and ambitions so it's important to find satisfaction in the process rather than waiting to achieve the thing to feel good about yourself. Values work can help with this as you can define what showing up each day and living in alignment with your values looks like, meaning you can celebrate yourself and your commitment to these values along the way. If one of your values is taking care of your emotional & physical health then you are able to celebrate days when you rested and took time out, winning!
You already know this but comparison with others is incredibly likely to make you feel as though you aren't enough. It's never a fair comparison. We all start off from different places with different backgrounds, privileges and opportunities but we rarely take this into consideration as we hyper focus on one aspect where we perceive others to be doing better than us and obsess about how we are lacking. We all do the comparison thing so don't beat yourself up when you catch yourself doing it! Instead notice the thoughts and act curiously, what does this comparison tell you about what you desire? You can use this info to work towards things that are important to you. But be careful, always question "is this something I actually desire for myself or am I telling myself that I should want what others want?"
Talk to someone.
Opening up about your thoughts and feelings of inadequacy with someone you trust is very likely to help you see that many people are experiencing exactly the same thing. This can help to change your perspective and realise that these thoughts & feelings are not facts and are actually beliefs. It can be helpful to hear how others feel the same way despite from the outside looking like they are achieving a lot of success. It can be very normalising, this is part of being a human. Please make sure you are having these conversations only with someone you trust and feel safe enough to be vulnerable with. If you don't have someone in your life like that or you wish to go deeper and get to the root of these beliefs then it might be a good time for you to consider therapy or other professional help.
I hope this blog has helped you to see how feeling inadequate can impact your life and also given you some ideas of things you can do to begin changing this. If this has got you thinking about your own experiences & core beliefs and you would like to know how therapy could help you explore this subject further please get in touch to book a free consultation.
In addition to working 1-1 with me, I would also love to help you through my monthly self care email, The Nudge. This is a monthly email of self care reminders, reflection prompts & suggestions to help you check in with yourself at the beginning of each month. If that sounds like it would be helpful please fill out your email address here to subscribe.
I am an Integrative Therapist who works remotely online with millennials who are anxious, lost, and overwhelmed. I work collaboratively with people to support them in their emotional wellbeing, to develop skills in self-care and to foster a deeper understanding of themselves. If you would like to find out how I can help you to understand your emotions better, please book a free consultation to see if we are well suited to work together.
Alternatively, please come connect with me over on Instagram - I would love to get to know you further.