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When I sat down to write part 2 of this series I’ve created, exploring the “not good enough” mantra I’ve struggled with most of my life, I was surprised to see how big it quickly grew. This post ballooned up to over 2000 words before I knew it, and the more I wrote, the more I thought of to write. (As a result, I’ve split it into even more segments, to keep it the size of a nice, easy read.)
That’s because this is a complex subject—one I’ve spent much of the last several years trying to figure out. The truth is, there isn’t just one factor that creates this particular imbalance in our thinking, and therefore, there isn’t just one way to heal it.
I’ve learned (and am learning) how to tame the parts of my mind that used to constantly chime in to remind me of all the things I’m not doing right/good enough/big enough/special enough. For years, this part of me ran the show—often causing me to make crappy choices, because I just didn’t know I deserved better.
As part of trying to understand and reverse this twisted thinking, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint when exactly someone important in my life actually told me I wasn’t good enough. A specific time when someone meaningful told me I was less than everyone else around me. There had to have been at least one incident where this happened, right? And it had to have been someone important to me—otherwise, why would it have so forcefully shaped the trajectory of my life?
I can’t think of one. Not one single time. I was raised by loving parents, grew up with two big brothers who were always good to me, and we’re still close now. I had good friends, a great coach/role model who I’m still friends with to this day. I was never abused in any way. I was never given up on, never belittled for being who I was, never had anything outright wrong in my life.
No one ever told me, “You, Chrissy, are not good enough.”
Yet somehow I picked up this mantra as my own and ran with it for SO. MANY. YEARS.
Almost everyone I know struggles to one degree or another with feeling like they’re not good enough in some area of their lives. Whether it’s body image, career, marriage, parenting, etc. (and for me, it was all of those, plus probably more). We could sit here and compare notes about the things we don’t like about ourselves and all the ways we think we don’t measure up, but obviously that helps no one.
What’s worse is I’m starting to see my kids grapple with these issues. My beautiful, smart, funny, talented, big hearted kids, who’ve only ever been successful at the things they’ve done.
They’re not insecure, but there are things they feel like they are not good enough for/at. It’s so damn hard to see them struggle. Because there’s me, trying to teach them how to not believe the lies their minds are telling them… that they ARE good enough… even as they see me fight to overcome my own version of these stories.
I don’t want my kids to be arrogant, so that’s not what this is about. But I also don’t want them to hold themselves back from this big, vibrant life because they don’t think they deserve to go for it.
Really, there’s such a fine line between believing all the good about yourself and being a conceited jerk. My kids have told me that’s one of their fears: they don’t want to be seen as cocky or stuck up. It’s super challenging for us adults, never mind the kids, to figure out how to be one (believing the good about yourself) without also being the other (a jerk.).
Isn’t it interesting how thin and tenuous a line it is between the two?
And isn’t it interesting how quick people are to judge those who are able to believe all the good about themselves? As a general rule, some of us don’t like those people. The ones who have it all figured out, who are happy and abundant and prosperous. Oh, sure, we might follow them on social media, we might secretly wish we were them, but we also judge them harshly—which is really an attempt to bring them back down to what we feel our level is. That’s us trying to be able to feel at least slightly comparable.
We then use their success to flog ourselves for the lack of our own. And sometimes we even sit and wait for them to fail. “Good, I’m glad she got knocked off her high horse. She was getting way too high on herself.”
There’s a difference between confident and arrogant, but how many of us can navigate that line?
So, how do we change it? How do we heal this cycle? How do we finally start to believe we’re not “less than,” that we don’t have to constantly prove ourselves to ourselves? We are our own worst critics, of that I’m sure most of us can readily agree.
Is it possible this is just a normal part of our human experience? Is it just part of our time here on earth to unlearn the negative stuff we believe about ourselves?
Society and our culture have to be included in the list of causes of the whole “not good enough” mantra, too. We’re taught from a very early age to not be too much of anything. To not let our light shine too brightly. We don’t want to be braggy, boastful, etc. We don’t want to be too confident, too smart, too skinny, too pretty, too nice, too anything. We don’t want to over-celebrate our successes. We hold ourselves back, thinking that by not outshining those around us, we’re doing them a favor. Newsflash—we’re not.
Really, though, can we even blame society? That big faceless THING that we love to blame for a lot of what’s wrong in our world? I have two things to say to this. One: Blame never solves anything, and it never gets anything done. It keeps us trapped in the never ending circle we’re stuck in, repeating the same mistakes, passing down the same misinformation from generation to generation.
And two, maybe even more important, is this: “society” isn’t actually a thing, on its own. This huge, influential thing we’ve given so much of our power to? “Society” isn’t a thing that can create a change.
It starts with you. It starts with me. If you change how you see yourself, you’ll teach your kids how to change how they see themselves, and they’ll maybe raise their kids to not have these false beliefs about themselves in the first place. That’s how a societal shift happens. That’s how we change what society tells us. Because we are society. Not the other way around.
Start with you. Start healing those fears. Start weeding out those false beliefs that somehow you are not enough. Stop believing those lies that have held you back all these years. Start looking for the good—both in you and around you. Start to be the change, and watch the world around you respond by changing, too.