My article was originally published via ManTalks here
There is one negative belief that is shared among everyone. It’s something that is so ingrained in our mind from a young age that it is the underlying reason we lack confidence and it is where self-doubt stems from.
The problem is that this belief is so deep rooted we often don’t even realize we have it or how it affects us.
This belief is simply, “I’m not good enough”, or in other words, “there is something wrong with me”.
Where does this belief come from?
I can remember the exact moment when I first realized that I wasn’t good enough at something significant in my life.
I was 13 years old when my parents told my 10-year-old sister and I they were getting a divorce.
Often it’s said that kids blame themselves for their parent’s divorce. Personally I knew their problems were not my fault, I have always been grateful that I had such amazing parents. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that even though I didn’t blame their divorce on me, I strongly believed I could have done more to prevent it from happening.
I knew what was going on at the time, I knew they weren’t happy, but despite my best efforts as a kid I simply wasn’t ‘good enough’ to stop it. I had failed at keeping my family together.
As kids, we all experience different upbringings, but our young minds interpret them in similar ways. Maybe your parents divorced, maybe you experienced a family death, physical abuse, or health problems. Maybe your grades were poor at school, bullies hurt you, parents didn’t show their love, or you grew up in a low income family.
While all of these issues range in severity…they can all have a devastating impact on a fragile young mind and implant you with the belief that you’re not good enough or that something is wrong with you.
Your Brain is Like an Overly Protective Parent
Whatever experiences we had in the past that proved we weren’t good enough, they all lead to emotional pain in the form of rejection, humiliation, guilt, failure, anger or sadness.
If you imagine your brain being like an overly protective parent and you being the child; after those negative experiences happened, your brain decided to do everything in its power to stop you from getting hurt again. And it did this in the same two ways any parent would:
- Making sure you are careful and avoiding any risks
- Making you very aware of potential threats and dangers in life
Unfortunately, your brain thinks that the best way to do this is by making you worry all the time, fear everything, and feel that you aren’t good enough to do certain things. Because it believes that being fearful and overly careful is safer than being confident and taking chances.
The problem with this overly cautious approach is that it can infiltrate its way into everything you do; making you believe that you’re not good enough to succeed and not good enough to be accepted or loved by others. And this eventually leads to a lack of confidence and a constant worry about what people think of you.
The trouble is that we often don’t realize that this belief is the culprit to many of the problems we have in life. It is so deep rooted within our existence that on the surface it shows up as a completely different and unrelated issue. As a Mental Performance Coach and Speaker, I’ve noticed that most people’s problems trace back to this debilitating belief.
Here are 3 common issues that unknowingly stem from the belief ‘I’m not good enough’ and how to fix them:
1. You think your opinion lacks value and have trouble making decisions
Do you have trouble forming your own opinion or making decisions around other people? Do you usually wait for others to voice their opinion before you give your 2 cents?
This is your brain making you feel like your opinion could be ‘wrong’ or ‘isn’t good enough’, hoping it will stop you from expressing it and potentially experiencing failure or rejection.
In these moments if someone asks you to make a decision, you likely freeze or have a brain fart. The decision might be over something very minor, but when rejection is a possible consequence your brain takes it very seriously by releasing stress hormones and increasing your heart rate which inhibits your ability to think effectively.
The first step to getting over this is being aware of what is causing you to feel this way. Now that you’re aware, you can start conditioning yourself to act otherwise. The reality is that if you continue to wallow in ‘analysis paralysis’ over every decision you make, it’s not only making that habit worse but its eroding your confidence everyday as you don’t trust yourself to take necessary action in life. Understand that you don’t need to express the perfectly crafted opinion in order for people to accept you.
Next, start small by forcing yourself to make quick decisions over insignificant things. Deciding what to wear? Don’t hesitate, just decide. Someone asks you what you want to eat, just force a decision. In a small meeting? Voice your opinion when you normally wouldn’t.
