At some point, we’ve all felt like no matter how hard we try it’s just not enough. Not enough to be accepted, to achieve that goal, to receive that promotion, or to entice and keep that romantic partner happy.
While it is natural for everybody to experience this at times, the problem becomes exaggerated in today’s modern society where everyone’s accomplishments are always on full display.
It becomes easy to internalize feelings of inadequacy when all you see on social media is how you’re making less money, own fewer or less expensive stuff, take less exciting trips, or are not in that picture-perfect fairy tail relationship.
I’ve been here so many times, and the sad thing is; simple feelings of what I’m doing are not enough can very quickly become an internal crisis of feeling that I am not good enough.
Luckily having been in therapy for years and having read more self-help books than I care to admit has taught me quite a few things to help me address and arrest these feelings as they pop up.
Here’s a list of 9 I found to be quite useful.
1. Don’t look outside look within
The most important thing to realize is that this is a feeling that originates from within and you have to take a deep look within yourself to address it. There is certainly a feel-good factor in looking outside; you can ‘reinvent’ yourself by buying new clothes, getting a haircut, or if you’re one for extremes perhaps even a new car.
The thing is, all these external things are just a mask and it’s unsustainable. It’s the equivalent of hiding a pimple with makeup, just because no one else sees it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about its existence. And just like with makeup; hiding the issue won’t cause it to heal but may just lead to it becoming a bigger un-hideable issue.
2. What people have said or done to you is rarely about you
Whatever the criticism or discrimination you have experienced, the truth is it’s not about you at all.
It’s common for us to internalize what people say, but it’s important to remember that other people too have bad days, weeks or even years. The person doling out the critique may very well be in a bad marriage, dissatisfied with their job or even just carrying around criticism someone else has placed on them. For all you know they’re a victim too, and it’s not uncommon for victims to seek empowerment by becoming abusers themselves
Remind yourself of this whenever you find yourself feeling lesser than because of what someone else has said or done. Realize it’s their baggage and you absolutely don’t have to carry their negativity around for them.
3. Be realistic with expectations of yourself
Authenticity has become a rarity in our world of curated social media. People rarely post about their struggles or their bad times. Instead, we overplay the happy, fun and exciting times. Social media is really just a highlight reel with a few weird flexes and humblebrags. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with celebrating the good, but honestly, I sometimes wonder just how much of what I’m seeing online is masked reality.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to remember the grass really isn’t always greener on the other side. Comparing yourself with what someone else chooses to portray is a recipe for disaster. It just leaves you with unrealistic expectations of being good enough, because comparisons is an unwinnable trap and happiness equals reality minus expectations
While it’s true that there will always be someone richer, smarter, more attractive and more successful than us, these things don’t necessarily imply these people are happier than us. Because guess what, the same holds true for them. Even for them, there will always be someone with ‘more’ for them to compare themselves too.
Whenever I find myself in the comparison trap I always try and compare myself with myself. Sounds silly, but it’s a much better alternative to see how far you’ve come, how you’ve grown and what you’ve achieved as compared to the younger you.
4. Be strict with social media
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with checking out your feed and connecting with people on social media. But the thing is, social media is quite addictive. It’s designed to be and before you know it, just enough time has passed for you to be tempted by the comparison game. Don’t get lost on social media, try limiting yourself to 30 minutes a day. Better yet, see how many days you can go without checking your feed at all.
If like me you’re struggling to limit your social media exposure; try using an app that tracks and block online time, and as a bonus, you’ll also be more present, focussed and productive. Don’t know where to start, these 10 apps can block social media.
5. Your thoughts are not your reality
In so many ways we’re often our own worst enemies, especially when we’re prone to negative self-talk. From time to time we all ruminate about our decisions, our lives, and even our mistakes. And when combined with the comparison trap these thoughts can turn into a spiral of negative self-talk. Thoughts of being single right now can quickly turn into thoughts of being unattractive or boring, and before you know it you’re thinking you are going to die alone.
The thing is to not be so quick at believing every thought that comes into your mind. You have the power to define your reality and the way you see yourself.
When I find myself going down a negative thought spiral, I try to reframe the situation. What’s the exception to the negative thought?
I’m single right now, but is it because I’m undatable, or because I haven’t put myself out there. Or, I didn’t complete the perfect project at work, but was this due to my own unrealistic expectations? After all, I did finish it on time and it was according to the brief.
6. Be present and take joy in the process
Remember we’re all just a work in progress. Life is a collection of steps and we are not who we were 5 years ago, nor who we will be 5 years from now. If you’re focused on what you did wrong in the past or obsessed over who you want to become in the future. You’ll not only miss out on truly enjoying the now, but you’ll put yourself under so much unneeded stress and pressure.
And the funny thing is, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are. If you’re stressed about them you’re more likely to choke and fail. When you’re stressed about something it becomes your foremost thought and recent findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience have found that performance falters when you concentrate too much attention on it.
