Sometimes We Feel Like We Are Not Good Enough
Comparison. Dejection. Depression. We have all been there before. We look at other people’s lives— their accomplishments, their relationships, their success–and we feel less than. We feel like we are not successful enough. We feel like we are not good enough. This feeling of not being good enough is a very common feeling, and it is a very painful feeling. It is made worse by the fact that society is often filled with toxic competition and comparison. In schools, in the media, even sometimes through distorted religious teachings, we are often taught to compare ourselves or with some standard of perfection and to feel shame and even self-loathing if we are not achieving the same kind of success.
While this feeling is common, we do not have to dwell in it, and we can even learn how to head such feelings off at the pass. Here are four things you can do when you feel like you are not good enough.
Searching for Love, Happiness and Meaning
#1.The first thing that you can when you do not feel good enough is to realize that what you are actually searching for is love, happiness, and meaning, and you have everything you need inside you to cultivate these thing. We pursue success and being good enough as a means of gaining love, happiness, and meaning. To see this more clearly, imagine how you would feel if you became extremely successful, but no one cared. No one noticed it. It did not mean anything to anyone. It is likely that this would decrease the meaning of your success in your eyes. It would no longer be valuable to you, and you would start pursuing some kind of success or accomplishment that others did recognize. The point here is that most of the time, when we worry that we are not good enough, we worry about this because we are afraid our lack of success means that we will not be able to get the love and recognition we desire. We worry that because of this, our life will not mean anything, and we will not be happy.
Realizing this is important because it helps us to understand what we really want: love, happiness, and meaning. If we understand what we really want—and these are good things to want—we can understand better how to get these important gifts. The good news is that you have everything you need inside of you to cultivate love, happiness, and meaning (that is what I am going to address in the rest of this post). Here is something you can say to yourself the next time you feel like you are not good enough: What I am really seeking for is love, happiness and meaning, and I have everything I need inside of me to cultivate these things.
Performance-Oriented Living vs. Being-Oriented Living
#2. This leads me to my second point. The second thing we can do when we do not feel good enough is to switch from performance-oriented living to being-oriented living. Love, happiness, and meaning are good and beautiful things to pursue, but the best way to get these things is to switch from performance-oriented living to being-oriented living. When we live according to performance-oriented living, we believe that we are not lovable and that our life does not have meaning unless we meet some external standards of success, beauty, accomplishments, wealth, fame, etc. The problem with performance-oriented living is that the standards of performance are arbitrary, unreliable, fickle, and they are not a good means of achieving what we actually want.
If performance-oriented living was a good way to achieve these goals, then people would automatically become permanently happy and content when they met external goals such as making a lot of money, publishing a best-selling novel, winning beauty contests, or achieving fame through some kind of invention or accomplishment. But this is not the case. Consider how many extremely famous and successful people are depressed and miserable. Consider how many times you have accomplished some kind of external goal but soon afterwards felt discontent and dissatisfied. The problem with performance-oriented living is that when love and meaning come from meeting some kind of external standards, we can never be good enough. This because there is always someone who is better than we are at something. There is always something else to achieve.
In addition to these issues, basing our worth on external standards is risky because people may or may not recognize our achievements. Standards of success and achievement change frequently, and people, as a whole, are notoriously fickle. They forget our success and quickly move on to the next big thing. When this happens, if we are stuck in performance-oriented living, we are left wondering once again if we are worthy of love and if our life has meaning. This diminishes our happiness. All of these issues suggest that if we base our worth on performance, we will never feel good enough.
The antidote to performance-oriented living is being-oriented living. When we practice being instead of performing, we recognize that each of us contains profound creativity, wisdom, compassion, and power. By power here, I mean our ability to express our human capacities in unique and meaningful ways that transform the world for good. We could call this combination of our creativity, wisdom, compassion, and power a lot of different things, but I will refer to it in this post as our light. When we practice being-oriented living, we nurture our light (more on this in a minute), and we allow our unique human life to unfold.
One way of understand being-oriented living is to think of a forest full of trees. Trees are never concerned with achieving some external standard or sign of success. They are never concerned that they are not further along in their development or that they do not look like other trees. Trees are concerned with one thing: being trees. They do this by taking in nourishment through sunshine, rain, and soil nutrient and by responding to the rain and other environmental elements around them. As they do this, their unique beauty unfolds, and they certainly achieve success and meaning (tree-style, anyhow), but they do it in a way that is authentic to them. They harmonize and fit in perfectly with the trees around them. (This is love, tree-style).
We should take the tree as our mascot. We need to focus on being and allowing our unique capacities unfold. As we do this, we will certainly achieve success and love, but it will develop from our unique light, and it will be authentic and meaningful to us. In addition, as we allow our light to develop, it will connect to the light in others, and this will allow us to cultivate further the love and meaning we seek. Here is something you can say the next time you do not feel good enough: I do not have to be anything other than what I am right now. I am cultivating my own unique being and allowing it to unfold naturally.
Nurture Your Light
#3. The third thing we can do when we do not feel good enough is nurture our light so that we increase our own personal power and so we can continue our own beautiful and unique process of unfolding. This allows us to continue to cultivate the love and meaning we desire. The two key ways to nurture our light is to cultivate loving thoughts towards ourselves and to practice loving actions. We are often not very accustomed to considering our light, and we are often not accustomed to considering how loving thoughts and loving cultivate it. But consider something for a moment.
If it is not too painful, recall a time when someone said or did something cruel to you. Can you remember how it made you feel small, diminished, wilted? Now remember a time when someone did or said something loving and kind to you. Do you remember how you felt powerful, strong, and vibrant? It is important to realize that we have this same effect on ourselves. When we say or do cruel things to ourselves, we diminish our power and wilt our spirit. When we shower ourselves with loving words and practices, we empower ourselves and make our beautiful light more brilliant.
