Most of us occasionally question ourselves, sometimes feel self-doubtful, or challenge ourselves to try harder. People who chronically feel not good enough, however, are unable to escape this feeling, ever. Consequently, this becomes their main motivator in life. It is also their biggest burden since it can never be satisfied, no matter how hard or often the person tries to satisfy it.
Why Do We Feel Not Good Enough?
I have worked with many people who suffer from this, and I have found that the problems are always similar, as are their origins.
A person who feels not good enough always comes from a wanting and difficult childhood environment. Often, they had to “grow up fast” because they learned early that the adult people responsible for their well-being were incompetent and irresponsible.
So, as a child, the person learns that they can’t rely on others and have to do everything themselves. On top of that, the adults put even more responsibilities onto them, where they start feeling responsible to take care of others, too. And so the child becomes a “little adult.”
Unrealistic Standards and False Self-Blame
In other cases, the person was held to unrealistic standards in childhood and was blamed for doing things wrong when it was never their fault. You are expected to do things perfectly without anyone showing you how to do it. Or, you are expected to be flawless at everything you do, which is impossible. All of this leads to chronic anxiety, even over small, inconsequential things.
Children who are constantly compared to others tend to grow up feeling insecure. They are used to hearing that they are not as good as this person in terms of this, or not as good as that person in terms of that, or maybe better that this other person altogether. They learn to tie their sense of self-esteem and self-worth to how they are in comparison to others. Furthermore, they tend to categorize themselves and others into two groups: better than me and worse than me, which leads to a myriad of psychological and social problems.
Being Treated Disrespectfully and Abusively
Many children are treated with no respect on a daily basis, be it at home, school, church, or among peers. These interactions can program you to feel and believe that you’re not worthy of respect, so you start feeling that that’s all you deserve because you’re just not good enough to be treated better.
In other instances, the child is treated in an overtly abusive manner, physical, sexual, verbal, or otherwise. In such a relationship, the child is considered to be sub-human or downright worthless. It’s no surprise that such a person grows up feeling that they are not good enough or even that it’s their fault for being abused.
You can read more on the reasons why one grows up feeling not good enough in my previous article titled 4 Reasons You Grew Up Feeling Not Good Enough.
The Tragic Effects of Always Feeling Not Good Enough
There are many problems that people who never feel good enough face every day. Some people experience some issues more than others, but the common tendencies are similar.
Perfectionism is a common set of symptoms that many people who don’t feel good enough struggle with. Indeed, people who have perfectionistic tendencies have this feeling of not being good enough at the core of their existence.
You can read more on perfectionism and feeling not good enough in my previous article, The Perils of Perfectionism and Feeling Not Good Enough.
Workaholism and Busywork
One of the realms where people who don’t feel good enough constantly push themselves is work. They tend to overwork, not get enough sleep, not rest properly, or not eat properly. In other words, they are used to ignoring their bodily needs and not getting them met because they “have to do something important.”
I’ve had clients who used to work or study so much that they just physically collapsed out of exhaustion, or haven’t slept for 3 days, or haven’t eaten the whole day. This is not healthy, no matter how you justify it. Here, the person’s needs as a child were neglected and they were never taught proper self-care. They always had to do what others expected from them, so they learned to ignore themselves and just do whatever is expected of them or whatever seems more important.
Some people not only take a poor care of themselves, but also actively harm themselves. Self-harm is rooted in self-loathing and self-erasure. Self-loathing and self-erasure are rooted in lack of love and lack of freedom to be yourself as a child. So the person self-mutilates, engages in addictive behaviors, puts themselves in danger, and so on.
The most common emotional problems someone who feels not good enough has are toxic shame and guilt, an overwhelming sense of responsibility, sensitivity to criticism, low self-esteem and self-worth, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by life or “being behind life’s schedule,” confusion, paralysis, emptiness, depression, and chasing highs.
These are only some of the problems, others being unhealthy boundaries, toxic relationships, poor impulse control, trust issues, anger issues, poor conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and many more.
What to Do?
Like with all psychological issues, there are no quick fixes or simple solutions. The best way is to continue working on yourself, preferably with a professional to make it easier and more bearable.
But here are some practical tips to aid you in your process:
Developing more awareness will help you be more mindful about your drives and motives. You will more quickly notice what you’re doing and why, and will be able to change your behaviour when necessary.
Sense of Direction
Figuring out what in life is important to you and why will give you a sense of purpose and direction. It’s easier said than done. I’ve spoken to too many people who have no idea what they want and why. Sometimes it takes time to rediscover who you actually are, what you like, what you feel, and what you want.
Living slower and simplifying your life can provide more inner peace. It also helps you be more present and in the moment.
Again, easier said than done, especially if you’re used to feeling not good enough, defective, or fundamentally flawed. However, consider that maybe what you’re doing is enough, maybe what you have is enough. Maybe everything’s okay, as okay as life can be, with its joys and challenges. Maybe you are enough.
You can find more tips in my previous article 7 Ways to Accept Yourself and Feel Good Enough.