I hate that I feel this way.
It’s a feeling that I try hard to shake — the feeling of “not good enough.”
Take the word “good” in that last line, and it could easily be “brave” or “strong” or “smart.”
I don’t feel good enough most of the time.
I don’t think I could explain it to you, although I’m going to try.
First, I need to ask, “Good enough for whom?”
I think I’ll just evade the question and look for a new one.
That question makes me put my head down.
It leaves me with an answer that’s safer if it’s locked away where no one can see it.
The answer is “good enough for me,” of course.
It’s the answer I shy away from because I don’t want to admit that I know it, that I’m plagued by it.
If I tell you it’s to be good enough for my friends, or my family, or that stranger I helped on the street — well, that would be a lie.
But attaching my worth to what others say is easier. It’s safer.
Generating my own idea of self-worth is terrifying and fraught with consequences.
If I have to create the measure which I meet or fall short of, then only I am to blame.
So I shove it off on others.
I take what they tell me, and I measure myself against their standards.
It doesn’t matter if I agree with them or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s not close to identifying who I really am. It doesn’t matter.
And when nothing matters, anything goes.
I tried something new the other day.
It’s based on positive thinking. It’s something I thought couldn’t be nearly as effective as anxiously planning every single detail of my life.
The first twenty-five years of my life were meticulously planned.
I achieved some things, but I wasn’t living. The tension in my neck and shoulders never went away. The negative self-talk etched jagged lines down my back.
I never told myself I wanted to be a drill sergeant, but I had spent my whole life training to be one.
Until, one day, I tried saying nice things to myself.
What a joke, I thought.
And there I went again — my first thought, a negative one.
Then I took a deep breath.
I looked in the mirror — the same one where I have spent countless ruminating hours — and said, “You are confident. You are capable. You are likable.”
I was the one-man star in my own tragic comedy.
That idea made me smile, it created some light.
And I carried that little spark of an idea with me throughout the day.
Instead of planning my day, I said nice things to myself.
Instead of fixating on the past, I said nice things to myself.
It made me smile to think how ridiculous I must look.
But then I noticed someone was smiling at me as she walked by. That made me smile even more.
My thoughts had tricked me into acting in a way I hadn’t predicted. That changed my actions, which then changed my environment.
How could something so simple be so amazing?
A simple reminder to say nice things to me.
It’s what parents teach their children but forget to teach themselves.
And the kids grow up to be there for others but torment the face in the mirror.
It’s not so preposterous when you think about how it happens.
As a result, to measure if I was “good enough,” I learned to use others as my reference point.
I had no point of reference for who I was as a person.
And now that I have one, I can only compare who I am to myself.
That means one of us has to be “good” if the others are not “good enough.”
Jordan Brown is a social worker making mental health accessible and he coaches click here to learn more