you are good enough

How To Feel That You Are Good Enough

The feeling of not being good enough can affect a person in many ways. “Not good enough” is a bottomless hole because the bar of what’s good keeps moving further and further away. 

It is frustrating and disappointing because even if you are the most successful in your field you cannot ever be satisfied. In this post, we will look at the origins of this feeling, how it impacts people’s lives, and how to finally fix this.

Where Does “I’m not good enough” Come From

Psychologists list many causes of low self-worth. The majority of them go back to childhood. Parenting issues, disapproving or conflicting authority figures and bullying are just a few primary examples. 

Caregivers constantly pointing out our mistakes and showing a lack of encouragement will cement the idea that no matter how much effort you apply it never meets the invisible standard. When your mind is in its prime for neural plasticity this is what you going to remember and carry over to adult life. Only if we had a time machine to go back and have a quick chat with your parents! (A sidenote –  timeline therapy is actually a real exercise that coaches use to travel to the past and work with adolescent issues.) This is how the never-ending “I am never good enough” hamster wheel race begins.

In this original work, Freud used the concept of Id, Ego and Superego. While psychology evolved since the heyday of psychoanalytic this concept is still useful to discuss self-esteem challenges. Id is a part of the personality that is busy with seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, your ego is a self-reflecting part with a collection of habitual patterns and the superego is the morally right voice that keeps a book of high standards close in his hand at all times. 

Id is concerned with cakes, parties and all the “good and wrong” things.  The superego on the other hand never gets tired of telling you how bad you are and how you should be doing better. It is the ultimate negative thoughts generator. The poor ego is stuck in the middle between the two competing voices. In a way, your superego is the construct filled with society’s standards, the voices of your parents, and all the rules that help you to stay within the boundaries of civilized society. 

Let’s say you are preparing for an important exam. While working hard you end up going out one night thinking that it’s okay to relax a little bit. Thanks to your study efforts you pass but don’t get a perfect score. This is where your superego kicks with a feeling of guilt telling you that only if you didn’t go out that night, you would ace that test. While this model is somewhat outdated and reminds us of the battle between good and evil helps to have a visual representation of this issue.

Based on this model your superego is formed from your upbringing as a self-parenting mechanism. And you thought that once you move out from your parent’s home you are a grownup! It also projects its opinions on your daily actions or their outcome. The superego will continue playing as a broken radio beyond reasonable objective criticism. If the ego isn’t healthy and strong enough to evaluate the ridiculous demands of your superego then we have a problem. In essence, you work to bring this system into equilibrium is to strengthening your ego and keeping your superego within realistic boundaries. 

While it may be interesting to understand the reason behind you thinking “why am i so hard on myself” it is important to move forward. Unlike psychology life coaching is focused on the present and the future. If you are interested to explore further please do research from reputable sources.

The Impact of Negative Self Talk

There are three main ways negative self-talk will affect a person’s life.

Low Self-Worth

Feeling worthless leads to all kinds of issues from depression to not being able to progress anywhere in life. It is often negative thinking combined with the question “why am I so hard on myself.” This will get in way of asking for a promotion, correcting someone’s mistakes or asking a girl on a date. Negative emotions follow negative thinking coming from the inner critic stating that you are not good enough.

Impostor Syndrome

The impostor syndrome is a term used to describe a feeling that you pretend to be who you are not. A faker who managed to cheat on the interview process or some other way to get a job that you don’t deserve. The imposter syndrome can be constantly present or come and go like a tidal wave. When experiencing this a person may have anxiety about being caught out or showing a lack of confidence when performing their job. 


This is by far the worst of them. It is a learnt condition that is observed not just in humans but in mammals like dogs. We can learn that no matter what to do our actions do not achieve outcomes. A recent trend in China called lying flat is a perfect example of this. A demoralized youth feeling that there is no way they can advance in life chooses to do nothing. To rid of helplessness we need to retrain our minds to prove that our actions matter but it often seems impossible to achieve this goal.

