As children, many of us received implicit (and often explicit) messages that it was not ok for us to just be. To some of us, it was communicated that sadness and anger are unacceptable feelings and that to be lovable and worthy we had to hide those parts of ourselves. Some of us were told to constantly strive for more and better, that we should never enjoy where we’re at or what we’ve achieved because someone else is waiting to take our place in line for the best. At some point, we might have realized that our needs and wants were not important.
As a result, we started to believe that we are not enough.
When we are bathed in a message from such a young age and for so long, it becomes woven into our fibers. Such a deep feeling of scarcity, of “not enough” can creep into many other parts of our lives. We feel there is not enough time, not enough money, not enough opportunity. We feel we are not good enough communicators, not good enough parents, not good enough partners, not good enough workers. This becomes the narrative we tell ourselves and we live by it. We have internalized the messages, the scarcity and made an agreement with ourselves that we are not enough, so we approach each situation with that belief. It informs how we participate in relationships, in challenges, at work, and in the rest of life.
It’s not that we want to live this way. We just don’t know how not to. When we haven’t been taught how to validate ourselves and our experience it’s pretty mystifying as to how that could ever work. And once we’ve been doing something for so long, it’s an ingrained pattern of thinking and doing. So, we live in various states of longing and fear.
We starve our needs and try to shape ourselves into what we think we need to be or do or look like so that we can capture the elusive feeling of being enough. We continue to do it until we are exhausted and hopeless.
If this post feels relatable to you and you’re wondering how you can start the process of breaking free from this painful cycle, read on.
- You can observe. You can watch the feelings that come up and the chatter in your mind that tries to find ways to judge yourself and keep those cognitive distortions churning.
- You can observe while beginning to reserve some judgment. Instead of following your thoughts of “Damnit, I looked like an idiot!” down the rabbit hole, you can put some space in between yourself and the thoughts. This looks more like, “Damnit, I looked like an idiot! …ok, the voice in my head is telling me I looked like an idiot.” That’s enough of a start. John Kabat Zinn devotes a whole method to finding and increasing this little bit of space. It’s called MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), and you should Google it.
- You can start sending little bits of compassion to the part of yourself that’s feeling inadequate. It can be in the form of thought, a feeling, words that you say out loud, or a mixture of any of these. It’s ok if it feels small and short lived. It will be at first because this is a new practice.
- Notice as you see patterns emerge. Start tracking your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors about particularly disturbing or problematic scenarios. See if you can gather more information to get a better understanding of what happens for you and what you can do to help yourself.
Remember that this belief that you are/there is not enough didn’t happen overnight. It took years of training for you to believe it and live your life by it. It will take time and training to learn a new way of being. Try to show yourself some patience and stick with it.
Love and Be Loved,