Do you ever feel like you’re not enough? That you can’t achieve things, or that you’re somehow incapable of being a successful person? If so, you’re not alone.
Life gets us all down from time to time. One day we could feel happy and content, eager to engage with life and all the wonderful things in it, and the next day we find ourselves with no motivation, no joy, and the feeling that we’re somehow broken inside. For some of us, the feeling that we’re broken persists. It can last for days, weeks, months, or even years.
In such cases, it’s important to seek help. Forget about the stigma surrounding therapy and counseling – it is not for ‘crazy’ people or people who can’t handle themselves, contrary to what some people falsely believe.
It’s for anyone who wants to get a broader perspective on their life and learn how to handle stress and emotional overwhelm effectively, for their own benefit and the benefit of those around them. We’ll explore the benefits of speaking to a mental health professional later in this article.
Below, we’ll explore what it means to feel broken. We’ll outline some common reasons why you might feel broken inside, and we’ll offer some helpful tips and advice to help you feel right again.
Before we go any further, the first point we’d like to make is that you’re not broken. You’re not inherently flawed, and you deserve to be here as much as anyone else. It’s normal to feel down at times, to feel hopeless and incapable, but there is hope, and you are capable.
What does it mean to feel broken?
When people say they feel broken, they’re usually speaking from a place of hopelessness, despair, and chronic low self-esteem. They may be experiencing frequent negative thoughts that are uncomfortable or even frightening. They also usually feel emotionally and mentally exhausted.
When a person feels broken, they lack a sense of hope for the future and tend to believe that there is something inherently wrong with them. However, the roots of this belief can often be traced back to a harsh, unconstructive, and negative inner critic that tells the person these things and persuades them that they’re true.
The harsh inner critic may ambush a person with an array of negative self-talk, such as:
‘You’re not good enough..’
‘Nobody could love you..’
‘People don’t like you..’
‘You won’t achieve anything..’
The harsh inner critic is something all of us must battle from time to time. In some people, this harsh inner critic is incredibly strong. It may have been fed by years of self-loathing, a lack of belief in oneself, or by an emotionally abusive parent when the person suffering was a child.
Feeling broken is a difficult state to overcome. Deep down in our gut, we feel like something is wrong with us, so no matter what our friends and family tell us about how loved or valued we are, we just can’t seem to believe them.
Those of us who feel broken feel that nothing in life will go our way. Life no longer makes sense, and there seems to be very little hope for a bright future. A person who feels broken is likely to become apathetic towards life, ready to give up or be reduced to overwhelming sadness and despair.
When a person feels broken, they compare themselves to others. They might see others as perfect, talented, or smart and feel like they pale in comparison. They view themselves as inferior to other people and may struggle to find the motivation and energy to even try to change. As such, feeling broken is an exhausting and dangerous state to occupy.
Why do I feel broken?
Understanding where your feelings of ‘brokenness’ come from may help you overcome them. It’s important not to dwell and ruminate on the difficulties and moments of sadness in our lives, but it does help to reflect on how our core beliefs, life experiences, and general approach to life might have influenced our thought pattern and led to the feeling that there’s something wrong with us.
On reflection, you might realize that the way you’ve been living your life has been unhealthy. Whether romantic, platonic, or familial, you might discover that your relationships have been slightly toxic. You might even remember a deeply unpleasant experience that influenced your perspective of the world.
Below, we’ve outlined some common reasons why people come to believe they’re broken. Consider if any of the following apply to your experience, and, if so, continue reading to discover what you can do for yourself. Starting today, to let go of the feeling that you’re broken and commit to living your life in a healthier, more positive, and life-affirming way.
When life demands are high, and stress is on the rise, it’s important to know how to handle your stress and emotions effectively. Unfortunately, many of us don’t take a healthy approach to stress management.
What do you do when life gets stressful? How do you rest and recover? Do you turn to food, alcohol, or other substances? Do you neglect sleep and nutrition and instead choose to stay up late and binge on sugary foods? Do you suppress your feelings and just hope that they’ll go away?
If you use the above coping mechanisms when life gets tough, then you’ll eventually burn yourself out, and you’re more likely to feel broken than you would if you were to employ healthier coping mechanisms in times of stress.
Stress gets the better of us all from time to time, but how we respond to stress is what makes us resilient and in control of our lives.
Learning how to take a healthy approach to stress, such as adhering to a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, reaching to a friend or loved one for support in times of need, and practicing self-awareness and self-compassion, are effective ways to reduce our negative feelings and shift our beliefs away from brokenness and toward growth and healing.
If your self-esteem is low, you’re not going to feel like you’re living your best life. You’ll view yourself in a negative light and feel like you’re not good enough, unworthy, or unlovable. Self-esteem issues lie at the heart of feeling broken.
They often begin in childhood, where they’re caused by an overcritical parent or a parent who only offers you love and affection on the condition you strictly obey their orders and strive to meet their expectations.
Unfortunately, many parents set unrealistically high expectations for their children, who then learn to feel bad about themselves when they don’t meet those expectations.
Self-esteem issues can also cause mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Depression can leave you apathetic towards life and unable to find the motivation to go out and do things you enjoy. Many depressed people report feeling broken or that there’s something wrong.
Similarly, anxiety can make you feel broken. You might suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder, which manifests as excessive worry or concern about your life and your future, or you might struggle with social ancestry, characterized by feelings of worry, judgment, and even panic around people or in crowded spaces.
