The fear of “not being good enough” is one of the deepest, most fundamental fears of every human being on the planet. My man Josh likes to say, “If you listen to your thoughts in your mind, they all boil down to saying the same thing: I suck.”
Marie wrote in and asked me,
“I’m a relative newbie in my industry, and I am constantly fighting thoughts about not being good enough, not being experienced enough, or not being old enough. Are there any tips for beating down the voice of resistance?”
First of all Marie, great name!
Secondly, here’s a little secret: everybody thinks they’re not good enough.
So the first thing I want you to recognize is the whole “I’m not good enough thing” is not personal to YOU. We all have it. It’s like our mind’s default factory setting.
Let’s explore where that feeling comes from and some ways I’ve found to overcome this fear.
What Does Not Being “Good Enough” Mean?
Does that question have you scratching your head? Me, too. Here’s why: It doesn’t have an answer.
What does it even mean to feel “good enough”? How can you tell that someone else is good enough? What’s so lacking about you that makes you not good enough?
Spoiler: The reason these questions sound so roundabout is because they’re a waste of time.
You’re you. Whatever you think others have that you don’t is irrelevant. YOU have exactly the magic you need to do your special work in the world.
If you try to define “good enough,” you’ll quickly realize that you’re measuring yourself against a totally arbitrary standard.
There’s no real definition of “good enough” because your specific journey, experience, perspective, and approach is what will make you special. Which is fantastic news, because it means you can’t actually be *not* good enough.
Why We Fear Not Being Good Enough
Your fear doesn’t need to be “crushed” or annihilated. It needs to be listened to and appreciated for the gift it offers. Think about an infant who wails in her crib or a dog who incessantly barks. They’re trying their best to communicate something, but they don’t have the language to articulate it.
The same is true with fear. Fear communicates using the only tool she has: the ability to make you feel. When you sense her presence, she’s doing her best to get you to pay attention. This subtle yet important distinction will help you meet your fear with open arms and a smile.
The fear of not being good enough doesn’t mean you’re actually not good enough; and there’s definitely nothing wrong with you. You’re probably afraid because:
You’ve internalized feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism because of experiences you had as a child.
You dream big, and other people say your dreams are “unrealistic.”
You’re afraid to leave your comfort zone, and not being good enough is a cunning excuse to avoid taking action.
Those are all valid reasons to feel fear — but they’re no excuse to stay stuck.
Lies You Tell Yourself That Make You Feel Not Good Enough
Your mind loves to put you down. It’s great at getting you to wonder, “Am I enough?” It knows all your secrets and just the right buttons to push to make you afraid to try anything.
The messages below might seem valid and reasonable inside our heads, but they all boil down to one bogus message: I suck.
When you find yourself frozen in place by a fear of not being good enough, you can get moving again with a few mindset shifts.
How to Overcome Feeling Like You’re Not Good Enough
We all have moments of low self-esteem, feeling not good enough, and like we’re frauds. To move forward, we have to push through those feelings.
In this MarieTV, I share one deceptively simple trick that’ll help you banish the “I’m not good enough” fear whenever you feel it. Check out the rest of the blog post after the video for even more ways to overcome your fear of not being good enough.
Let me be clear: Those “I’m not good enough” thoughts don’t go away just because you get older, more experienced, or more successful. I’ve been running my business for over 20 years, and I still feel not good enough every time I start a new project or try something I’ve never done before.
But you are good enough! Sometimes, you just need a reminder. Here are a few tricks to try next time you feel that creeping fear trying to stop you from achieving your dreams:
Turn your attention outward. When those “I’m not good enough” thoughts arise, notice them, then focus on what you want to achieve and who you’re serving in this moment. When you turn your attention on helping others, you’ve got no room to wonder whether you’re good enough. (Tip: Watch the video above for more on this!)
Remember: You are not your thoughts. You have a mind, but you are not your mind. You’re not the thoughts you think, you are the ACTIONS you turn your thoughts into.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself. When you worry you’re not good enough, you invite others to believe it, too. Before you assume your colleagues or your industry won’t accept you, consider whether you’ve accepted yourself first.
Imagine yourself without fear. Identify the exact fear that’s holding you back. What do you really believe you’re lacking? Then ask and answer this question:What would you create, attempt, or change about your life if the fear of failure or imperfection wasn’t an issue?
Don’t assume people are judging you. A big source of feeling like you’re not being good enough is a fear of being judged. When you assume people are standing by to attack, you’ll turbocharge those insecurities and focus too hard on what you think isn’t good enough about you.
Stop chasing approval. You’ve got what it takes, and some people will simply never understand that, especially if you take an unusual route to achieve your dreams. Stop measuring yourself against others’ standards, and it’ll be much harder to convince yourself you’re not good enough.
Avoid taking shots of Compareschlӓger*. Think you’re not good enough because you’ll never be as good as ______________ [insert your idol/nemesis here]? Don’t go there. You’re not someone else, and you don’t know their story. Comparison is creative kryptonite — and Compareschlӓger can kill you.
Be happy. You do you! Enjoy your work and your life so much your success can’t be questioned. It’s tough for other people to judge you when you’re satisfied with your results.
Get a Fraud Squad. Surround yourself with people who remind you exactly how amazing you are. Put a few trusted souls on speed dial so you can reach out any time your fear of not being good enough threatens to hold you back. Their job? To remind you of all the reasons you don’t, in fact, suck.
Deal with the worst — now. Imagine the worst that could happen if you push past your fear of not being good enough. How would you deal with it? Write it down. This exercise helps us realize that even if it all implodes (highly unlikely — especially when you address potential problems in advance), there’s always something we can do to lift ourselves back up.
*Compareshläger: noun; a self-inflicted poison. Activates when you compare yourself to others and end up feeling worthless. Analogous to Goldschläger, the disgusting cinnamon-flavored schnapps with gold flakes that when ingested in large quantities makes you puke.
You Are Enough
You’re amazing, and it’s okay to have big dreams. That fear of not being good enough will resurface from time to time. It takes practice to overcome it, so prepare yourself to put in the work.
As you do — oh my goodness! You can move beyond self-sabotaging fears and pave the way to do that incredible work that only you can do.
Since the “I’m not good enough” fear is one thing every human being deals with at some point or another, I know you’ve got some innate wisdom on this one.
Grab a notebook and spend 5-10 minutes answering these questions:
How have you moved past self-doubt in the past? What practices help you stay engaged and out of your head?
Sometimes looking back at how you’ve accomplished something in the past is the quickest way to do something about it now. But don’t think your answers. Write them down now. Taking action is the only path to change and I believe in you.
If your fear of imperfection causes significant emotional distress or makes you avoid doing things, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder or phobia. You can contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline for more information and referrals for care: 800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 800-487-4889.