I Have Wasted Years Thinking I’m Not Good Enough.
And I am so fucking done with that.
In my rougher periods, I spent a lot of time being down on myself, focusing on the negatives and never accepting who or what I was. Never feeling adequate. I’m not like that anymore, but I know that I used to always feel like I wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my mind, for the way it shifts and changes and never stays the same, never keeps the same focus. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my heart, for aching when I don’t want it to, and hurting in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my posture, remembering how people used to make fun of me for it, trying to make me feel small. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my skills, and my talents, because I felt deep down inside that they weren’t and would never be enough. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my body. The way it looks, the way it moves. The way I treat it, and the way it treats me back. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating whatever parts of my personality make it so damned hard for me to hold onto friendships. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating the part of me that wants to hate, that can’t get enough of it, that draws on it and feeds off it. It wasn’t good enough.
I’ve spent years hating my clothes, the things I own, the things I do. It wasn’t good enough.
But I’m tired of that. And I don’t do it anymore. I can’t help thinking about how I treat other people, and I’ve realized something.
I need to stop focusing on not being good enough. I need to believe I am, or can be, or will be good enough.
I’m not perfect, but beating myself up isn’t going to solve that. The time I wasted trying to find a way to make myself feel bad, well that’s time I’m not getting back. But it’s time I don’t need to throw away in the future.
If you’re like me, you know this feeling. It’s time to think about why you treat yourself like shit and find a way to change.
What images are we consuming?
The way we treat ourselves comes from our environment. One of the biggest influences is the media that we consume. I’ve been programmed by the media that I consume to always feel like I’m not doing well enough.
Here’s the thing. As soon as we stop being distracted by how unworthy or “less” we are — that’s when we start paying attention. That’s when we start to be aware of the bullshit around us. That’s when we start to be conscious of how the world functions by making us think we need to be, have, achieve, want, buy, own more.
When I think about advertising, I look at the way it presents images of perfection designed to make you think that you’re not good enough…but if you had that product or that work out routine or that particular brand of shitty vodka, maybe you would be good enough.
Only, when you get that stuff, there’s still an endless supply of more images telling you that you’re still not enough. So you’ve got to start shutting them out. Instead of taking a pro-active approach to pinpoint the real reason we aren’t happy, we keep trying to make these changes to force ourselves to become good enough.
But you know what, it’s more than just the media we consume. It’s about the messages that we’ve learned from our experiences of other people.
And 👏we 👏learn 👏that 👏shit 👏so 👏young👏.
What messages did we learn growing up?
Now let’s take some examples of dysfunctional families and start with the alcoholic family. A child does not understand why the alcoholic parent is sometimes there for them and sometimes not depending on the substance usage. In a narcissistic family, the child does not understand that the narcissistic parent is not capable of empathy or real love. In abusive families or families with domestic violence, the child does not understand why the adults are acting in horrible ways and not seeming to tune into how that effects their children. So, given that the child’s goal is to be loved and cared for, the child begins to try to “fix” the adult problems so they can achieve their goal. They don’t do this consciously, of course, but many start this at a very early age. “If only I was a better kid, this would not be happening.” “If I did better in school, my parents wouldn’t fight.” “If I listen to my parent’s problems, maybe they will be less stressed.” “If I do more chores or housework, maybe Mommy won’t be so sad.” “If I become a great soccer player, maybe Daddy won’t drink so much beer because he will want to come to my games.”
This is another example of how we often let external factors determine how we feel about our performance as people. How we let external factors dictate whether or not we are good enough. I think this is incredibly common everywhere.
When we see things that don’t go the right way, we look for something that we can “control” that will make it go the right way. If somebody has a bad opinion of us, we immediately assume it’s because we’re not good enough.
So then this process starts. We can’t control how people think about us, but because we can control how we dress and eat or talk or how we laugh, or how generous we are, we’ll try to change those to make ourselves good enough.
We then teach ourselves that because that person’s opinion hasn’t changed, we weren’t good enough to change it.
We do this over and over again.
