I am not good enough.
I didn’t do enough.
I don’t have enough.
It’s a tragedy every time we use the word ‘enough’ in these ways. It’s a personal tragedy, because we use it to limit our true potential and happiness. And it’s a global one, because the world really needs you to be you!
There are three areas where we use ‘enough’ to hold ourselves back from happiness: who we are, what we do, and what we have.
We believe we are not enough
We are too big and loud or too quiet and thoughtful for the world. Our hearts beg for something that looks really different from what everyone else is doing. Our souls tug us down an unfamiliar road, away from the well-trodden path. Our faces look different. Our backgrounds are flawed. Our brains work differently.
We use all of this as evidence to prove why we are not enough.
Even though these are actually incontrovertible proof that we are enough, because each shows that we are different, special and unique — that we have something incredible inside of us to offer.
Research has found that many of us tend to find our self-worth through comparing ourselves to others, even though that’s like comparing an orchid to a monster truck or to a wrench. We are all different for a reason, and that reason is not to make ourselves small – it is to own and embrace it, and use it to make the world better.
Stop using your differences to prove why you are less than other people. Start using them to prove to yourself why you are wonderfully enough just as you are.
Here are three research-backed tips to help you with this belief:
Every time you catch yourself using your differences as evidence for being less-than, flip it around to show why they are a gift that makes you special. If you are berating yourself for being too shy to speak up in a meeting, you could flip it into a strength and reflect on how observant you are.
When you find yourself comparing yourself with someone else, pause and remind yourself that you can only truly compare yourself against your prior self. Instead of comparing yourself to the outspoken Harry Smith, compare yourself today to how you did last month.
We believe we do not do enough
You produce a beautiful piece of writing, but fixate on the one typo in the thousands of words. You do an amazing presentation at work, but one constructive comment leads you to berate yourself for the rest of the night. You hit a golf shot that goes to the left, and let it throw you off for the remaining 80 shots in your game.
Seeking to perform perfectly is a fool’s errand that sets you up for incredible pain and suffering. Most of the time, good enough is good enough. We have missed out on so many pieces of writing, works of art, scientific discoveries, products, and businesses because their creators were paralyzed by the belief that they needed to have their first action be perfect.
Seeking to do everything that society demands of us is a devil’s bargain. None of us can possibly be all that is demanded of us. Starting to create space between those externally-imposed expectations in order to define our own expectations for ourselves is essential for our mental health.
Seeking to do things in order to gain approval from others also backfires: research has found that when we set goals to improve our social standing or to be better than others, it backfires upon us, and ends up severely damaging our sense of self-worth.
Here are tips to help you combat the feeling that you need to do things perfectly, do what society demands, or do things to please others:
Work hard, but identify the signs that show you are tipping into perfectionism or people pleasing. Whenever you start a project or task, ask what 90% would look like, and aim for that. You’ll likely exceed it, and you’ll reduce the unbearable pressure of trying to be 110% at everything.
Ask yourself, “What do I want in this moment?” By practicing this in small moments, you can build a sense for your own desires and goals, creating that necessary space from what society tells you to want.
Set goals that are about contributing to a cause outside of yourself or to helping other people. Ego-centric goals about preserving our self-image or of being perfect lead us to be far more judgmental of ourselves. If we anchor ourselves in a bigger, transcendent purpose, that tendency quiets down.
We believe we do not have enough
Who among us has not told themselves, “I can’t do that because I don’t have X?” We either don’t possess some magical skill or quality, or we don’t have the possessions we need to feel happy, or we don’t live in quite the right place, or we don’t have the right qualification to pursue our dreams. This laundry list of what we lack holds us back from our happiness and reinforces that we are not enough as we are.
One of two things occur when we have this belief.
First, we either go out and pursue that thing, thinking that when we get it, we will be imbued with untouchable confidence to finally pursue our dreams and in possession of happiness. Unfortunately, that never works. Research has found that attaining extrinsic goals does not positively impact well-being, and in some cases negatively affects it. Other research has found that when people pursue extrinsic goals, they are more likely to have more superficial relationships, engage in frequent social comparison, and prioritize self-image pursuits over things they actually enjoy doing.
Or, second, we don’t allow ourselves to share our gifts, because we believe that we can’t without that possession or qualification or characteristic. We quit before we ever get started.
Both pathways lead to a massive hit in your self-worth, which in turn makes it harder to take action, which makes you feel like you need to surround yourself with things that signify your worth — a vicious downward spiral.
Here’s how you can address this belief:
When you set goals, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for the joy of it, or am I doing it for other reasons?”
Remind yourself that nothing you ever achieve will be a panacea that makes you feel better, happier, and confident forever. Once reminder, check in: do you still need that thing or to pursue that goal?
With this awareness and these actions, you will be able to take three major shifts that will help you to find happiness and make your difference in the world.
From “I am not enough” to “I am enough because I am.”
From “I am not doing enough” to “I am doing my best, which is always enough.”
From “I don’t have enough” to “I will always have enough if I’m following my heart.”
The world needs you to be you. And you need you to be you.
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