How to stop thinking you're not enoughMar 31, 2022
You might have a great job, a great long term relationship, loving friends and family… but too often the “I’m not good enough” self-talk takes over: I’m not attractive enough, not smart enough, not enough experience, I’m not popular, no one loves me (in spite of evidence of the contrary) etc…
These thoughts and feelings of “not enoughness” have a huge impact on your life.
They prevent you from being the best version of yourself.
You don’t dare apply to a new job or refuse a better position for fear of failing, you question or don’t recognise your achievements and attribute them to luck… and nothing anyone says or does improves that feeling of “not enoughness”, or if it does, it’s only temporary.
Sounds like you?
No matter how “not enough'' you think you are, it’s important to know that this thought is only that: a thought.
Is the thought of your mother your mother? No.
Does the thought “I’m not enough” describe you as a person? No.
Is it accurate? No.
This thought is a misinterpretation of who you truly are, based on self-beliefs that were constructed when you were very young.
By the time we are 7, our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us are constructed. Those beliefs are based on our interpretations of the way our carers, teachers, friends and families responded to our needs as small children.
And once those beliefs are formed, our brain spends its time looking for confirmation of this belief. It is primed to recognise what it already knows.
I grew up in an environment where I wasn’t encouraged to think I was good at anything other than house chores. Both my parents were raised in an environment, a time, and a culture where boys were raised to have great jobs, make money, be the bread winner, and girls were raised to take care of the family: clean, cook, you get the picture.
So there was never any expectation for me to do anything else than be a housewife. And that did not help to create a self- image of a smart, capable, and strong woman. In fact I rejected any other view that I may be actually intelligent.
When I was about 17 years old, my relationship with my mum became quite difficult, and my dad sent me to see a psychologist. After the second session, the psychologist told me I was very intelligent and was capable of getting into any school I wanted. At the time I was dreaming of going to this highly selective communication school in Paris.
After the psychologist told me I could definitely get in if I wanted to, I didn’t go back. I thought that that psychologist must not be very good if she couldn’t see how stupid I was. Crazy right?? I totally believed I was an idiot, and my brain found this twisted way of rejecting her statement, because that statement didn’t match the (inaccurate) belief I had created for myself.
Years later, while those external conditions no longer existed (I no longer lived at home, I had a good job I loved in a large finance company), my perception of myself hadn’t changed, and I still thought of myself as “not very good” even if the objective reality was pointing to the contrary : my boss at the time gave me more and more responsibilities, I got promoted… everything changed but not my self-beliefs.
It took many, many repetitions before I finally accepted that maybe I was not that stupid after all and I could even be smart.
And this is the way it works. Your self-beliefs create your reality every single day.
So let’s sum it up (and I’ll add some too). The roots of your low self-esteem stems mainly from:
- Expectations from others:
Other people can ruin your confidence very quickly: you do a great presentation at work, and get bad feedback… because the person giving the feedback is jealous or is in a bad mood that day, or got in a fight with their partner that morning... who knows. Many of us have experienced this, but when you have low self-esteem, you think they’re right… and that you did a bad job (looking for confirmation of what we already believe).
Facebook algorithms can make you feel like garbage: you post something, and no one notices it. You conclude: it’s because I’m not good, I’m not interesting, I'm boring, etc... (confirmation of what you already believe).
You do a favour to someone and expect some kind of thank you or recognition, and NOTHING comes. You conclude: they don’t care about me, I’m not that interesting (confirmation of what you already believe).
But when you like yourself enough, you realise that the person who gave you a bad feedback on your presentation is because they felt threatened or under other influences that have nothing to do with you; you realise Facebook algorithms favour controversial posts or posts about kittens and puppies; the person who never thanked you has lost their job, or is going through difficulties of their own… or has never learned to be grateful.
Either way, none of it has anything to do with YOU.
- Limiting beliefs
Your limiting beliefs are your state of mind about yourself that restrict you and prevent you from being the person you truly are… buried under layers of conditioning.
You decide on your beliefs quite young: I’m not good at maths; I’m artistic; I’m messy and so on… If you decide you are not good at something, every time you are asked to do it you feel anxiety and fear: your body produces cortisol, the stress hormone, and prevents you from learning to do it. It doesn’t feel good and you end up avoiding the situation altogether... therefore limiting your chances of growth.
These limiting beliefs keep us stuck and prevent us from living a fuller, more satisfying life.
- Your inner critic (or inner bully in some cases)
You know, that inner voice that keeps telling you you're no good as soon as you do or say something that doesn’t meet your expectations of yourself.
Your inner voice is the voice of your limiting beliefs. Listen to it, and you’ll know exactly what limitations you put on yourself.
The problem with negative self-talk is that it limits your thinking: the more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more you can’t do it. You are basically conditioning yourself to believe that you are not capable.
You end up a prisoner of your own thoughts.
That inner critic needs to be tamed so it stops ruining your life and keeping you stuck. (You can check my previous blog post here: https://www.bettermeyoga.com.au/blog/silence-your-inner-critic-and-boost-your-confidence)
Luckily, you can change ALL of that. At ANY age.
Your brain constantly adapts to experiences, it’s called neuroplasticity.
So when you repeat the same thought and the same behaviour, your brain structure doesn’t change.
