“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough?
I bet you do! I know the feeling. We all doubt ourselves sometimes – it’s human nature. And the really crazy thing is, we think everyone else is doing better than us. But they aren’t.
Every day we’re comparing apples with oranges – comparing our insides with other people’s outsides. That colleague of yours who’s giving a really smooth presentation to the boss, while you wait nervously in your chair until it’s your turn? She very well might be panicking inside. You just can’t tell.
In fact, if she’s truly great, she likely is panicking inside. Research suggests that the so-called “impostor syndrome” may get more intense as people get better at what they do: the more accomplished you become, the more likely you are to rub shoulders with ever more talented and skilled people, leaving you feeling even more inadequate by comparison. So, in a backwards way, if you’re concerned that you don’t measure up, that could very well be a good sign that you actually do measure up just fine.
The late and great Maya Angelou, a renowned novelist and poet, once said, “I have written 11 books, but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh. They’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.” Angelou was an extraordinary talent, but she was also extraordinary in being willing to admit that she wasn’t always confident about that.
And in today’s always-connected world it’s even harder to keep things in perspective. Our lives are literally unfolding on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. We use these social technologies, not surprisingly, to showcase the best parts of our lives: the beautiful weddings and enviable honeymoons, the finished projects, and the best smiles. But we forget that we’re only seeing everyone else’s highlight reel too – not the sleepless nights, the failed attempts, the moments of grief and self-doubt.
So with all of this in mind, if you’re not feeling “good enough” right now, it’s time to adjust your thinking. Let’s go over five time-tested ways to do just that:
1. Acknowledge that all emotions come from within.
It’s not outside forces that make us feel something, it’s what we tell ourselves about what’s happening that creates our feelings. People’s judgments, life’s unplanned events, and your unchecked to-do lists are not inherently stressful – it’s your thoughts about these things that stress you out.
Most of us want to place blame and responsibility on external objects and scenarios because it’s the easy thing to do, but the truth remains that all conflicts start internally, in our minds. When we flee from responsibility we are doing nothing but harming ourselves and undermining our self-control and self-discipline.
The next time you run into an obstacle and feel inner resistance, don’t look at what’s around you. Instead, look within.
2. Don’t resist where you are; BE where you are.
Where you are right now is a necessary step.
All too often we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on our ideals or some lie someone once told us, that it is not where we should be or want to be. But the truth is, where you are right now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow.
Take a deep breath, take it all in, and take the lessons with you. (Read The Miracle Morning.)
3. See challenges as stepping-stones.
Marcus Aurelius once said, “Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself? So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.”
Nothing could be closer to the truth.
When you least expect it, life sets you up with a challenge to test your courage and willingness to stretch and change; at such a moment, there’s no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that you are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.
Say it out loud: “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
It will be risky and scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Because the truth is, it shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something is difficult to come by, you’ll do that far more to make sure it’s even harder – if not impossible – to lose.
4. Visualize a better life after failure.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Know this to be true. Just because you have faced many defeats in your life, does not mean you have been defeated. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A person who makes no mistakes is unlikely to make anything at all. It’s better to have a lifetime full of small failures that you learned from, rather than a lifetime filled with the regrets of never trying.
It’s all about gradually growing stronger and getting better over time.
You can spend months or even years on a project, only to watch it be ignored, or even worse, laughed at. I once worked on a project thinking that it would be a huge success. I spent a full year on it, and it was my most vulnerable work to date. When I released it for others to see, nobody liked it, some people laughed at me, and I cried. That’s what failure feels like when you open up and share an authentic part of yourself. But recovering from that failure is a practice – a mindset. In fact, the harsh lessons I internalized from that experience helped me do my most successful work to date.
In other words: No failure, no growth. (Read The 10X Rule.)
5. Remind yourself that this moment is your most precious resource.
One thing I’ve learned from the most heart wrenching moments of my life – losing loved ones to illness and accidents – is that death is an unpredictable inevitability. Embracing this fact provides a sense of urgency, to realize that you’ve lived a certain number of hours, and the hours ahead of you are not as guaranteed as the ones you’ve already lived. When I think of this I am reminded that every day truly is an opportunity to learn and grow, not in a cliché kind of way, but to honestly appreciate what we are capable of achieving and how we are responsible for the quality of our present lives. This makes our self-respect, focus, work ethic, generosity, self-awareness, and growth evermore important, right here, right now. It leaves no time to wallow in self-doubt.
The last thing any of us wants to do is die with regret, hence why respecting the reality of death puts life into perspective. It humbles us and should also deeply motivate us to lead our lives and do our best today: less procrastinating, comparing, criticizing and consuming; more trying, creating, learning and living. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Sometimes the pressure coming from peers, family, work, and society in general is enough to make us feel completely broken inside. If we don’t have the “right” job, relationship, lifestyle, and so forth, by a certain age or time frame, we assume we’re just “not good enough.” Angel and I hear about this kind of self-defeating mindset from our coaching clients (get coaching here) and blog subscribers (subscribe here) on a daily basis, and we aren’t immune either.
The tips above will help, but I’d love to learn about your firsthand experience with self-doubt. Which of the points in this post do you resonate with the most? What makes you feel “not good enough?” How have you coped with this negativity?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.