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What If You Are Not Good Enough?16 min read

It is a scary idea. Ugly, even.

And by “it”, I mean the painful, dreadful idea that you are probably not good enough. And I believe that your imagination is, ironically, good enough at finding other adjectives than “good” to fill in. Adjectives like, “smart, tall, pretty, rich …etc.”

But I bet you have thought of it before, pondered on it, and almost believed it one night when you were feeling very vulnerable and weak.

I believe in this because you are a human. And I also believe in this because you are reading this article on the internet through a screen. I’ll explain in seconds.

You will find a lot of cheesy articles here and there telling you that you are perfect the way you are.

And while that is what you want and need to hear, a small part of you can’t fully believe that.

After all, if you’d been perfect the way you are, you shouldn’t have worried about not being enough.

You will also find articles where the writers claim they are giving you hard, ugly truths. That you are not perfect, that you are not enough. And that you will never be enough. And you have to live with that!

But again, a small part of you can’t believe this, too. This little part recognizes the fact that you can’t live with yourself this way. That you have things that make you a wonderful human (at least not a very bad human!)

So, let’s cut to the cheese. We need to have a realistic view of this “Being enough” thing in order to hate ourselves a little bit less and stop sweating over our imperfections.

Why Do We Even Want to Feel We Are Good Enough?

Because we want to feel appreciated. We want to feel loved. And most importantly, we want to feel that we belong.

Because we want to feel that we are worthy enough to reach our dreams and goals.

It’s not about being enough. It’s about being enough to get what? For most people, to get the normal appreciation and feelings of belonging, and achievement even.

That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It’s a human’s need.

It becomes a bad thing in two cases …

Dysfunctional Childhood

The first case is when you have a bad childhood where you were told that you are inadequate and stupid and a coward and a piece of shit. And you, as a little child, believed that. And you grew up into an insecure fellow.

Or even the opposite. A childhood where you were told that you are special and amazing and a rock star and exceptional and a perfect kid. And you also believed that, as a little child. And you grew up into an entitled piece of shit.

As soon as you grew up, a lot of psychological issues started to take place. One of them is the deep-rooted, painful belief that you are not enough.

The first example when you were abused is clear. You never felt good enough as a child. You were always judged and criticized. You parents never seemed to be proud of you no matter how good you did. Your parents never gave you enough, or any, love, so it probably means you were not a good child.

Some experts say that¹, as children, we believe that everything in the world is about us. So if our parents hadn’t given us love or care or attention, it must have been our fault.

Also, as children, we care about nothing but the love and the approval of our parents. When they don’t give that to us, we try to fix their problems and fix ourselves and fix the world to make them give us that love. But it never works because it’s not actually about us. It’s about the parents and their own emotional problems.

And because that never works, we believe that it must be because we were bad and not good enough.

It might seem like a silly, naïve conclusion. But for a child, it’s believable and very convincing. And surprisingly, most of the beliefs that you had formed as a child don’t magically vanish when you grow up. They just wear a different mask.

In the second example where you were told that you are special and exceptional, it’s simpler. You discover, in the real world, that you are not special and not exceptional. That you are neither awesome nor perfect. And that the world doesn’t care about you.

Those facts hit you like a wall of bricks. They shatter your self-esteem. And a lot of beliefs will start to develop to help you cope with this shock. (Most of those beliefs are usually self-deceptive beliefs to maintain the good, but the unreal, feelings of being too amazing).

But in our context, you unconsciously reach the conclusion that you are probably not good enough. However, you never let it show. You let it eat you from the inside while pretending to be that awesome person you falsely believed you are.

Deep within, there is a sense of shame about not being as perfect and as special as you believed. Again, it’s not about being enough. It’s about being enough to get what? In this case, it’s about being enough to meet your ridiculously unrealistic and impossible expectations of being an entitled snowflake.

For many people, it’s not black or white like this. Many of us can relate to both situations. And although the two situations look different, they both lead to the same destination.

Let me tell you why.

Because both of them are dysfunctional. They look totally the opposite of each other but they are only the two ends of the same spectrum –the two extremes.

That is why we see some people swing from an extreme to another extreme. The opposite of fear is not courage, it is recklessness –courage is somewhere in the middle between fear and recklessness.

 

So, although they are two different ends of a spectrum, they are, in the end, extremes. And extremes lead to nothing but problems.

This was the first case. The first reason we end up feeling not good enough.

