Today I wanted to share something about not feeling good enough.
One of the most entrenched beliefs I have is about not ever being good enough, it manifests in everything I am, everything I do, and in every aspect of my life. That… overwhelming sense of failure. Sometimes I’ll go so far as to bring failure onto myself – to make it tangible, less ethereal, make it real so that I can at least experience it.
“she grew up learning to scan the people around her, craving approval, trying to identify and meet their expectations as well. But approval is like a sugar high. It doesn’t last. It’s never enough. And it subjects us to an endless round of subordinating ourselves to others, taking us further and further away from ourselves. Even today, as a successful professional, Jill harbors that “not good enough” feeling inside, unable to accept compliments, to believe in herself, to fully relax and enjoy her life.” – D.Dreher (Psychology Today 2014)
Everything from my profession, to my relationship, friendships and parenthood – never good enough is a message constantly internalised at every level. And of course, a strikingly internalised message was that that I was not a good enough girl and I’m not a good enough woman. Its echoes remain with me always, and those from feminism one of the strongest – “male socialised”, “not raised with that level of vulnerability”, “endowed with privilege”… “not good enough”. My body was not good enough, my psychology not good enough, my emotional intelligence not good enough. I’m never a good enough parent, sister, or daughter, I don’t have a noun for my parenthood, but what does it matter – not being good enough anyway.
And from this thread of inadequacy, so many others blossom. My partner tells me how beautiful and graceful I am, how much she loves me and what we mean to each other is profound, but I still have that sense of not being enough for her. I’m told I’m competent at my job, I get good grades academically – but I’m never good enough to myself. Recently, talking with friends I heard the words “imposter syndrome” – there seems some validation of that feeling of not being good enough, of not being worthy. I guess in a psychological way I carry around a “not good enough” cup nearly filled to the brim – it doesn’t take much for it to spill over and cause devastation with relationships.
So now that I know, where can I take this? Where does one go with a sense of never being good enough – and this sense of a deep prevailing daily struggle, upheld by the many acts, behaviours, comments and micro-aggressions faced by a minority woman every day of her life?
Dreher (2014) suggests three things:
- Mindfulness. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Name your feelings to yourself—“I feel sad, scared, hurt, angry, confused.”
- Common humanity. Tell yourself, “It’s OK. No one’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.”
- Kindness to yourself. Actively soothe yourself with kind words, even giving yourself a hug by crossing your arms over your chest, squeezing your upper arms, and feeling a sense of compassion for yourself (Neff, 2011).
Listening to what I’m feeling is a totally alien thing for me, I have a lifetime training in not listening, in not being myself, in not talking about the issues that bother me. My feelings are magnified, enormous, loud and torturous, but once released… safely… they loose their power in time. I know this, I’ve been in enough therapy. Madison Sonnier from “the tiny buddah” suggests 7 things to remember when not feeling good enough. Tartacovsky (2013) suggests simply accepting that we are enough already, Chernoff (2014) suggests 20 things to remember when you think you’re not good enough, and Coster (2013) reminds me of the importance of self care.