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Get Over Not Being “Good Enough”

Photo by Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash

“Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”

― Julia Cameron

My bet is there are plenty of areas of your life where you feel “good, but not good enough.”

We all have ever-present insecurities. “Am I really smart enough? Am I even talented? Do I fit with my friend group? Can I really succeed?”

I call these thoughts “lurkers,” after my favorite video game’s ever-present low-ranking villains.

It’s helpful to picture your negative thoughts as silly monsters who are unsuccessfully trying to stop you from feeling awesome.

These thoughts are the little monsters that pop up in your head all the time. Their goal is to prevent you from reaching the good stuff — the treasures, the goals, the ultimate prize. But like the lurkers in my game, they’re dumb and they’re easy to beat.

Plenty of emotional awareness articles are written with the aim of helping you feel “good enough” — because now more than ever we struggle with perfectionism and perfectionism breeds psychological distress.

On the one hand, not feeling good enough is a boon to our self-growth. It’s a signal that there are areas of our life we can work harder in and strive to improve.

But feeling like a slime soaked mud slug because you’re not good enough at x, y, or z, sucks.

And here’s a fun slime-soaked fact: you’re not as good as you could be.

In her post titled “How to be Good Enough,” Psy.D Marcia Reynolds notes, “Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, shared in a speech that no matter how charmed her life looks, every day she falls short of what she had hoped to accomplish. Then she has to consciously stop her brain from beating herself up for her shortcomings.”

Even perfectly put together instagram inspiration models feel inadequate.

Cameron Russel, who gave the Ted Talk “Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model,” says, “If you ever think, ‘If I had thinner thighs and shinier hair, wouldn’t I be happier,” you just need to meet a group of models. They have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they are the most physically insecure women, probably, on the planet.”

Insecurities will always be there. It’s how you interpret & deal with them that will either make you feel like a total loser or draw you out as winner.

The trick to feeling better about not being good enough is to accept the fact that you really are not good enough — and that’s a good thing.

In my morning journal I listed 12 areas where I haven’t felt like I was good enough over the years.

“I’m not good enough to have a ‘real’ job, I’m not good enough at being an entrepreneur, I’m not good enough at being fit, I’m not good enough to feel competent, etc.”

Once I had the list I froze. What do I do with all this not good enough 💩?

Looking over the list I realized I’d written out areas of my life where I haven’t yet put in the hard effort to really excel.

But I had evidence in front of me pointing an incontrovertible fact: I’m good, pretty good, without having to push myself that hard.

My baseline is “pretty good” and that’s amazing.

To get really good, like, good enough good, I’ve got to apply hard concentrated effort.

And my 💩-list helped me define those areas of my life where I can get better (and where I am getting better) with deliberate practice.

3 Steps to Becoming Better:

1. Write out your “not good enoughs.”

2. Then, write down why you’re not good enough in those areas.

I’m not good enough to make it on the varsity gymnastics team. I wasn’t able to nail a front & back layout because I didn’t practice outside of class.

I’m not as fit as an instragram #fitspo model. I don’t work out hard consistently and I don’t follow a restricted diet.

As long as you recognize that there is more to the sentence than simply “I’m not good enough for the 1st heat on swim team,” you can move past the shitty slug feeling and be a real human again.

That next push to discovering why you feel that way is the key to get your thought from unproductive, dragging you down mode to helpful & life-changing.

“I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.”

― Madeleine Albright

We’re all not good enough at things because we’re either not putting in the effort or because we’ve got a bad definition of what “good enough” means.

Once you turn your not good enoughs into reasons why you haven’t achieved at your maximum level, you can create action steps in order to boost those areas of your life.

3. a) Create TINY actions that will bring you closer to “good enough”

I’m not good enough to be a professional writer. But I’m a decent writer. I practice writing every day and I’m going back to graduate school to further my abilities as a professional writer.

Or:

I’m not fit/strong enough. Injuries have been a major impediment to my workouts. I already workout consistently, but I can focus on working out harder. My motivation to be more fit is high, but I struggle to make hard workouts part of my routine. I can start every rock climbing session with my favorite abs workout and I can end each session with max reps of pull ups. Once I establish those as part of my routine, I can add more difficult workouts or increase the difficulty.

3. b) Change your definition of “success”

I’m not as fit as an instragram #fitspo model. I don’t work out hard consistently and I don’t follow a restricted diet. I’m not willing to sacrifice eating the foods I love, but I do want to work out more. I will add a 7 minute ab workout to my regular gym routine until that becomes a habit. Then I can increase the time. I will not go on a restricted diet, so I’ll never be as fit as a #fitspo model. I will measure success not by how my body looks but by how long I can sustain an ab workout without resting. My goal for this month is 7 minutes without stopping, next month, 10, until I reach 30 minutes.

With your focus off of a goal that’s not likely to be achieved you get the relief of not feeling good enough. With an achievable plan in place (starting with 7 minutes of abs, for example) you can benefit immediately from the energizing feeling progress gives you.

After writing through my 💩-list I feel empowered, not defeated or like a garbage person.

I can see the truth behind my lurker thoughts and I realize that they offer help, not harm.

As in video games, when you slash through an enemy they often leave treasure behind.

Another version of this post originally appeared on Introtohonors.com, the blog helping college students achieve high levels of success without distress.


Get Over Not Being “Good Enough” was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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