So many people in this world are plagued with the fear of not being good enough in one way or another. To me, this feeling of not being good enough is heavily correlated to our inclination to compare ourselves to others. Think about it. If you lived on an island all by yourself with no access to the outside world, would a sense of inadequacy come up for you often–or ever? If you only have yourself to contend with, I imagine you would view yourself in a more positive light than you do right now.
Unfortunately–or fortunately–we don’t live on islands, and there are always people to compare ourselves to. This is not to say that having role models and wanting to be more like them is a bad thing; it can actually be very inspirational. But that is not the natural human tendency. We look at people we idolize and start to find ways we fall short in comparison. This behavior has a negative effect on our own sense of self-worth.
Even in moments where we are feeling good about ourselves, how quickly that feeling can change is astounding. Our brains are wired to think negatively; that is its own way of protecting us from the world and its potential dangers. For instance, if our friend doesn’t text us back within a certain amount of time or forgets to call when they said they would, our minds automatically make it mean something about us.
Since I was a little girl, I was plagued with feelings of inadequacy. I was deathly shy, afraid to speak up because I didn’t think my opinion mattered. I slowly became less timid as I got older. However, in the years following my bipolar diagnosis, feelings of not being enough came back with much intensity and stuck around for quite some time.
Because of my diagnosis, I thought I was defected, making me feel less worthy. While I was struggling to understand and deal with the challenges that came with the disorder; I also wanted to be as perfect of a daughter as possible. I did not want to give my parents more reasons to worry. I didn’t want them to think of me as a troublesome daughter, creating additional stress and medical expenses they did not need. They never said or did anything to make me feel that way; it was my own insecurities that perpetuated that belief.
During my many manic episodes–which were always followed by depression–my weight gain would inevitably follow as I was trying to get my medication management under control. Each time, my sense of self-worth rapidly declined when I found myself living in a heavier body and unable to do much about it. My main focus during those times was on moving towards recovery and climbing my way out of the deep well of depression. It wasn’t until I was on even ground again that I could work on getting back to a healthier body and weight.
Ironically, feelings of lack didn’t only show up when life was bad; it also showed up when things appeared to be good. Several years ago, I had all the things I didn’t think was possible for me: I was mentally stable; doing well in my career; had a loving husband; was a mom to 2 healthy boys; surrounded by family and friends, and yet something was missing. There was the quiet whisper of not being good enough creeping back up. Something didn’t feel right. I was working a lot, devoting too much time to my job, and felt overwhelmed because I couldn’t juggle all the roles I had.
Outside of my career, I felt completely inadequate in all other areas of my life. I realized my priorities were out of whack. I was not spending my time on what mattered most, the people in my life. As a result, I did not feel like I was a good enough mother, wife, daughter, sister, or friend. I felt a lot of shame when I was willing to admit this to myself.
On those days that I thought I wasn’t good at my job either, I knew something needed to change. I didn't want to live that way anymore but felt stuck with the financial obligation of supporting my family. I was not able to make a job change immediately, but I took steps to become that person I wanted to be; someone who felt good enough about herself most days, who was worthy of the people she had in her life.
Whether you live with a mental illness or not, there will be moments in your life that feel overwhelming. As much as we want to give off the appearance that we are doing great all of the time; the truth is, we are not always fine and that is okay. We are humans who face challenges and adversity more often than we want to admit. When we pretend and say everything is fine when it isn’t; we are being unfair to those in our lives who truly care about us. We don’t allow the people who love us the opportunity to be there for us, to help us, to love us.
Admitting you need help may make you feel vulnerable and reliant on others, but the alternative is to struggle in silence and lying about it. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It does not mean you are not good enough. It is actually one of the most powerful forms of self-care. So if you are lucky enough to have people in your life who are willing to lend a hand, or an ear–take it. Going through a tough time is hard enough, doing it alone only makes it that much tougher. And always remember to appreciate the people and blessings you have in your life.
For those of you who often think you are not good enough, the next time you hear your inner critic begin to offer self-deprecating thoughts; ask yourself if you would say these things to the person you love most in the world. If the answer is no, there is no reason you should be saying them to yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have. Be kind to yourself. How you treat and think about yourself is the foundation for all other relationships you have. Working on making it your best relationship will prove to be impactful towards all the other roles you have in your life. I would like to leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou. “You alone are good enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”