You can’t please everyone so WHEN people don’t agree with your opinion or decision, see it as an opportunity to move on and not let it bother you. Over time, you will build up a new habitual pattern of decisive and confident action.
2. You think you’re not good enough to get the person you’re interested in or keep your spouse either
Often this pops up when you’re interested in someone romantically but in the back of your mind you think that they’ prefer someone else with different qualities….. An outgoing person wouldn’t like you because you’re too reserved, and a more reserved person wouldn’t like you because you’re not confident enough. There’s always something that makes you think you’re not good enough for them.
This is your protective brain making you feel like you’re not good enough, in hopes it will stop you from asking them out and possibly being rejected or humiliated.
This also happens to people in relationships when they have insecurities thinking their spouse might prefer someone different than them.
This is your brain making you feel like you’re not good enough, in order to make sure you are aware of the potential threat that your spouse could leave you. Your brain would rather you be insecure, jealous and have trust issues so that you are constantly ‘staying on top of them’ and ‘not missing anything’ that could possibly lead to rejection, humiliation or sadness.
The reality is that trying to be ‘good enough’ is a form of perfectionism.
You have a level of expectation that you feel needs to be reached in order for you to feel confident and worthy of love. Your brain thinks the only way to keep you safe from potential heart break is being perfect. What you have to realize is that your brain is going to always find a reason as to why you’re not good enough unless you make a change.
Every memory and negative belief you have are made up of neural connections in your brain that either shrink or get stronger depending on how often you think about them. The more you focus on your shortcomings, the need for perfection or how you’re not good enough, the easier it is for your brain to reference those feelings going forward.
However, the less you dwell on those negatives experiences or shortcomings in life, those connections actually shrink and become harder for your brain to feel. This is why simply cutting off a thought process and shifting your attention is so powerful. Now that you are aware of these negative thoughts, it’s your job to cut them off and stop them from dominating your mind.
After you’ve cut off those thoughts, replace them with this powerful phrase “I don’t need to be perfect in order to be accepted or loved by others.”
3. Insecurities, jealousy and inferiority complexes
When you are around other people (particularly the same sex), are you constantly recognizing what they are better at than you? You may see individuals who have more money, are better looking or are smarter than you; which lowers your self-worth and makes you feel like you need to improve on your shortcomings.
Why Does This Happen?
Using men as a example, your overly protective brain makes you abundantly aware of your shortcomings because it believes that if guys are better than you at something, then you’re clearly not as good as them….and if you’re not good enough, then it could lead to emotional pain again (rejection, failure etc). As crazy as it sounds this is how your brain thinks:
If you’re not as good looking as another guy, then why would a girl want you? If you’re not as knowledgeable as another then why would a company hire you? If you’re not as successful, then why would your girl want to stay with you?
You may not consciously think those things, but subconsciously that is where insecurity, an inferiority complex and jealousy often come from.
Your brain makes you aware of these threats in your life hoping it will give you an opportunity to either fix them, stay on top of them, or avoid them all together.
The fastest way to experience personal growth is by admitting you have an insecurity, being aware when it pops up and doing the opposite of what you normally would do. In other words, fake it ’til you make it.
In #2 I explained how your brain rewires itself and this situation is similar. When around other people, instead of quietly analyzing your flaws and sitting there with a sense of jealousy, simply appreciate the strengths of others. Replace criticism with curiosity and the desire to personally grow. See others as people you can learn from, ask questions and become interested in them regardless of whether or not you feel like their life is better than yours.
While not easy at first, this one act can provide an immediate sense of liberation and accomplishment. When you do this and realize it wasn’t that hard, the dopamine your brain releases from this experience will not only make it easier the next time but actually provide a spark to do it more often.
As you can see getting over this debilitating belief starts with awareness and the understanding that you don’t need be perfect in order to be accepted. Then, by consciously changing your behavior in the moment, you will be conditioning a new habit in your mind and you will eventually get to a point where you look back and say ‘remember when I thought I wasn’t good enough?’