Simply put, worrying about screwing it up makes it all the more likely that you will screw it up.
Let go of expecting ‘perfection’. Stop asking yourself if you’re doing it right, if you’re going to lose your job or if you look like an idiot. Just look at it for what it is. Each moment and action is just one step of the many that lead to the bigger picture. If you look for moments of growth you may just surprise yourself by enjoying them.
7. Leave the bottling to Coca-Cola
So often I find myself in situations where someone would speak about their current struggles only to shut it off by saying they don’t want to be negative and then change the topic. I can understand where this is coming from, I mean, no one likes to be surrounded by someone who is constantly dropping their ‘baggage’ on you. Perhaps our curated world of social media has made being authentic something that feels unnatural to us, sharing your emotions does not make you a negative nancy.
The thing is, it is exactly when we don’t vent about our frustrations and struggles that we give them the power to culminate our mental state into a place where we become just that. Obsessed with our baggage. And if that’s not bad enough recent studies have shown how bottling and suppressing our emotions can lead to a 30% increase in premature death. Yikes.
Rather than keeping your emotions bottled up, you could let them out in one of the following ways.
Over the years I’ve learned to write down my thoughts on a daily basis. It is quite a relief to have all those thoughts on paper rather than just swirling around in my head. Writing things down provides more than relief, but also an overview of where your head is at. It’s like an inventory to all your concerns which makes it easier to see where your challenges lie. When you look back at days you can see just how wrong you were about not being good enough in some areas, and how you’re continually focused on not being good enough in others. Knowing which thoughts persists allows you to address and also discuss them with someone.
Vent to a friend.
True friends never mind. The most wonderful thing about talking it through with a close friend is that, they know you and this will allow them to ground you when you’re overthinking things. They can tailor their advice to you and give you a new perspective. More than just advice you can also ask your friend to help you come up with a plan to arrest your thoughts of not being good enough in a specific situation. Like practicing for a job interview or going through talking points on that upcoming date.
Don’t be scared of the professionals.
Even today there is still so much stigma around therapy. I find it so interesting how we as a society in general still rob ourselves of mental growth by thinking psychology is for the weak and mentally disturbed. Seeking professional help certainly does not make you weak, on the contrary, it takes a really strong person to admit they do not have the tools to fix a problem themselves.
8. Practice gratitude daily
I always thought I knew the meaning of being grateful, but it wasn’t until I started practicing gratitude on a daily basis that I truly understood what it really meant. There is a difference in being grateful for the odd gift every now and then, and realizing just how much we have to be grateful for on a daily basis.
If anything practicing gratitude is the opposite of playing the comparison game because it helps you realize just how much you really have. Happiness and gratitude go hand in hand and there has been a lot of research that shows how gratitude encourages positive emotions, improves health, relationships and also helps to deal with adversity.
Start practicing gratitude by writing a daily list of 10 things. Believe me, it will feel silly at first but focus on making this a habit by keeping things simple. You can write down things like; how grateful you are for the people in your life, your job, for having food on the table and even being able to breathe, cause that’s pretty amazing.
As it becomes more of a habit you will find it to be much easier, and I’ll encourage you to start expanding on each point because ultimately the beauty lies within why you’re grateful.
It’s one thing to say: I’m grateful for my romantic partner.
It’s another to say: I’m grateful for having found the most amazing person who is my best friend and who makes me laugh. I’m grateful for how X fulfills my emotional needs and how X always knows how to pick me up when I’m down. I’m grateful that X has been there for me unconditionally trough x,y and z and I’m grateful for all Xs love, cuddles, and effection. I’m truly grateful that I can love and return all of this to X with the same unconditionality.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do when we’re feeling down is practicing self-love rather than self-defeat. It is necessary to truly experience and feel your emotions, but staying focussed on them will only leave you feeling worse. And yes sometimes beating yourself up over something can be a good encouragement to do it better the next time around, but more often than not it will burn out your emotions and destroy your motivation.
I always think of self-love as treating yourself just as you would treat the people you most care about. Kindness, love, and generosity. The list is endless, but here are a few ways you could show yourself, love.
- Whatever situation you find yourself in treating yourself with kindness. Ask yourself, if my bestie went through this, how would I help them?
- Celebrate all your wins and not just the big ones. Pat yourself on the back and you’ll be more motivated for the next step.
- Get creative and let the inner child come out to play. Remember it’s about expressing yourself in whichever medium you fancy and not about impressing anyone, so just mute the internal critic.
- Never allow yourself to believe you’re in it alone. Vent baby, vent!
- Treat yourself. Usually, when we give someone something that is special to them, we do so because we want to show them how much they mean to us. Why then do we not do this for ourselves?
Struggling to think of more? Check out this wonderful list of self-love acts.
Keen to be proactive in turning not good enough into fabulous? Check out these awesome books.