But when you expose yourself to new experiences, new thoughts, and respond differently, your brain creates new pathways. How do you know a new pathway was created? When you show a new response to an ordinary event. For example, a car tailgates you and you usually curse and do all kinds of gestures (I'll leave that up to your imagination).
But now, after a few weeks of mindfulness, you laugh and think that maybe this driver is in a rush to go to the bathroom (just an example; feel free to imagine your own story): a new pathway was created in your brain.
And that is SUPER COOL.
I am constantly amazed by the fact that we are DESIGNED to learn and change. We don’t have to keep feeling, thinking, and doing the same things, no matter how old we are.
Henri Ford said “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right”.
So since I know you can, I have created a four step foolproof method to eradicate this thinking and feeling of “not enoughness”.
Don’t be fooled by its simplicity… It just works.
Step 1: Become aware of your thoughts!
This is the foundational step to changing your limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.
Because it’s impossible to change something you are not aware of.
Every time you catch your inner critic saying something negative about yourself, pause. Take a breath. Notice. Just that.
The more you do it, the more aware you become of how often and how automatically this self-talk happens.
If out of the 6 steps you ONLY do this one, you will leap forward and swipe away most, if not all, of your self-doubts.
Step 2: Be curious!
I mean by that, don’t judge yourself for having had that inner dialogue. If you say “Oh gosh, here I go again, I’m so negative”, you’re adding an additional layer of negativity, and… that’s not what we’re aiming for.
However you can still notice the tendency to judge yourself. You can say to yourself “It’s interesting how my old self reacted to this feedback. I felt threatened. I wonder why”.
Make this curiosity be the start of an investigative process where you question and explore your reactions instead of reacting by feeling bad about yourself.
Step 3: Don’t believe your thoughts!!
I’ll never say it enough. And there’s actually solid reasons for this.
- Research has shown that we have between 5000 to 80000 thoughts a day. 95% of these thoughts are a repeat of the previous day, and most of them are either neutral or negative. They are on autopilot, they are not conscious thoughts. So why do we give credibility to something that happens automatically AND that we’re not even aware of?
- A thought is not a fact. It’s a thought, a passing cloud. Like I said before, the thought of your mother is not your mother.
- The negative thoughts you have of yourself come from the past. The image of yourself you built when you were a child is no longer relevant. You can drop it now.
Which leads to:
Step 4: Change your relationship to thought!!
There is a big difference between having the thought “I am unlovable” and “I am having the thought that I am unlovable”.
First, it feels different in your body.
Pause and try it now: “ I am unlovable”. Or whatever recurring self-negative thought you have.
What do you notice?
Then say, “I am having the thought that I am unlovable”.
How does it feel now?
Observing your thoughts this way creates a healthy distance from them.
It helps us to see them for what they really are: passing energy. In Yoga and Buddhist philosophy, this is what we call “Being the observer, or the witness”.
In Western psychology, it’s a technique called “thought defusion” and is used to get a better perspective on our thoughts and emotions.
Step 5: Don’t take things personally.
When a friend doesn’t return a call, or seemingly ignores a message, don’t take it personally.
When you post on social media and your prose went unnoticed, don’t take it personally (people and social media can be fickle).
When your family doesn’t thank you for the wonderful dinner you made don’t take it personally (they're also fickle, but most likely lost in their own world).
Taking things personally is emotionally draining. It’s a constant re-evaluation of your self-worth that you don’t need.
To go one step further, don’t rely on external validation to feel whole: you can’t control people or events that are outside of you, and relying on them for validation is risky business.
Instead, focus on what you can control : how you respond to those external events.
Step 6: MOVE!!
Sometimes that feeling of “not enoughness” sticks more than you’d like it and you’re hijacked by strong emotions. In this scenario, there’s no point in trying to think differently when you’re stuck in self-loathing and self-directed anger.
These sticky and strong emotions are a sign that you need to step away from whatever you’re doing and thinking and MOVE!
Take a brisk walk, lift weights, run, practice yoga… whatever appeals to you.
Thoughts and feelings are energy. Moving moves not just your external body but also the energy that goes through you. That’s why yoga is so beneficial to shift your mood: the combination of breath, movement and mindfulness are an amazing antidote to mental and physical sluggishness.
So now you may be thinking this is all wonderful but… how do I do that when I’m stuck with my tedious thoughts?
A good starting point is an “Awareness of thoughts” mindfulness practice to do a few times weekly. I recorded a meditation on Insight Timer to do exactly that, you can check it here.
What's the benefit?
When you learn to observe your thoughts while seated in a calm setting (formal practice), you prompt your brain to recognise these negative thinking patterns in your everyday life (informal practice).
And that is the beginning of your journey to eradicate the “not enough” self-talk.
Once you become aware of these negative thoughts in your daily life and learn to take a breath and see them for what they really are, you can easily move into steps 3 and 4.
Will it be easy? Will it be quick?
No. Because nothing worth doing is a quick fix. I’m sure you’ve tried all the quick fixes you found and did it work? If so, fantastic. But most likely it didn’t.
Is it simple? Yes it is! But doing it on your own is tricky. We forget and go back to our old ways of thinking and doing in no time.
If you’d like more support on your journey, feel free to join my free “Grow Confident Community” on Facebook.
If you’re looking for more personalised support, feel free to book a call with me, and let’s see if I can help you!