Anxiety. David Levine. Wikioo.
”My biggest fear is that I’m not good enough. I have this voice in my head that I’ve been battling for years that says, ‘You’re not really talented enough. You don’t really deserve this.”
Do you tend to feel ‘not good enough,’ in relationships, at work, or in life generally? Are you constantly worried that you have disappointed yourself and others ?
Today’s post begins with a reminder of the importance of our emotional wounds and scars in terms of learning and becoming a ‘fully rounded’ and more complete person.
- “Strong At The Broken Places.”
As the focus now shifts from last week’s post on failure, to not feeling good enough, it is, perhaps, important, at the start, to remember the words of Rumi:
The Colour of Light. Paul Jenkins. Wikioo.
“Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested… That’s where the Light enters you.”
We all have our scars, our areas of pain and difficulty, our vulnerabilities, and what we might regard as our ‘failings,’ or ‘weaknesses.’
However, without these, we would be one-dimensional, steamrollered, cardboard cut-outs, rather than interesting, real, fallible and whole human beings.
Two angels and two devils. 1469. Paolo Uccello. Wikioo.
“Don’t take my devils away, because my angels may flee too.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Paper Cut Out Against Blue Sky .perpetualfostering.co.uk. Wikimedia Commons.
“To live without the creative potential of our own destructiveness is to be a cardboard angel.”
Sheldon B. Kopp
Our ‘weaknesses’ can become our strengths, as we work to build ourselves up, perhaps wiser and more resilient, after the painful experiences that life inevitably brings to us all.
Rural cooking pot repaired with Kintsugi technique, Georgia, 19th century. Guggger. Wikimedia Commons.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
Feeling ‘not good enough,’ as a result of having some ‘broken places,’ is to overlook and devalue our uniqueness, our resilience and our individual qualities and strengths in the face of pain, loss and trauma.
- What is ‘Good Enough? – Winnicott’s ‘Good Enough Mother.’
Mother and Child . Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Wikioo.
“The good-enough mother…starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure…”
Donald Woods Winnicott
The concept of being ‘good enough’ was originated in 1953 by Donald Winnicott, a paediatric psychiatrist.
He bought to our attention the fact that, in order to be a mother, one does not have to be perfect.
One can be ‘good enough,’ which means being human, real, adequate, having both functional, effective parts and some flaws and imperfections.
It means that we are sufficient and acceptable in terms of being our selves, ‘warts and all.’
Cesare Vianello. Tired Mother. Artnet.
“I would rather be the child of a mother who has all the inner conflicts of the human being than be mothered by someone for whom all is easy and smooth, who knows all the answers, and is a stranger to doubt.”
Donald Woods Winnicott
If it were even possible to be ‘a perfect parent,’ this would not be a very good model for our children, who would feel highly ‘imperfect’ in comparison with us.
What is important is to show our children that we can manage, embrace and integrate all parts of ourselves in a balanced way, rather than trying to eliminate the aspects we do not like.
Women and Monsters. André Aimé René Masson.Wikioo.
“I had hoped one day to find someone who loves my monsters, the wolves that I feed, the demons I sing to sleep, the tiger that is my caged heart, the parts of me I do not talk about. I prayed and wished and yearned until I realized that I had already found her within me.”
Nikita Gill, Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty
This does not mean that we do not work on ourselves and our personal issues, but that we need to do so with an attitude of empathy and acceptance towards ourselves.
“When a Mother somewhere forgives herself for being human, earth exhales a little.”
Breeze, Enlighten Education.
As parents, and as people, we need to demonstrate an ability to come to terms with our ‘imperfections,’ and accept them as part of our whole being.
- Lack Of Self-Confidence.
Caught in the Mirror. Shani Rhys James.1997. Wikioo.
“Every time I looked in the mirror, it was like, ‘You’re not good enough.’ ‘There’s always someone more popular.’ ‘There’s always someone more gifted in music.’ “
Having a low self-image will, inevitably, make us feel not good enough.
Without the confidence to appreciate our ‘good’ points, we will sink into a melancholy, and perhaps depressed, state.
It may surprise us to hear that several people whom we may have regarded as confident and capable, do sometimes harbour the opposite feelings inside, such as self doubts, uncertainties and fears, all hidden from public view.
Party in Paris. Max Beckmann. Wikioo.
“Realize that everyone that you think is perfect feels like they’re not good enough, too.”
