not good enough

Understand the burden of feeling ‘not good enough’ and how to reduce its impact.

Understand the burden of feeling ‘not good enough’ and how to reduce its impact.

Have you outwardly achieved what looks like success but inwardly feel a sense of defectiveness?  This experience is surprisingly common and can go by many different labels.  “I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough; I’m different; I don’t fit in; I feel like a fraud”.  Whatever the phrase, the underlying belief is the same –  I am internally flawed and if others get too close, they will realise and end our relationship or think less of me. Feeling inadequate can lead to a sense of shame, low self-confidence, anxiety and anger and can stop you from achieving your potential.

Feeling defective usually has origins in childhood and is then carried into adult life.   Often, parents were critical or dismissive of the child and made them feel as if they were not worthy of being loved.  Maybe teachers told them that they wouldn’t amount to anything.  Or perhaps they felt like they didn't fit in or were the target of bullying - this can especially be the case for those who are introverted or sensitive.  For example, a kid who struggled with friendships or was teased about their appearance at school might then carry with them a worry about being accepted by others as an adult.  Knowing where a sense of defectiveness came from can help to see that it's just a past memory, a thought, and no longer reality.

What’s your raw spot?  For most people, their sense of defectiveness is not active all the time. They tend to be high achievers and so long as they're ‘succeeding’, their sense of defectiveness lies dormant until something triggers it – their ‘raw spot’.  Common triggers include transitions (like starting a new job), receiving critical feedback (like a performance review), evaluation situations (like doing an exam), or issues related to dating and relationships.  When your sense of defectiveness gets ‘triggered’ try thinking, "Oh that's my raw spot being pushed again!" Just understanding why you're reacting with anxiety, defensiveness or anger can go a long way to helping you feel calmer.

Understand your self-protective strategies.  People with a sense of defectiveness often overwork because they see excelling as the only way to avoid negative scrutiny and keep their flaws under the radar.  In addition, they often avoid things they believe they can't excel at.  Avoidance is a coping strategy that provides short-term relief, but long-term disappointment.  For example, they avoid going for a job promotion but then their career doesn’t progress or they avoid close relationships but then feel lonely.  Another coping strategy used by some is to talk too much about their achievements. They are trying to prove that they're not defective, but no one believed they were and all the boasting can be off putting.

Dropping self-protective strategies like overworking and learning better ways to cope can be an antidote to a sense of defectiveness.  For example, you can learn you don't need to overwork or always be the best and still be ‘okay’.  If you’ve been carrying the burden of feeling ‘not good enough’ and can’t seem to let it go, then get some help.  A clinical psychologist can help you understand how this unhelpful belief started; move beyond the past; and ultimately, feel more comfortable and confident as you are.

by Lydia Rigano

in DUOMagazine April 2018