It is however absolutely doable to fix this and I personally managed to do this by applying techniques we discuss further in this post. When working with our minds nothing is black and white. There is no guarantee that you will never experience self-esteem issues again. The negative self-talk can come back and you will need to apply the same principles used to get rid of it in the first place. The great news is that once you fix this issue it will no longer have a strong grip on you.

How To Fix Feeling That You Are Not Good Enough

Now that we covered the origins of “not good enough” as well as how it may affect you, lets talk about what you can do to fix this condition. A word of caution if your symptoms are severe like anxiety and depression, you may need to look for a trained psychologist to address these. It may also take a considerable amount of time and effort to correct this. 

Start With Understanding Your Personality

Low self-esteem is an issue of two variables – the environment that triggers the feeling and your response to it. It makes sense to start with understanding how you operate because it largely comes down to your own interpretation of external events. To do that I recommend using one of the oldest and most versatile personality profiling systems called Enneagram. 

You can find out more about one example of the articles I wrote on this website. Enneagram allows you to find primary motivations like fear or desire to be loved based on your most prominent behavioural patterns. It is useful because once you understand the main driving force you can see how it drives everything you do. It is no longer “I wish I knew why I am screwing up all the time” to “Hey I just did that how do I not do it again?” 

Once you develop self-awareness you can consider whether a particular behaviour impacts your and other people’s lives and either accept or change it for a better one. Enneagram has nine major personality types. The types that are most affected by “I am not good enough” thoughts are:

  • Type 1 the perfectionist 
  • Type 3 the achiever
  • Type 6 the loyalist

While you cannot change your core personality once you know your type it no longer drives your life and you get into the driver’s seat.

Enneagram Personality Types

Find The Context

It is likely that the thoughts like “I am never good enough” are triggered in a specific scenario. This could be an environment, situation or a particular person. Knowing where the thought process kicks in is helpful as it can help to shift from thinking globally e.g. “why I always suck” to a specific issue. It is much easier to give up than fix an ambiguous huge problem. If you aren’t good enough at everything but just public speaking your list of potential solutions to choose from is much smaller. Instead of ruminating on this with a bottle of wine nearby you can join toastmasters and improve a specific skill. 

In his book “Learned optimism” professor of psychology Martin Seligman speaks about how there are three traits that differentiate between positive and negative thinkers. Negative thinkers tend to think in a global sense e.g. “everything is always terrible”. Secondly, they put the blame on themselves rather than external factors. And lastly, there is a feeling of permanency for instance they would think that I’m never good enough rather than I am not good enough at this yet.

The task here is to shift from permanent global thinking to a temporary state in a specific context. To sum it up by understanding how these thoughts and feelings are triggered you can walk away from hopelessness towards having concrete action steps to fix the problem.

Define Your Good Enough

Gaining clarity on what good enough is once you understand the context is a great way to objectively challenge the superego’s claims of your inadequacy. How do you know if you are good enough if you don’t know what the measure of good is? 

If you set some realistic goals for yourself and make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) you know exactly what you are aim is. Don’t get me wrong having a big picture in mind is useful to keep you walking in the right direction however incremental steps will help you with measuring progress. Having those goals written down somewhere visible can help to keep unrealistic expectations of the superego in check and prevent negative emotions from arising.

Stop Identifying With Your Thoughts

Experience meditators can tell you how through staying still long enough it becomes apparent that there are essentially two entities that occupy our minds – an observer and a constant stream of thoughts. Thoughts keep bubbling up on the surface of the mind no matter what. It is a process that we can’t easily control (if at all).

Our thoughts are affected by how much sleep we had, stress, diet, recently watched movies etc, etc. Thoughts change based on external circumstances, other people’s influence and beliefs. It is easy to get caught up in the trail of thoughts mixing our identity with their content. The issue here is that thoughts are directly linked to our emotions and actions. Negative thoughts will lead to negative feelings and mediocre days.

Interestingly our thoughts are not who we are. You can wake up and have different thoughts though our personalities and the inner observer remain the same. Separating thoughts that bring you down from your as a person will help with not embedding those in your personality.  