Hidden Treasure. 1947. Nicholas Roerich. Wikioo
The brilliant therapist Carl Rogers, who originated the person-centred approach in counselling and therapy, appeared able to express clearly his feelings about himself and the world.
It is surprising to hear, however, in the above quote, that he ‘hid his light under a bushel,’ feeling unable to reveal his ‘good enough’ self openly.
The Artist’s Garden. Claude Monet. Wikioo
“Apart from painting and gardening, I’m not good at anything.”
Monet was a perfectionist who wanted to create something new. How wonderful it would be if we could paint and garden like him……yet often he did not feel his work was good enough.
He had outbursts of wild destruction and despair, slashing many of his water lily paintings. He could not be content with feeling that the world, and his work, did not actually have to be perfect. (In fact, the destroyed work was worth millions!)
How sad that this brilliant man was so depressed and unhappy at times.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for marvellous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.”
- The Imposter Syndrome.
Whilst not totally the same, the imposter syndrome is linked to not feeling good enough in one’s work or profession, despite having had genuine training and/or experience.
This is a hidden sense that we are a fake, a charlatan, and that we will soon be shamefully discovered and exposed by others around us, who, unlike us, know what they are talking about.
The imagined scenario is that we will shock everyone and be publicly shamed. These are powerful- and painful- feelings.
“Sometimes people surprise us. People we believe we know.”
Joyce Carol Oates.
‘They’ will catch us out. They will uncover our hidden selves beneath the ‘phoney’ surface impression.
We will surprise them with our inadequacy and stun them with our ‘deception.’
This fear of being unmasked publicly involves feeling that others will soon find out just how ‘not good enough’ we are.
“The greatest act of courage is to be and to own all of who you are — without apology, without excuses, without masks to cover the truth of who you are.”
The feeling of being an imposter is particularly experienced by some people who begin studying or working, but it can happen at any time during one’s career.
Feeling not good enough relates to a lack of awareness of our own value.
Experiencing imposter syndrome may be something fleeting; if it does persist in a way that is disturbing or distressing, then psychotherapy can be helpful in working the feelings through.
- “Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy.”
Female Model in Bright Red Jacket and Pants. Egon Schiele. Wikioo.
“Do not let anyone tell you that you are not good enough or smart enough. Remember that nobody is better than you. Everybody puts on their pants one leg at a time.”
We may ask the question of ourselves: “Who am I not good enough for?…..”
If the answer is ‘myself, ‘ then perhaps our standards are too high.
If we frequently compare ourselves with others, we need to think about our possible reasons for doing so.
Portraits At A Party. Raphael Soyer. 1974. Wikioo.
“Every time I compare myself with someone else, I can never measure up because I am comparing my insides with their outsides.”
Underestimating one’s own abilities is another cause of not feeling good enough.
Our inner critic (perhaps internalised parental voices from childhood) can sometimes be very powerful and make us feel worthless in comparison with others.
“Comparing yourself to others is an act of violence against your authentic self.”
- Helping Yourself: Recognising Your Strengths.
Bouquet of Flowers. Paul Gauguin. Wikioo.
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.”
It is important to identify and celebrate our own strengths, our achievements past and present, no matter how small, and to appreciate our talents and special, personal abilities.
Trusting ourselves is crucial in this.
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you trust yourself? I mean, really trust yourself, deep down?
Trusting yourself requires confidence and a feeling of self-worth; it is a conviction that you are definitely good enough to trust in yourself, your own opinions, decisions, beliefs.
An attitude of tolerance towards our own mistakes is important here. If we can forgive and be compassionate to ourselves, then it is more likely that we will feel confidence and self-trust.
Self-critical people tend to have low self images and struggle to develop this trust. They may doubt themselves and the world.
Having faith in one’s own gut feelings is also important, and research shows us that we do need to trust the intuitive part of ourselves.
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Allowing ourselves to feel good enough involves courage, the courage to make peace with oneself, to accept that, just as we are, we are neither too much, nor too little, for others.
Feeling good enough also requires us to dare to be authentic, to risk revealing our real selves to the world.
“At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”
Learning to listen to and amplify our inner voice, drowning out the clutter of others’ opinions, can finally help us recognise that, deep inside, we are indeed…. good enough.
“At the end of the day, remind yourself that you did the best you could today, and that is good enough.”
Resting Woman with Carnations. Max Beckmann. Wikioo.
“You are good enough as you are. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
© Linda Berman.