The second reason is …

The Bigger Culture’s Expectations

When we were children, our ‘culture’ was our family. Mainly, our parents.

We, as children, care only about the love. We care about the approval of our parents.

The expectations that our parents set become our own expectations. And we need to meet these expectations in order to get their love and approval.

Even the ideas that we have about ourselves are shaped by our interactions with our parents.

When we grow up, the idea of the culture expands to include our society and community.

There is a larger culture that we need to interact with its ideas and expectations, whether we like that or not.

This culture includes our society and community. But, thanks to technology, it’s no longer limited to that.

By using social media you can compare yourself to anybody on the globe, including the celebrities. Let alone the fact that we project only our best selves on Facebook and Instagram.

Movies and the songs are consumed globally. Those movies and songs hold specific ideas, beliefs, and expectations –good or bad. And when enough number of people from a certain community starts interacting with these ideas and beliefs, they will start adopting them and replacing, at least some of, their own culture’s ideas.

So, thanks to technology we have a global culture that shares similar ideas. Yes, every culture is different but we have global, similar ideas and, most importantly, expectations.

These ideas and expectations stem from the fact that technology is available for almost everyone. And technology allowed people to express their insecurities and even project them into other people. Technology has become a medium to project insecurity and even to intensify the already existing insecurity. And it’s a very attractive medium because through it you can get a lot of exposure and attention.

Let’s see how …

Our Insane, Shitty Culture

When your parents have shitty ideas, expectations, and beliefs, you’ll grow up having a terrible self-esteem. You’ll grow up believing that you are not good enough just as we saw in the examples above.

And it’s the same when it comes to our culture.

When our culture is full of dysfunctional, shitty ideas, expectations, and beliefs, we’ll struggle more with self-esteem. And that’s exactly what is happening.²

First, social media enabled us to show the world how amazing our lives are. But in reality, our lives are anything but amazing. On Facebook, everybody is smart, wise, compassionate, funny, and happy. On Instagram, everybody is good-looking, having a great time, and enjoying a wonderful social life.

I once read a quote that sums up this. It goes, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is that we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Everything on social media is highlight reel!

We even derive our self-worth from how many likes we get or from the number of our followers.

That’s fucking insane and crazy! Never in human’s history was there young guys who let meaningless numbers of likes and followers decide how worthy they were!

No matter how good you do, you will always feel that you are still way behind.

You’ve got 15K followers? Someone else has got 30k.

Every post on your Facebook gets at least 200 likes? I bet you someone on your friend’s list gets 500 reactions.

Sounds like a rat race to me!

And celebrities and movies and songs. Let me rant about that, too, because it plays a major role in shaping our expectations and beliefs. Or reflecting our expectations and beliefs, maybe!

Good looking and skinny models and actors and actresses are all over magazines’ covers. They set the bar too high, especially for women. In movies, the hero goes through all the problems and never breaks. And should he break, he bounces back like a basketball, quickly and strongly.

And instant gratification. We are living in a dopamine-oriented society that is obsessed with instant gratification. And when we don’t get what we want instantly or sooner than later, we feel anxiety. We even might give up thinking that we are not good enough to get what we want. Just because we didn’t get it from the first or second time! No fucking patience. Not pointing fingers here for I’m not an exception.

(Note: the younger generation is more affected by these variables³. They are the millennials. And because of that, they struggle more with self-esteem and self-worth. They even suffer from addiction to the dopamine they get from social media and technology, which makes them suffer in more ways. Again, I’m not pointing fingers for I’m a millennial.)

Put all these pieces together and you will realize that the culture in which we live isn’t helping us feel that we are enough. It’s actually doing the opposite.

Just like a parent who tells us that we are a piece of shit, we get told that by our culture every day through indirect messages that make us feel small. And just like a parent who tells us that we are perfect and special, we get told that by our culture in subtle ways like collecting likes and followers.

Maybe we misused technology and allowed it to create a lot of insecurity in our lives. Maybe we are just perpetuating what we believed about ourselves using technology. Guess we’ll never know for sure.

But in either case, the damage is done. The beliefs are installed. The expectations are set and the disappointment is felt. Self-esteem is shattered and self-doubt is built.

Our small culture (our family) and our big culture, which is connected through technology, are conditioning us to feel small and not good enough. I’m not writing this to blame anyone. I’m writing this to raise awareness and to hold ourselves accountable for getting ourselves to feel enough and worthy and strong.

