01 Jun Enough of all the not enough-ness
Not enough-ness feels like we’re lacking something. Not good enough, not successful enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not capable enough, not loveable enough. Behind most of the false, deeply unloving, conclusions that we come to about ourselves is a painful sense that nothing we do or are is quite enough.
I say not enough-ness because it’s more than just a belief. The belief is so deeply attached to our most painful memories and feelings of inadequacy that it’s a whole body, whole mind, whole being thing.
Our not enough-ness leads us to endlessly compare ourselves to others and to endlessly conclude that we’re somehow less than the people we’re with. We do this in such an automatic, subtle way that we’re usually unaware we’re comparing and unaware than we’ve concluded we’re somehow not as good as those we’re with.
Because we don’t realise, we react. Some people puff themselves up and tear-down the people they’ve compared themselves to. Some people become smaller and tear-down themselves. We make decisions from within this space too. Some people overcompensate (e.g., people in this town aren’t good enough, I’m moving) and some people shrink (e.g., I’m not as smart as other people, I’m not going to apply for the job).
I know I’m covering a lot here. Not enough-ness is a complicated beast. It’s beliefs, feelings, thoughts, sensations, judgements, self-esteem, self-worth, ego, insecurity, arrogance, reactions and actions. It’s a lot, I know. That’s why we need to understand it.
Self-limiting, negative beliefs most often stem from our childhood. We’re either explicitly told them (e.g., you don’t try hard enough), or we develop them in response to painful, frightening experiences (yup, you knew I’d mention it – trauma). Say our parents routinely give us no attention. This threatens our need for social connection and love so we have a traumatic reaction to it (although we don’t realise that’s what it is, and neither do our parents). We get overwhelmed, feel afraid, confused or angry, and somewhere along the line we make a fundamental conclusion about ourselves. There must be something wrong with me, I must be bad… I’m not enough. These kinds of traumatic childhood experiences are common. So, of course, the conclusion that we arrive at, that over time affects our lives so greatly, is also extremely common.
Not enough-ness is THE THING that sit at the centre. It’s the thing we slowly uncover as we move through our healing.
We don’t uncover it all in one go. At times, we may think we know what we’re dealing with, but then it comes back, and back and back again. Every so often, I’m floored by my not enough-ness. This week, it got me. I compared, without realising I was comparing. I found myself lacking, without realising I had found myself lacking. I started ‘should-ing’ myself (I should be better, I should work harder, I should… should… should). Then come the triggered old feelings. It’s an overwhelm, confusion, anxiety, shame shit-storm.
So, what do we do when all this not enough-ness is triggered? We remind ourselves that the feelings are old. The feelings, thoughts and sensations are not about who we are today, or our reality today. We don’t have to analyse our life, we need to give our younger self a cuddle. We remember that not enough-ness is built on the old traumatic belief that we are lacking something. It’s an unsafe sense that we are somehow less than we should be. So we respond to our triggered younger self with the reassurance they need. We help them feel safe, whole and enough. Kindness is key. Loving words are key.
Paradoxically, this gentle response proves to us, and to our younger self, that we are stronger than our old negative self-beliefs.
Sarah Woodhouse is a trauma expert, research psychologist and writer who delivers people the knowledge and tools to recognise and overcome self-defeating cycles, to achieve personal freedom and success.
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