Be Present

One way to separate yourself from the thoughts before you jump on the roller coaster of the “why my life sucks” is to meditate. Meditation has gotten a lot of publicity and even Apple recently introduced it to its iPhone health app. Unlike what people tell you meditation isn’t a tool for relaxation. Its primary purpose is to separate your inner observer from your thoughts. Because if you can see the separation from your thoughts telling you another BS story you can simply acknowledge the talk and ignore it like an ad or pop-up showing up in your browser when trying to watch a video. You don’t need to meditate for hours to achieve this effect. Even short meditations will teach you how to disengage from negative self-talk and bring your awareness back to what matters. The air around you the noises the temperature feeling your clothes the reality. If you looking to learn meditation please check out my article here.

Stop Comparing and Competing

When you think that you are not good enough the question is not good compared to what exactly? What is that measure that makes you good or bad?  This feeling is often triggered when we look at people in similar circumstances, age, or place of work that seemingly have their sh$% together. Feeds on social media show how happy others are just confirming that things are not working out in our own lives. The comparison trap is laid out in the open but we can’t seem to notice it and get caught again and again.

The reality is that unless you are a competitive athlete that needs to perform better than others in a given sport and weight category it is not relevant. Because our journeys in life are unique it’s like comparing an F35 jet fighter with a roasted chicken. Technically they are both birds however one is mechanical and another is delicious and can’t fly. One way to stop the comparison trap is to compete with yourself. Setting challenging goals to improve our own skills is much more productive and positive. Another suggestion to reduce exposure to unrealistic displays of happiness is to stop paying attention to “news” and social media feeds.

Adapt A Learner Mindset

By removing the negative environment and changing thinking you still need to maintain your executive faculty responsible for decisions up and running. We don’t want to create a positive bubble where everyone always says that you’re the most amazing person. You need to get objective feedback on your performance and actions. Receiving feedback is difficult and even traumatizing however it is necessary. By doing this you move away from everything that is bad to everyone and is perfect into the middle ground where you stay humble and you open to learning. The feedback is an opportunity to see which part of you needs growth.

Foster Positive Thinking

If you have been in the state for a while this is gonna take time and effort. My turning point around my negative self-talk happen when I read a tiny but nevertheless valuable book called “love yourself As your life depends on it”. The idea is simple your thoughts create your reality. And the basic solution to change it for the better is to think positive thoughts. I know it sounds simple and I’m sure you heard it before. Believe me, this works. 

How do you actually do it? Here is one three-step approach that you can try.

  • Find a hypnotic recording on Spotify that helps with positive thinking and listen to it daily. Continue for 2-3 months until start seeing that the way you think is changing. You can reduce the frequency to once a week thereafter.
  • Meditate daily for 2-5 minutes Meditation is not only a good experience to see for yourself that you are not your thoughts but it will help with rewiring your thinking patterns. When you catch yourself jumping on a negative thinking train, stop and reframe it to a positive thought.  Using a practical example – if you interrupted a thought “why am I so stupid” change it to “that did not work out this time this is what I will do differently from now on”
  • Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. If you are around naysayers who constantly question and tell you how something is not going to work you going to regress back to where you started.

I’m not suggesting to do divorce your family and moving to another city. Observe what people in your circle say to you and consider if they are positive influences or upload their negative thinking into your mind. Limit your exposure to negative people and gradually change the way you interact with them. Don’t sing along but play your own tune. Eventually, their behaviour around you will change or they will start to limit their time with the new positive you.

Positive Thinking Record On Spotify

Practice Gratitude

Another way of dealing with a constant habit of comparing is to develop a sense of gratitude. For those who are not familiar with it is an act of consciously finding little things in life that give you joy. As with anything new, if you haven’t done this before it will take a little practice. The best way to approach it is to add acts of gratitude into your daily routines. Tim Ferris called journaling the cheapest way form of psychotherapy in one of his books. 

Unloading concerns and reflecting on your day has a relieving effect. It feels almost like a brain massage releasing mind tension. Adding gratitude to journaling is an easy way to develop this habit. Start by writing down three things that you are grateful for at the end of each day. What will happen over time is that you will develop a gratitude radar constantly seeking little joyful moments in life. Gratitude is an antidote to many negative thinking patterns including a habit of comparing self with others. If your life is filled with joy there is no need to compare.

