If you keep telling people you’re not good enough, they’ll eventually believe you.
I once paid a life coach a few hundred dollars to tell me to write ‘you are enough’ on a Post-It note and put it somewhere I’d see it all the time.
That might seem dumb, but it actually worked. I stuck one on my laptop, so I had to read it every time I sat down to write. I put one on the bathroom mirror, and folded one up and stuck it in my coat pocket, where my fingers brushed it and reminded me of the words. I am enough.
In a world that’s constantly telling us we need to be more – thinner, fitter, younger, prettier, sexier – thinking you’re enough, just as you are, is a revolutionary act. After all, if we’re already enough, what is there to strive for? (And perhaps more to the point, in this consumer-driven world, how can anyone sell us anything?)
This pervasive attitude that we’re somehow undeserving of the things we want creeps into every area of our lives: our careers, our relationships, and even the way we take care of ourselves – or fail to take care of ourselves. When we don’t think we’re good enough, we beat people to the punch by rejecting them before they can reject us.
The not-good-enough syndrome
You fall victim to not-good-enough syndrome every time you don’t approach a hot guy because you think he’s out of your league, or talk yourself out of applying for a dream job because you’re sure you’re not qualified. We don’t let the guy, or the hiring manager, decide for themselves whether or not they’re interested – we never even give them the chance. And if we don’t ask for what we want, we’ll never get it.
Psychotherapist and Huffington Post blogger, Kristin Barton Cuthriell says a strong sense of self-worth is vital to finding fulfillment and happiness in life. Without it, she maintains, “we will never feel truly successful, regardless of money, power, position, possessions, accomplishments, and external validation.” Cuthriell says that without that unshakeable belief that we’re worthy of good things as a foundation, “our relationships, our job performance, and our leadership ability will suffer.”
Why we buy into it
Asking for something you want means making yourself vulnerable, and being vulnerable is scary. Deep down, most of us believe everyone else has it all together, and we’re the only one who’s a mess. When we succeed at something, we often respond by becoming crippled by imposter syndrome (the feeling we’re getting away with something, and can’t possibly have earned it).
The thing is, psychologists say it’s actually highly accomplished people who are most likely to think they’re not good enough. Career coach and Forbes contributor. Margie Warrell calls imposter syndrome “the domain of the high achiever” and says people who suffer from it tend to focus on what they haven’t done, rather than what they have achieved. Not surprisingly, women experience this crisis of confidence more often than men do. When men succeed at something, says Warrell, they tend to credit their own “grit, talent, brains and sheer hard work,” while women are more likely to say they “got lucky”, or acknowledge they had help.
Learning to believe you’re enough
So, how do we overcome this self-defeating way of thinking and find the courage to put ourselves on the line and ask for what we want? The first step is to have compassion for ourselves, says psychologist and researcher Kristin Neff.
“There is an ever-increasing body of research that attests to the motivational power of self-compassion,” she explains.
But make no mistake – this doesn’t mean going easy on yourself. Rather, it means nurturing your own sense of self worth so you can reach your full potential.
“Self-compassion allows us to acknowledge areas of personal weakness by seeing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. We can then work on improving ourselves, not because we’re unacceptable as we are, but because we want to thrive and be happy,” says Neff.
Going to therapy, journaling, and becoming more aware of your own self-talk – the messages you send yourself, almost unconsciously, all day long – are all good ways to start turning around your habit of rejecting yourself before someone else can. That, and you can also write ‘I am enough’ on a Post-It and put it on your computer screen. (It worked for me.)
And what happens if we keep undervaluing ourselves, all the while putting others on pedestals and thinking they’re better and more deserving than we are?
“If we do not know our worth, it will impair every aspect of our life and blind us to our passions and purpose,” says Cuthriell.
“It will take us away from who we were created to be. In order to be successful at just about anything, we must begin within.”
Main image via tumblr.com, GIFs via reddit.com, rebloggy.com, reactiongifs.com.
Comment: Do you relate to the idea of rejecting yourself before anyone else has had a chance to?
Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.