I didn’t know it was an issue for me until I saw a picture of someone with ‘I am enough’ written on their chest.
It suddenly struck me that I couldn’t write that on my chest because it didn’t feel true to me. I had no idea what an impact not feeling good enough was having on me.
At the time I was recovering from burnout: my digestion wasn’t functioning well, I’d developed an anxiety disorder, and I was fatigued. I had taken leave from work and I was trying to find solutions and recover my health. I came across the ‘I am enough’ image in an inspiring TED talk by Brené Brown and from there I started discovering the impact a low sense of self worth can have.
Turns out it’s at the root of many of the difficulties people face with achieving the success, happiness and health they want in life.
If somewhere deep in yourself you don’t feel worthy, you will look to fill that gap in your heart with external approval or status symbols, but they will always fall short. What your inner self needs is acceptance and approval from its harshest critic – you.
As I unpacked this idea and started noticing what I was telling myself about me, I realised I was constantly telling myself off for being judgmental. I didn’t want to be that annoying person who nagged and criticized so I mostly stopped myself from saying what was in my head. This act of censorship was essentially telling my inner self off for thinking this way, and my inner self took that rejection to heart: I’m not good enough. I’m obviously a bad person for being so judgmental.
These feelings were subconscious but impacted on my conscious world in the way I behaved. It led me to want to please others and seek approval. It fed my tendency for perfectionism and need for control, and these things contributed to my high stress levels. Combined with an intense work environment and a toddler at home, it led to burnout.
Thankfully I no longer function in this way.
I’ve found that my need for control stemmed from an underlying sense of anxiety, likely driven by naturally lower levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. The need for control fed the judgmental thoughts, which gave rise to the bulk of the self-criticism. Anxiety medication, mindset changes, improved diet, nutritional supplements, exercise and relaxation practices have all made a big difference, although finding the right balance for me is still a work in progress five years on.
Today I can truly say ‘I am enough’ and mean it.
I’ve recently been learning from top UK coach Marissa Peer about how to reverse the effects of feeling not good enough.
Her advice is remarkably simple, considering how entrenched this issue is for so many people:
- Understand where it comes from. Often, it’s a belief absorbed in childhood in response to rejection.
- Know that it is no longer relevant. You are no longer that child dependent on approval from your parents or caregivers.
- Change the script on your inner critic: tell yourself ‘I am enough’ everyday, write it on your mirror, set it as your screen saver. Your inner self believes what your outer self tells it.
Keep saying it till you can feel it is true, then say it to your daughters and your sons. In this age of constant comparison online, the next generation needs a bulletproof sense of self-worth. They need to know that they, too, are enough.
(First published 11 April 2019 on www.lifelab.co.nz)