Create A Victory List

It is hard to deal with hard evidence and facts. No matter how high the emotions fly their objective reality serves as an ultimate judgement. A victory list is a tool that grounds your “I’m not good enough talk” in reality. It is a written list of your hard-earned achievements that serve as a reminder of how capable you are. Every human being has to overcome big challenges in their life to progress in life. It could be as simple as moving to another country, completing your university degree or the school program, and jumping out with the parachute for a skydive. Write down those big items personally meaningful to you and use it as a reference point when you’re when you feeling a lack of confidence.

Get Involved In Something You Care About

Passion and purpose are great drivers. If you’re doing what you love or care about it melts away the feeling of inadequacy. Who cares how good or bad you are at fulfilling your purpose? If you are on your life mission you don’t care about comparing yourself with others you see mistakes as feedback in a learning opportunity. Check out my article on how to find a purpose here.

Offer an Act of Compassion

When the fuel compassion toward another human being would create a moment of understanding of their circumstances. In that moment of sympathy, we are equal. We understand that they are mortal beings with flows. It removes the veil of perfection and gives us a glimpse of understanding that there is nobody to compete with.

Surround Yourself With Encouraging People

Feedback is important for us to receive objective instructions on how to grow. With that said, however, they want to have received it from people who have their best interest in our development. This could be as easy as. And I do not mean someone who is constantly wearing rose glasses and does not want to upset you with negative criticism. We are a product of our environment. Surrounding ourselves with positive upbeat people with a growth mindset is likely to condition us to become that person. It may take time for you to find these people and surround yourself with them. However, once you come across people you resonate with hold on to them.

How Long Will It Take To Feel That You Are Good Enough

Approaches in this post are aiming to reframe and cultivate a certain way of thinking through tools like victory lists or meditation. These tools in essence are habits. Therefore finding out how long it will take you to improve your self-esteem is dependent on the time needed to form a habit. There have been numerous studies and opinions on how long it takes to form a habit ranging from one to six months. James Clear who makes a living by writing on this subject talks about 66 days or two months. In my personal experience, 2 months is the threshold when habitual autopilot kicks in but the newly formed habit still needs nurturing until it becomes a part of your identity. 

Mistakes To Avoid When Working With Your Self Esteem

By now you probably realised that it will take an effort to improve how you feel about yourself. It is important to avoid pitfalls and make sure you are walking in the right direction. These are the areas that people often struggle with when dealing with low self-esteem issues.

Refusing To Seek Help

Mental well-being is a part of normal life and no longer a stigma attached to it. Many people that I know openly speak about seeing a therapist or a coach. Depending on your situation you may want to speak with someone that can help. Different goals require different specialists. Life coaches work with clients to visualise the future they want for themselves and move towards it faster. While the tools I mentioned in this post can be used without a coach the work is easier when you have someone be your accountability partner or reassure you that you are progressing well in your journey.

Avoid Toxic People

Becoming Unrealistically Optimistic About Your Abilities

It is possible to become oblivious to our flows when we surround ourselves with positive and encouraging friends. The problem here is that our friends are usually biased and do not want to hurt our feelings with negative comments. While it is important not to let others discourage us, we still need to seek objective feedback to become good at what we do.

Not Realising That Some People Are Toxic

We are the product of our environment and it will determine our eating habits, lifestyle, thinking and even how much we get paid.  Spending time with negative people questioning our actions or feeding into negative self-talk can sabotage our best efforts. Recognizing that we inherit thinking partners from others and gradually removing ourselves from those interactions soon enough will save you time and disappointment.

Given Up Too Early

It may take years to develop negative thinking patterns so it is only logical that it will take time to undo the damage. The changes will become apparent gradually with plenty of setbacks along the way. Getting better takes effort. However, it’s unrealistic to expect results within a day or two of practising journaling, meditation or reading the right books.

In this post, we covered the origins of low self-worth and ways of changing negative self-talk. I am certain that by applying these tools you can change your “I am not good enough” to “l can achieve anything I put my mind to” and learn from your mistakes. Send a message if you want to explore this concept more using the form on my website.

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