Here is how …

What To Do?

Now that you understand why we develop the I’m-not-good-enough belief, it’s time to challenge it.

Just because you had a dysfunctional childhood, it doesn’t mean that you are doomed to live forever believing you are not good enough.

As a child, you couldn’t do any better. You couldn’t believe any better.

And just because we have a dysfunctional culture, it doesn’t mean that we have to live with a low self-esteem.

I believe that self-awareness can be of a great help. Knowing where you came from can give you a great insight into where you had better go to make things better.

You are no longer a child and you can challenge the beliefs that made you believe you are not good enough.

You don’t need to fix anyone or any situation to get love, attention, or appreciation. And if someone doesn’t give you these things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not good enough to get them. It simply might mean that this person has his own emotional problems. Stop thinking like a child that believes he/she is the center of the universe.

You don’t need other’s love and approval to feel enough. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In order to feel enough, you don’t need to depend on other’s approval, and even love, to feel worthy (because it means you are not sure of your adequacy). Yes, you need love and belonging (not approval or acceptance!) but only because it is one of your rights and needs as a human, you are already enough for that.

Read that again and let sink!

This is not easy. And it’s not a smooth journey. Especially when you’ve been feeling that you are not adequate for a long time. But it’s a lifetime solution. Changes in mentalities and beliefs are life-time solutions.

And to make things more realistic, here is another idea that I’ve come across recently …

You Don’t Even Have To Believe That You Are Good Enough!!

Wait, wait! Hear me out first.

I, like many of you, get the feeling that I’m not good enough every once and while.

And I believe that I will always be getting it. Even when I get good at what I’m insecure about. There will always be something else to feel insecure about. The cultural conditioning is just too strong to completely to defeat (hate to admit that!).

So, this feeling will always be here. And fighting it all the time isn’t always productive or healthy.

In fact, fighting it all the time will make you believe that you have never been enough and that you never will be. It will demoralize you.

So, we need a different mentality.

I have recently read a quote that goes something like this, “It is nonsense to try to be self-confident. Just look at how many things you don’t know and have no clue about! So, instead of trying to be confident, just be confident in your ability to grow and improve and in your ability to become a better person. That’s what you should be confident about.

It may sound a bit extreme but it has some logic. So, I’ve decided to use it here after twisting it to fit our context:

If you can’t believe that you are enough, believe that you can be enough. Believe in your ability to improve and grow and become better. Believe that you are enough to grow and learn and improve.

As we have said at the beginning of this article: it’s not about being enough; it’s about being enough to get/do what exactly?

You have to believe that even if you, right now, can’t get that thing you want to be enough in order to get, you can improve and grow to get it one day.

In a potty way, you have to believe that even though I’m a piece of muck now, I can one day benefit the world by turning this place into a beautiful garden.

This requires that you believe, in the first place, that you are worthy of getting this thing. That piece of shit has to believe it can benefit the world by becoming something better as time goes by.

To believe you are worthy of getting what you want, you need to stop stigmatizing yourself. And boy this is a board topic. I’ve talked about it many times. Check these articles:

Once you stop stigmatizing yourself because of your shortcomings, you are more likely to focus on improvement. And once you are trying to improve, your chances of getting what you are after are better.

To close, let me bring back that quote again for you to ponder on,

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is that we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Don’t forget that everybody has their own behind the scenes. And don’t forget that you have you have your own highlight reel. A massive shout out to Timon for pointing this out.

Ironically, after finishing this article, I feel that it’s not good enough. But I’ll publish it anyway. I’ve done my best and I know that I can improve as a writer and as a thinker and come up with better pieces in the future.

Further Reading (And Watching)

For the nerds like me, here are some useful resources. If some of the ideas in this article resonated with you and you want to dig deeper, you may go ahead:

  1. This article on Psychology Today. It talks about how your childhood can make you believe you are not good enough. It’s written by a family therapist and it is pretty interesting. And also this article.
  2. The book Daring Greatly has an entire chapter about not being enough. It talks about scarcity as a mindset. A mindset adopted by the culture and by us individuals. Brene Brown explains in details how our culture is adopting the scarcity mindset and she links all that to what she talks best about, shame and vulnerability.
  3. I mentioned something above about millennials and their interaction with technology and the world around them. All of that is cleverly illustrated by Simon Sinek in this amazing video. It was an eye-opener for me.

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