Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? Do you worry that when faced with a challenge, you’ll inevitably fail? Does it feel like no matter what you do, you’re riddled with self-doubt and insecurity? So, what causes a fear of not being good enough?
If you regularly feel like you’re not good enough, you’re not alone. All of us feel insecure from time to time, and many of us feel that way on a regular basis.
Life can be challenging at times, and it’s not always easy to muster up the confidence, determination and focus to meet and overcome life’s challenges.
Still, life and its challenges are there to be overcome. We all have the potential to do amazing things – to surpass life’s hurdles and make the best out of this short life we’ve been given.
No matter who you are or where you’ve come from, you are an inherently amazing, worthy, and loveable human being and are capable of success.
Why, then, do some of us feel so bad about ourselves? Why do we have so much doubt and anxiety about our abilities or our very existence? These are questions that burden even the most successful athletes, business owners, and creatives.
In this article, we’ll explore why so many of us don’t feel good enough.
We’ll get some expert views on the topic, explore the root causes of not feeling good enough, and, finally, we’ll offer some helpful advice to help you overcome the fear of not being good enough and drastically improve your life as a result.
What causes the fear of not being good enough?
Most fears and phobias have a name. The fear of spiders is known as ‘arachnophobia.’ The fear of large bodies of water is known as ‘thalassophobia.’ The fear of small, confined spaces is known as ‘claustrophobia.’ Did you know there is also a name for fear of not being good enough?
The exact fear of not being good enough is known as ‘atelophobia.’ More specifically, atelophobia is known as the fear of imperfection. All of us experience some degree of doubt about whether we’re good enough from time to time, but some people have a deep-seated fear of imperfection.
As with any phobia, a person affected will go to great lengths to avoid confronting their excessive fear. An arachnophobic will do all they can to put as much distance between themselves and a spider. A thalassophobic will generally avoid large bodies of water.
In the same way, an atelophobic will try to avoid situations in which they feel less than perfect, often by pushing themselves past their physical and emotional limits to achieve an unrealistic goal.
A mental health professional or a licensed clinical psychologist can better diagnose such fears and recommend appropriate interventions like exposure therapy.
You may or may not have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with atelophobia but still feel deeply uncomfortable and emotionally distressed when you fail to reach perfection.
If you strive for perfection and go through a lot of emotional distress when you fail to meet the standard you’ve set for yourself, life can be extremely difficult. Perfectionists tend to place a lot of their self-worth on being perfect, often to the detriment of their mental and emotional health and well-being.
The reality is nobody is perfect. No one can perform at 100 percent efficiency at work every day of the week, no couple has the perfect relationship, and nobody can do things perfectly all the time.
Life and the people in it are beautifully imperfect, but some people struggle to accept that fact. Where does this need to be perfect come from?
1. Childhood experiences
Perfectionists and those who have a fear of not being good enough can often trace the roots of their issues back to their childhood.
If, as a child, you learned that your parents or caregivers would only love you or give you affection if you achieved some external goal, then you may have been conditioned to believe that your worth and value as a person is tied to your achievements.
Growing up, you may have focused all your energy on behaving or doing things perfectly so that your basic need for love and affection could be effectively met. This learned behavior usually carries on into adulthood and creates men and women who have a deep-rooted fear of failure.
Though, on a rational level, we know that people aren’t perfect and that the world won’t end if we don’t achieve perfection, the inner child is still alive and experiences the gnawing discomfort of anticipation of failure. Consciously or subconsciously, we stress ourselves and push ourselves beyond our limits to be perfect so that the inner child can feel safe and secure.
2. Low self-esteem
The fear of not being good enough is common to all of us. Still, some people suffer from the fear that they are not good enough, more than others. One of the main reasons why a person may suffer from not feeling good enough is a lack of self-esteem.
When you have low self-esteem, you doubt your abilities. You lack self confidence and find it hard to imagine that you’ll succeed in your pursuits. Failures in life seem personal even when they’re not.
When your self-esteem is high, you may still worry about not being good enough, but you’re willing to rise to the challenge and try things out. You can muster up the motivation and energy to try and succeed because you believe in yourself and are confident that things will be okay even if you don’t succeed the first time.
What causes low self-esteem?
As with perfectionism, low-self esteem often has its roots in our childhood experiences. The way our parents or siblings treated us teaches us about who we are, so if we are constantly criticized, put down, or neglected, we come to believe that we’re not good enough and suffer from low self-esteem as a result.
Feelings of low self-esteem also stem from the harsh inner critic that we all have. Some of us have learned to tame and challenge our inner critic, but the battle is ongoing for others.
When we let negative thoughts about ourselves take over, when we believe them without challenging them, we’re likely to soon feel terrible about ourselves and our abilities.
3. Past experiences
Suppose you’ve had a series of failures, such as lost jobs, broken relationships, or unsuccessful attempts at reaching a certain weight goal. In that case, you might come to believe that you’ll never hold down a job, maintain a relationship, or achieve your ideal weight.