We do it in business. We do it in the office. We do it in our relationships. We look at problems or challenges or obstacles and feel like we’re not good enough. Then instead of pro-actively trying to solve the problems by working out their root cause and dealing with it — we try and change ourselves. To conform, to adapt, or to be good enough.
That’s not fucking healthy.
Because sooner or later, it stops pushing us to make changes and starts pushing us to never change.
Because sooner or later, we stop telling ourselves we aren’t good enough and we start telling ourselves we’ll never be good enough.
Because if we tell ourselves we’re never going to be good enough, why the fuck would we change?
Here’s my new mantra. I’m always good enough.
All I can tell you really is if you get to the point where someone is telling you that you are not great or not good enough, just follow your heart and don’t let anybody crush your dream.
This is what it comes down to. You can tell yourself you’re not good enough, you can let the images you consume tell you that you’re not good enough, you can let other people tell you that you’re not good enough, and you know what’s going to happen?
You’ll stop fucking being good enough.
Here’s the assumption that I’m trying to take on. I am always good enough until proven otherwise. And if I’m proven otherwise, I will always be able to become good enough.
That assumption is something that I’m trying to force to become my new default reaction to the world around me. My new instinct. My auto-responder. It’s what I want to learn so deeply that it becomes almost second nature, just something that I understand and repeat automatically.
How to take on board the idea that you’re good enough…
If you want to believe that new mantra, that you’re always good enough, you have to take real, tangible steps to get there. To drive it into your own skull. Because just saying you believe it isn’t enough. Trust me, I’ve been saying for years that I believe Elvis lives and it hasn’t made that shit a reality.
Nobody just believes new things about themselves by wishing it. No matter how easy it is for you to be sold to, and no matter how good you are at selling, when you try selling an idea to yourself you will find it almost impossible to take on board.
1. Ask yourself who you admire, and then ask what they’d admire in you.
Sounds like bullshit, right? It’s actually incredibly motivating. I like to pinpoint my heroes and the folks that I look up to, and then search my soul and my heart and my experiences and try to find one thing that I think they’d admire. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to be enough to break out of the idea that you are a Less Than person.
For example, one of the people I admire is Tim Armstrong, from the band Rancid. I like to think he’d admire my tenacity, because that’s something he’s always shown a regard for, in the way he’s pursued punk rock his whole life because it was something he believed in.
2. Remember that you don’t get to treat you the way you’d treat your employees.
Seriously, you don’t. You don’t get to be cruel to yourself, because if acted like that to your employees, they wouldn’t just quit, they’d sue your ass and ruin you. I think that’s one of the best ways to think about how you act towards yourself, because you’d never (I fucking hope) just yell and scream at your staff about how much they suck and how they aren’t good enough.
If I treated other people the way I’ve sometimes treated myself, it’d be considered abuse and harassment.
I’d never consider acting this way towards other people. There’s just no way that’d be acceptable, and yet I act like that towards myself all the time. It’s painful, and it’s kind of stupid.
So don’t do it to you. Ask yourself, if I said this shit to somebody else, would it be enough for a lawsuit? That’s a good marker of whether or not to say it to yourself.
3. Don’t beat yourself up over a failure.
On the weekend, I was going to write 5,000 words. Instead, I went out for brunch twice and played Diablo III. It was awesome. And I’m totally okay with that. It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, just because I didn’t meet my own standards for one day. It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough, just because I ate my weight in bacon and blasted zombies when I had shit to do.
Not beating yourself up is vital. Even if you’ve got a good reason to give yourself some serious criticisms, dwelling on that is only going to get you gunning for your faults with reckless abandon. Sure, admit that you’ve screwed up. Then accept that you’ve screwed up. Then put on your grown up pants and move on.
If you believe you’re good enough, you’ll at least try, and you might win.
If you believe you’re not good enough, you’ll give up before you even start.
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I’m the founder of Creatomic.
I’m Jon Westenberg. I’m a serial failure, a law school drop out, and a passionate creative. I started my first company at 18, walking off the grill of a McDonald’s to create a music management company. Since then, I’ve worked with startups, spoken at events across the globe, won and lost a record deal and kept moving forward with one idea: life isn’t about staying up. It’s about getting up when you fall down. I founded Creatomic, a top blog and coaching company.