I'M NOT ENOUGH!!! How the "I'm nots" are not doing you any good
Some of us spend a lot of time thinking negative thoughts about ourselves. This type of thinking is toxic. Let's talk about how to change that:
As my little girl is transitioning to a new school she is really struggling with what I call the “I’m Not Good Enoughs.” It breaks my heart, not only because I hurt for her, but because it brings me back to so many times (READ MORE)
In my earlier life when the “I’m Not Good Enoughs” caused me so much pain…
“I’M NOT SMART ENOUGH!”
“I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
“I’M NOT PRETTY ENOUGH!”
“I’M NOT SKINNY ENOUGH!”
“I’M NOT POPULAR ENOUGH!”
“I’M JUST NOT STINKIN’ ENOUGH…”
I spent so much of my life allowing these things to scream in my head. At times the screaming would be so loud and go on for so long that I would become despondent and seriously depressed.
So where does the idea that one is “not enough” come from?
I was just listening to a TED Talk interview with rock legend Sting in which he was talking about an eight-year period of time when he didn’t write any music. He said that he had, “just lost his creativity.” When the interviewer asked him about how he got it back, Sting responded that he had to go back to his childhood because that’s where creativity begins.
I believe that this is true of so many things in our lives: In this case, the creativity involved in imagining how “not enough” I was in so many ways.
And truly I was very creative with my self-deprecation, especially as I grew from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood. I became very artful with telling myself how “not enough” I was.
Self-deprecating ideas come from seeds planted by others. In my case:
- Parents who tended to be hyper-critical and who held understandably high expectations for their very bright daughter
- Kids who were bullies in school (something that was seemingly acceptable in the 1970s)
- Media and society telling kids that they needed to dress a certain way and act a certain way
- And later (what I hope were unwitting scare tactics) of teachers and professors about the things one must do, and the ways one must act, to get a good job and be successful in life because, “there are so few jobs available in this field.”
I remember so vividly my sorrow during Elementary School over the kids who were mean to me (and others). I remember crying to myself asking, “Why do they not like me?” I remember the deep pain in Middle School when I found out that a girl I thought was my friend was bad-mouthing me behind my back. Again, my inner question was, “What is wrong with me that she would do that?” AND I remember how ashamed and embarrassed I was when another friend found out that I was being snarky about her behind her back because I mistakenly thought that putting someone else down would make me feel better about myself.
I still have a scar on my wrist from where I cut myself with a broken bottle in an extremely misguided attempt to use physical pain to replace the emotional pain of feeling so very, very, not good enough, smart enough, or emotionally stable enough to make it through my doctoral program.
And I still occasionally catch myself falling into a trap I made-up for myself that I’m not a good enough wife to my husband because I didn’t continue in my academic career and because I’m not making as much money as he does.
And finally, the old “I’m not skinny enough”, “I’m not pretty enough” demons come back to haunt me from time-to-time. And you can read “I’m not skinny enough” as “I’m so f-ing FAT!”
But We Shall Overcome
I’m not crying victim here. We can choose to feed, water and nurture the seeds of self-deprecation planted by others (and quite truthfully, ourselves).
I can choose to revive old memories and dwell on the sorrow of them.
I can choose to let the past be the past and to be grateful for the wisdom I gained.
I can choose to care if other people judge me for what brand of purse I carry or whose name is on the butt of my jeans.
I can choose to wear things that make me happy (which usually means they don’t cost a lot) and comfortable, yet still presentable ;)
I can choose to make-up stories in my head about how my husband feels about me and my career change.
I can choose to remember that I am happy, fulfilled and successful in my new career. And quite truthfully, while my husband wasn’t very supportive at first, he seems fine with it now.
I can choose to look at the scar on my wrist I think about how weak I was.
I can choose to look at the scar on my wrist and choose to think how strong I was to get through that time in spite of being in such deep emotional pain!
I can choose to look in the mirror and say to myself, “you’re so f-ing FAT!”
I can choose to look in the mirror and say, “you have beautiful curves and your husband loves you just the way you are.” And remember that I take very good care of myself in terms of exercise and eating and of course STRESS MANAGEMENT ;)
What I Hope for my Daughter
My little one is feeling like she’s not good enough and not smart enough for her new school. Up until this point she’s only been in Montessori schools. In Montessori they celebrate the love of learning and community. They don’t teach to the test, nor do they have many tests. She’s always loved school and learning.
When we moved to Charleston the local charter Montessori school was full and I was told that there was no way my children would get in on the waiting list. So with much reluctance I enrolled my children in the very, very big mainstream public schools. These schools are blue ribbon schools and achieve some of the highest test scores in the state.
But therein lies the problem. The worksheets, the teaching to the test, the challenge to keep being “the best” all add up to a lot of preciseness, a lot of testing (she’s in the 4th grade and has 3 quizzes and at least one test a week), and a lot of stress. She was marked wrong on a question about magnets because she said, “they stick together,” instead of “they attract.”
She’s a smart girl. I know she’ll learn how to “do” the new schoolwork. In the meantime, my husband and I are just trying to support her as much as possible and encouraging her to give herself time to learn the new ways.
But most of all, I just keep telling her:
“You ARE smart enough.”
“You ARE a good enough student.”
“And please don’t ever forget that no matter what you are more than enough for mommy to love you!”
Do you have “Not Enoughs” in your inner dialogue?
How do you/ can you change those to “I Am More Than Enoughs?”In Love & Gratitude,