For much of my life I was dogged by this certainty that I was not good enough.
In my job, in my love life, in my appearance, in my social status:
You name it, I felt I was lesser, flawed, excluded from the other higher-performing, more satisfied people I imagined around me.
For me, this belief of mine had deep roots in childhood and adolescent trauma, as well as an over-analytical mind and anxious, overthinking tendencies.
But everyone who feels not good enough can begin moving on from this crippling obsession by cutting out the following mental/emotional and physical habits.
1) Judging and labeling yourself
Many times we judge and label ourselves unfairly and inaccurately.
Take the following situation:
You started a new job and are finding it overwhelming, confusing and depressing.
“I’m such a loser,” you tell yourself. “Nothing I do works.”
First off, even if you’re currently struggling and losing in life that doesn’t mean your identity is “loser.”
Secondly, if nothing you do works you wouldn’t even have had the success of getting hired in the first place!
2) Letting society define your value
Next up is that many of us allow society to define our value in often dismissive and absolutist ways.
“He’s just a plumber,” or “she only has a master’s.”
These facile types of comments can cut deep and really feed into an inferiority complex, but they’re ultimately up to you to resist.
Don’t let anybody else tell you what you’re worth.
This relates directly to the next point…
3) Seeking outer validation and approval
We all like a pat on the back. I remember when my teammates high-fived me in hockey or soccer and I felt a buzz of euphoria and belonging.
We all have that desire for approval and validation!
But it’s never something you should seek out, nor is it something you should depend on.
It can be given for the wrong reasons, and taken away for the wrong reasons.
The approval and appreciation of others can be meaningful and powerful in the right context.
But it can’t be consistently relied on as an accurate benchmark for your value or progress.
4) Becoming ensnared in codependent relationships
When you feel not good enough something predictable but highly unfortunate happens:
You tend to form connections with other people who also feel not good enough.
The result, all too often, is codependency where you and your partner depend in an unhealthy way on each other for validation and having a purpose.
Whether you play the role of seeking pity and attention or play the role of saving and “fixing” your partner, the base feeling is that without having this role you aren’t worthy of receiving love.
5) Ignoring your inner child and childhood trauma
We all have an inner child that continues to reside inside us as we physically and mentally age.
This inner child lives in a more primal emotional reality and has simple needs for love, attention, closeness and communication.
Often, unmet needs of our inner child and psychological and emotional injury to our inner child are behind a deep feeling of unworthiness.
It’s important to face that honestly and slowly begin to listen to your inner child and acknowledge their perspective and experience.
6) Centering everything that happens on you
For years I was sure I was either the hero or the villain, but all too often this type of black and white thinking is actually just an illusion of low self-esteem.
The truth is that believing you’re highly important or to blame (or praise) for a lot of what happens is just plain unrealistic.
Most of what happens has little to do with us and our only power is in how we respond to and work with it:
Drop the idea that you’re central to what’s happening outside of you and your decisions become much more effective and logical.
7) Waiting for the outer situation to improve
If you feel you’re “not good enough,” it’s crucial to begin changing your daily habits and find the power inside you.
Waiting on the outside situation to be more accommodating is not an effective way to start improving your self-image and self-esteem.
Instead, start focusing on what is in your control and assume the external situation will remain crappy!
I can tell you from personal experience:
It’s always better to have low expectations exceeded than to have high expectations that fall through!
Practical habits to avoid if you feel you’re not good enough
8) Sleeping in
Sleeping in is a clue that your whole schedule is out of whack.
It’s also a way to essentially hide from the world.
You aren’t going to start feeling sufficient and whole until you stop letting the world win.
That means getting up early, having a healthy breakfast and facing this mean old world on your own terms.
9) Dressing poorly and neglecting hygiene
Your hygiene matters, from looking after your skin and stretching to combing your hair and brushing your teeth.
Buy clothes that fit you and feel good.
Wear glasses that look good on you.
Buy one nice scarf for cold weather instead of five sh*tty ones. Respect yourself more and your self-respect will rise in tandem.
10) Self-isolating and separating yourself from society
Unless you have an infectious disease or are on a solitary spiritual retreat, self-isolating is always a bad idea!
If you find you’ve been spending too much time alone, head out to a restaurant or cafe and just sit around people.
Let the talking and general atmosphere sink into your skin. Resist the idea that you’re so much different or less worthy than anyone else.
11) Depending on other people for money and resources
As a kid we rely on our parents or guardians for resources and staying alive!
After adolescence, however, that responsibility is something we take on!
It’s just how the circle of life functions, and it does so even in non-capitalistic and non-commodified societies like tribes.
When you grow up, you look after yourself and your family (and sometimes your wider community, too!)
The more you can earn an honest living and care for those the love the better you’re going to feel about yourself, guaranteed!
12) Vegging out
When you sit back on the couch and tune in to whatever latest series or film is up, you send a clear message to everybody including yourself:
Leave me alone.
But time is going to keep marching on, and the pressures (and costs) of life aren’t going to slow down just to please you.
There’s always a time when you just need to relax and tune out, but don’t make it a daily habit!
13) Skipping meals and eating unhealthily
What you put into your body physically matters also as much as what you put into it mentally and emotionally (see next point).
It’s crucial that you eat healthily, control portion size and consume fresh fruits and vegetables.
Make sure to stay hydrated and look after the basics that your body needs nutritionally.
Feeling drained and not well fed is a major contributing factor to feel energetically and psychologically beat down.
14) Consuming negative content and messaging
What you watch and consume matters:
Series, films, audiobooks, books, art.
I’m not saying to only have up paintings of bright flowers in your apartment and only watch films with happy endings!
But I am saying to shy away and avoid nihilistic, life-hating, mentally twisted content.
In my experience a violent film, disturbing artwork or intense or sad book is fine to consume if it has meaning and some notes of authenticity and hope in it.
What you should avoid, however, is content that is laced with messages about giving up on life or how life is hopeless and stupid, which is a message I see in an increasingly large amount of media productions.
15) Becoming glued to your screen and digitally hooked
No matter how great your games are or the media you’re consuming, do so in moderation.
Too much screen time is bad for your eyes, your cognition and your physical health.
It also leads to more passivity and the conception of yourself as a more shut-in, timid person, which are all aspects of feeling not good enough.
Limit screen time and take breaks!
You are good enough, and you have a future
Even if you have valid reasons for feeling you’re falling short in life right now, you are good enough.
Your situation right now is not your identity.
Your identity is the person reading this who wants to change, improve and prosper.
Your identity is dynamic and you have it within you to make progress and begin to see all that you’re capable of and all the value you bring to this world and to yourself.
How do I know?
Because I’ve been in your shoes and taken the advice above to move forward in my self-image in ways I never expected, and you can do it, too!