Anxiety can make you feel broken because you might notice that others live their lives with relative ease, and you wonder if yours is so difficult. Know that if you’re struggling with your mental health, that does not mean that you’re broken.
People who have survived psychological and emotional trauma may be all too familiar with feeling broken. Trauma, defined as ‘an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being’ by SAMHSA.
Trauma is one of the leading causes of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and is a significant contributor to the feeling that one is somehow ‘broken’ or inherently flawed.
We often think of trauma in terms of extreme events, such as war, natural disasters, or other life-threatening events. However, trauma can happen through various circumstances and does not discriminate by age, gender, or socio-cultural background.
A child who has witnessed domestic violence may suffer from the lasting effects of trauma. A person whose partner has been verbally, physically, or sexually abused may become traumatized. Even those who grow up with financial or housing instability are at risk of suffering from trauma.
Trauma affects everyone differently, and some to a greater extent than others. Some people are fortunate enough to escape the damaging emotional after-effects of a traumatic experience, while others are not so likely. Some trauma survivors develop a chronic stress-related condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Those who struggle with PTSD also struggle with periods of deep depression and apathy, periods of chronic stress and anxiety, which can manifest as intrusive thoughts and aggressive outbursts, and even hallucinations. The overwhelming, frightening, and confusing symptoms of PTSD may make the person suffering feel like they’re irreparably broken inside.
Suppose you’re struggling with PTSD, know that you’re not broken. Your body and nervous system are recovering from an overwhelming event, and it may take time to heal. Still, with the right help and support, such as trauma-informed therapy and somatic healing approaches, it’s entirely possible to free yourself from the powerful symptoms of PTSD.
If you struggle with communication, then you might find it difficult to let others in on your wants and needs. You might notice that others seem to communicate naturally and wonder why you can’t do the same. Struggling to express your wants and needs and your ideas and opinions can make you feel lonely and isolated and may feel like something within you is broken.
How to stop feeling broken
Challenge your inner critic
When life gets challenging, and we can’t help but feel broken, the weight of our experience can be exacerbated by a negative inner voice that confirms our fears. We all have an inner critic that tries to convince us that we’re unworthy, not good enough, or unlovable, but we all deal with it to a different degree.
Some of us can overcome the voice and assure ourselves that we are, in fact, loved and accepted, but others struggle to challenge what it has to say.
To help you overcome the feeling that you’re broken:
- Learn to challenge that inner voice.
- When it tells you that you’re not enough or that there’s something wrong with you, confront it.
- Consider if there’s any evidence to support what it has to say, and when it tells you something negative, try to replace it with something positive.
It seems simple, but the inner voice is not as powerful as you might believe it to be.
Accept your feelings
Feeling broken is a deeply undesirable and uncomfortable state as such, many people try to push the feeling away or bury it so deep that they don’t have to confront it.
However, just like pushing a beach ball underwater will make it pop back up, suppressing our feelings only serves to give them energy and resurface with greater force later.
“We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair when they come up and face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn.
If you believe you’re broken, learn to accept how you feel. Accepting your feelings does not mean allowing them to run your life – it means not pushing them away and hearing the message within them.
When we accept our feelings, we give ourselves some space to breathe and work through them in a conscious, healthy way.
Change is the only constant
Know that if you feel broken inside, that feeling, just like any other, is temporary. Change is the only constant in life, so keep in mind that the way you feel now is not how you will always feel, despite the severity of your feelings and what your inner critic tries to tell you.
If you’re feeling broken, you might feel helpless, as though you’re being strung along by life and that you have no control. However, it’s crucial to remember that you have the power to influence your future. Your attitude and determination are the steering wheel of your life and can help you move in any direction you set your heart and mind toward.
Of course, you can’t change the past, which means you can’t change the things that have to do with your feelings of brokenness. However, what you can change about the past is your perspective on it.
You can choose to feel disheartened and demotivated by what’s happened to you, or you can choose to use the things that have happened to you as a lesson and use those experiences to navigate your life better as you move forward.
Be in the here and now
Feeling broken can make you feel attached to the past. Unpleasant or upsetting events can stay at the forefront of your mind and make it hard to be fully in the here and now. To overcome the feeling, take a mindfulness meditation practice.
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present, inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”- Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness meditation helps you center yourself in the present moment – the only place where life is happening. Practicing mindfulness enables you to release the pain of the past and detach from feelings of fear about the future.
Gratitude might be the last thing on your mind if you’re feeling down, helpless, and broken. Your mind might be stuck on your failures and shortcomings, so you might struggle to shift your focus away from negativity and toward gratitude.
If you’re not used to practicing gratitude, it can be a little challenging to get started. However, it becomes easier to be grateful the more you practice it. Try keeping a gratitude journal and write down at least three things a day or a week, for which you feel grateful.
They don’t have to be things either – you might feel grateful for the simple sound of birds singing outside your window, the fact that you ate your favorite meal today, or that you got to speak to your best friend.
Speak to a mental health professional
If feelings of brokenness impact your life daily, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional. Unresolved complicated emotions such as brokenness, hopelessness, and self-loathing may lead to depression, a chronic and challenging mental health issue that can significantly reduce your quality of life.
A therapist or counselor can help you identify the root cause of your feelings and help you develop a healthier, more positive relationship with yourself. So, you can get your mental health back on track and start living the life you want.