HOW TO SHAKE THE FEELING OF NOT BEING ENOUGH
How do you shake the feeling of not being enough?
No matter how much we do or how hard we try, we sometimes become aware of an uneasy feeling lurking in the back of our minds, one that is usually accompanied by an all too familiar, insistent self-talk:
“You should’ve done (more, better, faster…)”
“You’re not doing enough”
“You’re not good enough”
So, how do we shake off this heavy burden? Here are three steps:
- Ground your self worth in God’s love.
Grounding your identity and sense of worth in God’s love for you will free you from being at the mercy of societal and cultural forces. I recall first learning that lesson when I was in my twenties. As a tall, gangly teenager growing up in Trinidad, I was not considered attractive. Voluptuousness was the beauty ideal for women. However, in my early twenties, I arrived on the shores of these United States, and I was shocked to discover that my height and weight were viewed in a very positive light. No longer was my tall, skinny frame viewed as something to be ashamed of – it was now something to be proud of! You can imagine the yo-yo effect it had on me during subsequent trips between the US and Trinidad. That experience taught me about the folly of building my self-image and worth on fickle and ultimately crazy-making cultural standards.
Spending quality time with God, reveling in God’s unrelenting love for you, and learning to accept yourself as a unique creation of God equips you to rebuild your self worth, not on the shifting sands of societal and cultural forces, but on the foundation of God’s unchanging love.
- Challenge your automatic thoughts.
We all engage in some measure of distorted thinking. Perhaps you are prone to perfectionism and its counterpart, all-or-nothing thinking. You conclude that, because you haven’t met the standard of perfection that you’ve set for yourself (or allowed others to set for you), you – your core, your essence – your very being – is a failure. So, either it’s perfect or you’re a failure.
But you don’t have to live in bondage! You can cooperate with God’s life giving Spirit by challenging and changing those cognitive distortions! So, the next time you tell yourself that you are a failure because something you did wasn’t perfect, challenge that thought!
Ask yourself/tell yourself the following (Or something similar):
Is it possible to fail AND be a valuable person?
“I failed at this AND I am still a valuable person”
What might I tell a close friend who was in the same position?
“I know you feel bad about that mistake, but that’s not going to make me like you less.”
What can I learn about this experience that can be helpful the next time around?
“I learned that I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every request that others make of me.”
Can I aim for excellence instead of perfection?
“Even though it wasn’t perfect, I am happy that I did my best.”
What does God ask of me in this or any endeavor?
“I believe God wants me to be myself and to do my best – and if that’s good enough for God, that’s good enough for me!”
Then, practice this more realistic and compassionate self-talk whenever you are tempted to see yourself as a failure.
Practice, practice, practice – until it becomes a habit!
- Accept your humanity.
This is particularly true for those of us who are helpers. We want to make things better for others. Others often look to us to fix the problem. The temptation is to create a superhuman – even savior like – image. When we have such unrealistically high expectations of ourselves (a version of distorted thinking), caring for (or trying to save!) others becomes a heavy, unforgiving burden.
Because our minds can freely imagine doing many good and wonderful things, it’s also easy to forget that our bodies don’t have the capacity for limitless activity. We overestimate the amount of time and energy that are available to us, and we suffer the consequences.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! The first step back to a life of sanity and self-compassion is to accept – even if you have to remind yourself over and over again – that you are not God. Really! So whenever you are tempted to overestimate your role in God’s work in the world, you might find it helpful to remind yourself that God is ALWAYS present and ALWAYS active in the lives of those you serve – so it’s okay for you to be a fellow human being who points others to the God who created them, loves them and desires to be in a life-giving relationship with them.
Learning to accept our humanity – by paying attention to the signals from our mind, body and soul, by taking time to breathe deeply, to play, to rest, to meditate and to practice mindfulness – frees us to serve others well (not perfectly!), to enjoy our one precious life and to point others to the One in whom we live and move and have our being.