The ‘Not Good Enough’ Paradox and 5 Ways to Work Through it

We all have those moments when we think that we could and should be doing better and that’s only natural. But what happens when these feelings take over your life and dictate how you act in what feels like every waking moment?

The truth is that more of us feel this way than we care to admit, and even some of the world’s most successful people suffer from these types of self sabotaging behaviours. To give you the kickstart and boost of confidence that you need, we’re going to take a look at how this type of paradoxical thinking works, what it does, and how to move past it. Let’s dive right in…

Why is this a paradox in the first place?

If you’re asking this, the chances are that your ‘Not Good Enough’ mindset is so deeply entrenched that you’re struggling to even see past it. Let’s put it to the side for one moment and say that for the sake of argument you are successful, productive, and happy. Now imagine that one day you woke up and decided that you were completely and utterly convinced that you were not enough. You had all the evidence to the contrary in front of you, but you’d decided it anyway. What direction would your life take then?

Well, for starters you would find that this way of thinking would soon become a self fulfilling prophecy. You would start to believe that you weren’t good enough to get that promotion, and so you would feel less motivation to get your work done. You would believe that you were never going to love the way you look, and you’d start paying less attention to what you eat and what you wear. And the list goes on and on. This way of thinking is so paradoxical because you still feel that way irrespective of all the evidence in front of you.

How does this type of feeling start?

This is a tricky one to answer because it will manifest itself in different ways for different people. Some will have always been low on self confidence and will identify with these types of feelings at every stage of their lives. Others will have a dramatic knock back like redundancy or the breakup of a relationship and will then start to retreat into this way of thinking. The key thing to note is that no matter how you’re feeling right now, if you subscribe to the idea that nothing you do will ever be good enough, you’ll be on the road to making this true. That’s not to say that it is inevitable however…

Spotting the signs of negative thinking

A great piece of advice is to talk to yourself as if you’re someone you’re responsible for taking care of. What do we mean by this? Imagine a friend comes to you and says that they just don’t think they have what it takes to cut it at work. What would you say to them? You care about them and want the best for them, so there’s no way you could tell them that they’re probably right and giving up is the only way forward. Not a chance!

What you would do is sit down and think about how they are actually performing at work. You would see that they’ve been promoted 3 times in the last couple of years, are always highly regarded when you chat to their colleagues when you meet up for drinks, and they have a clear sense of where they want to be in a few years. All of these little things would soon add up to the picture of a confident, diligent, and conscientious professional who is really going places.

You would sit there and lay this all out for your friend so that they could see they clearly are good enough. The question then is: why don’t you do this with yourself?

The art of being kind to yourself

One of the most important things to do when trying to break the cycle of negative behaviour that the ‘Not Good Enough’ paradox creates is to reflect on what you’ve achieved. While we all have those days or Monday Morning Blues, we have each achieved a whole host of things too. The problem is that it can be hard to remember them when you’re so engrossed in the here and now.

Being kind to yourself in this context is all about making the time to remember just how far you have come and what you have to offer the world. The idea is that you would take a sheet of paper and spend 20 minutes writing down everything you can think of that makes you proud to be you. It could be things like passing your driving test, getting your first job, graduating, doing some charity work — it really doesn’t matter what the details are. All that matters is that what you put on that piece of paper makes you proud to be the person you are today.

Once you have it you can then refer back to it when you need a lift. Just by taking stock of just how far you have come in life, you will be able to lift your mood and reduce the risk of the self sabotaging behaviour that so often follows from this paradoxical way of thinking.

Remember the small wins

Rather than using social media to compare yourself to what other people are presenting today, put your phone to one side and compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

One of the most common causes of this negative approach to yourself is spending too much time looking at the outer image of other people. Social media is the tool that so many people use to pass the time and escape real life, but the problem is that so much of what it shows you just isn’t authentic.

If you retreat to your phone when you’re bored or feeling down, seeing other people at their absolute best as they put on their public face could send you one of two ways. Sometimes it will inspire you to go for a run, create that dream job scenario and go to bed on time. But other times it will cause you to lose yourself in the infinite scroll and to convince yourself that you were right after all: you really aren’t good enough.

To break this cycle you want to reach for that piece of paper and do something different. Rather than using social media to compare yourself to what other people are presenting today, put your phone to one side and compare yourself to who you were yesterday. If you can just find one small little win or positive thing, it could break the cycle of negativity that you’ve fallen into. Download our free self comparison worksheet to put this into practice.

What happens when you don’t believe in yourself

While statistics on these types of complex issues are hard to come by due to their personal nature, we can draw some firm conclusions about what will happen when you convince yourself you’re not good enough:

  • You will make it much harder for yourself to reach your potential because you will lose some of the drive and motivation needed to make it happen in the first place
  • You will start to notice self sabotaging behaviour take a hold of your life in a way that makes your belief that you’re not good enough even stronger
  • You will feel a reduced sense of self worth and retreat into yourself as you feel like after all these years of predicting the worst about yourself you were right all along

The key is to try and break this cycle with a few simple techniques that you put into practice on a consistent basis…

Can you talk to a friend to get some real perspective?

Work is a great example to start with because it’s something we all stress about at one time or another. The problem is that because you spend so much time working you can feel like it is taking over your life. Once it starts to do that you will come to treat each set back or personal shortcoming as an attack on your own self worth. While a little self criticism and introspection is certainly good, doing it constantly and in spite of the evidence in front of you is not so good.

Speaking to a friend or an unbiased colleague about how you are feeling will allow you to gain perspective on the situation. The key here is to be open and honest about the way you’re feeling. The chances are that they will have had no idea you were feeling like this because of the public image you put out there. You’re someone they look up to for your experience, knowledge and professionalism, so why would they have ever thought you believed you’re simply not good enough? Sometimes all it takes is to hear the surprise in their voice to knock you out of this negative cycle of thinking and move forward in a more positive way. At the very least, it will bring you into that much needed self-awareness and help you to move away from unhelpful patterns of thought.

Next steps?

If you feel up to it, make the time to write down your major successes and sources of pride in life. They will serve as the foundation for your own positive self image and will provide the evidence that you most certainly are good enough. Once you do that you will be able to make use of a tool that allows you to start breaking this paradoxical cycle of thinking whenever it starts to enter your head. It won’t happen overnight, but if you practice it and invest in the process, nothing will be able to hold you back.

Photograph by Noémi Macavei-Katocz

House of Self strives to offer a belonging wellness service that is inclusive of everyone; a place where you can come home, to yourself.

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