It’s important to remember that your past failures can be looked at in two ways.
You can choose to see them as a reflection of your worth and capability as a person, but that’s unlikely to make you feel good about yourself and is likely to worsen your self-esteem. Another way of looking at your past losses or failures is that they are valuable lessons.
We all make mistakes. We let others down, we neglect our own goals because we lose motivation or get distracted, or we get tired and stressed because we don’t give ourselves time to rest, and our work performance suffers.
The most important thing you can do for yourself when you don’t succeed in whatever you’re doing is to learn from your experiences.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford.
How to overcome a fear of not being good enough
1. Recognize that you’re already enough
“If my aim is to prove I am “enough,” the project goes on to infinity—because the battle was already lost on the day I conceded the issue was debatable,” writes Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.
Branden makes an excellent point.
We tend to go back and forth in our minds debating whether or not we’re good enough, whether that’s about our capabilities at work, our ability to be a good partner, or how much we deserve to be happy. However, we don’t even need to ask ourselves such a question.
‘Worthiness is in your being, not your doing,’ explains Jillian Landis, life coach and successful family mediator. Similarly, talk show host, philanthropist, and author Oprah Winfrey explains:
“We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough… You’re worthy because you are born and because you are here. Your being here, your being alive, makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.”
2. Practice self-compassion
When you don’t believe that you’re good enough, you’re likely unnecessarily harsh on yourself. The feelings and fear of not being good enough are rooted in self-esteem issues, which themselves often stem from a harsh inner critic.
It’s true that self-esteem issues often begin in childhood and may be caused by overly critical or neglectful parents. Still, by the time we’ve entered adulthood, we may have internalized our critical or harsh parent’s voices and made them our own.
The antidote to the harsh, negative inner critic is the practice of self-compassion. Author and public speaker Kristin Neff has dedicated much of her life’s work to sharing the benefits of self-compassion.
‘I slowly came to realize that self-criticism—despite being socially sanctioned—was not at all helpful, and in fact, only made things worse. I wasn’t making myself a better person by beating myself up all the time,’ explains Neff in her article Why Self-compassion Trumps Self-esteem. ‘Instead, I was causing myself to feel inadequate and insecure, then taking out my frustration on the people closest to me. More than that, I wasn’t owning up to many things because I was so afraid of the self-hate that would follow if I admitted the truth.’
On the benefits of self-compassion, Neff writes that ‘it offers the same protection against harsh self-criticism as self-esteem but without the need to see ourselves as perfect or as better than others. In other words, self-compassion provides the same benefits as high self-esteem without its drawbacks.’
3. Focus on your achievements
If you always focus on the time you’ve failed, it makes sense that you don’t feel good enough to achieve things in the future.
It has often been said: “Whatever a person keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.” In other words, what we think, we become.
It is important to let go of the idea that just because you’ve failed in the past means you’re always destined to fail. Instead of focusing your attention on all the things that have gone wrong or times you failed to reach a goal, shift your focus toward things that have gone right.
Remember times in your life when you achieved what you set out to achieve, and remember how that felt.
4. Challenge yourself
If you fear that you won’t be good enough to ace an interview, interact with someone in a social setting, or speak with confidence at a public event, the best way to overcome that fear is to dive in headfirst and do it.
The fear of not being good enough often prevents us from even trying. However, confidence is built and developed through experience, so you’re not going to gain it if you don’t get out there and put yourself in the midst of that which you fear.
5. Improve yourself
It may sound simple, but one of the most effective ways to overcome the fear of not being good enough is to become good enough.
If you’re worried that you don’t have the skills or knowledge necessary to achieve a goal, then work on developing those skills and gaining that knowledge. No one becomes skilled or knowledgeable without making an effort.
Know that You Are Good Enough
Before concluding this article, the final advice we can give is you have to know that you are good enough. Your very existence means a lot.
You are a blessing and joy to other people without you even knowing it. You have overcome your silent yet loud cries at night and you have surpassed the things you even labeled impossible.
You have won many battles, and you faced defeats bravely. And here you are, reading this article now. It just proves that you are good enough for trying to understand your current situation.
Be proud of yourself for who you are today and for who you will become tomorrow.
You are good enough and will always be. Being good enough is never about being “the perfect you” it is simply about being yourself while striving to reach what you dream of, despite the presence of failure, uncertainty, and struggle.
Feeling that we’re not good enough can do a lot of damage to our mental and emotional health and well-being. T
he fear is often rooted in low self-esteem, feelings of shame, or a need to be perfect and can consume a person if left unchecked. Fortunately, not feeling good enough often comes down to attitude and perspective. As such, it can be alleviated.
In many cases, a licensed therapist can help you address these feelings and help you develop the mindset needed to shift your self-view. In other cases, a mental health professional may help with various interventions to diagnose more serious issues such as anxiety disorders. In such cases, specific interventions such as exposure therapy and lifestyle modifications can help.
Consider the tips and techniques above to overcome your fear and drastically improve your quality of life.