So what are loving thoughts and practices? Here are some loving thoughts you can send to yourself:
I love and accept myself exactly as I am right now.
I do not have to do more. I just have to keep unfolding who I already am.
There is no comparison, no contest.
All I am required to do is love myself and love others.
I honor the light in me. I honor the light in others.
I love myself and am so grateful I get to be my unique self in this lifetime.
The key to using loving thoughts is to use ones that ring true to you and that make you feel empowered. If one of the thoughts above does not make you feel empowered or if it does not ring true to you, feel free to ignore it or to change it until it fits you. Not all loving thoughts are right for everyone. They are kind of like clothes—you have to make sure they are a good fit. A loving thought that is a good fit for you feels completely true to you and helps you feel more peaceful and powerful—larger in your spirit. If you are not used to sending loving thoughts to yourself, start out with some very basic loving thoughts, and you can eventually work your way up to bolder loving thoughts. Here are some basic ones you can try on for size:
I am willing to love myself.
I am willing to focus on being rather than doing.
I am willing to honor my light and the light of everyone else.
I am willing to learn to accept myself just as I am right now.
Along with cultivating your light through loving thoughts, cultivate your light through loving practices. What are loving practices? Here are three to get you started. Once again, you should choose the ones that appeal to you and that make you feel more vibrant and empowered:
Become aware of your light: Spend a little bit of time each day for a week being silent and still. You can be still in your house or in nature or wherever. You can be still for one minute, five minutes, ten minutes, or an hour. You get to decide on the length of time, and any amount of time is good. It is okay if your mind wanders, and it is okay if you fidget a little bit. It is also okay if you look at things in your house or outside. There are really no rules–the main thing is just to practice being silent and still. The more we practice regular times of silence, the more we become aware of our light and the easier it is to practice being-oriented living.
Commit to Good and Trust Yourself: If you are like many people, you might have grown up being afraid to trust yourself. One way you can practice loving actions is to trust your intuition. To do this, make a commitment to seek truth and goodness for yourself and others and then trust your intuition to guide you. It is okay if you do not understand exactly what goodness and truth are, and it is okay if you do not understand exactly what your intuition is. Just set an intention like this: “I am willing to seek truth and goodness, and I am willing to let my intuition guide me.” When we do this, we give our light permission to grow. Once you give your light permission to grow, you will likely feel your intuition guiding you during times of stillness in silence. There is a long tradition of this in Christian mystical and contemplative prayer and Buddhist and Hindu meditation. When our intuition takes over, we force things less, and things start to flow. This often increases our happiness and meaning.
Cultivate all aspects of your being. Humans are multi-dimensional beings. We are physical, artistic, emotional, spiritual, moral, social, and rational, just to name a few of the dimensions of our being. Quite often, we get stuck in one aspect of our being and we live life primarily through that mode. For instance, we may get stuck in a primarily social mode, such as when we socialize too much and never spend time in silence. We may get suck in a primarily rational mode—such as when we are grad students and spend too much time thinking and studying to the detriment of other aspects of our existence. One of the ways you can cultivate your light is to work on cultivating the different aspects of your being. You do not have to turn this into a chore or another thing to add to your “to do” list. Just set an intention to cultivate the different aspects of your being and pursue one that seems interesting to you. Perhaps you can do some art. Perhaps you can go for a walk. Perhaps you can dance. Perhaps you can arrange coffee with a friend. Start with something you are comfortable with. This will naturally lead to other things you want to do. This will allow your unique being to unfold.
Next time you feel like you are not good enough, here is something you can say to yourself: I am cultivating my light daily with loving thoughts and practices. My own unique success is continually unfolding.
No Comparison, No Contest
#4. The fourth thing you can do when you do not feel good enough is to repeat the mantra or affirmation, “No comparison, no contest.” Remember our mascot the tree. The tree does its own thing. Every tree does, and this makes a beautiful forest. If trees could stand around worrying about whether they were as good as other trees, they would be totally missing the point because they would be missing out on unfolding their own unique tree beauty. That is like us. When we spend time worrying if we are as good as other people, we miss the point. In our moment of worry, we miss out on unfolding our own unique being.
But, you may ask, “Why are some people so successful?” This is a natural question to ask because there obviously are some people who accomplish a great deal, and we may wonder why our own brand of uniqueness is so much less productive than theirs. Remember, though that while it is perfectly fine to ask this question, what you are really looking for is love, happiness, and meaning (see #1), not success, and you have everything you need inside you to cultivate these things. So, it is perfectly fine to ask “Why are some people so successful?” as a matter of curiosity, but if we continue to ask it because we think being more successful will automatically bring us love, happiness, and meaning, we are missing the point. (See #2). The point is not to do more but to be who you are. When you let yourself be you, you may accomplish a lot; you may accomplish a little. Whatever you accomplish, it will be meaningful for yourself and others because it flows authentically from you.
But, you may ask, “What if no one likes my own unique way of being? What if people like other people’s way of being better than they like mine?” This is also a normal question to ask because sometimes it seems like some people naturally attract a lot of people to them by being who they are, and this can often cause us to feel like there are some types of being that are superior or inferior to others. It is important to realize that a great deal of attention from people is not equivalent with getting the love , happiness, and meaning you desire. In fact, there are many people who have tons of attention and never feel like they have what they truly desire. When we get jealous of the attention other people get, we are wrongly equating attention with love, happiness, and meaning, and we are forgetting that we have everything we need inside of us to cultivate what we truly want. It is normal for this to happen sometimes, but it will help us if we refocus our attention on loving words and loving actions to cultivate our own power.
Also, remember that since you are looking for love and meaning, the more you focus on cultivating your light, the more you are going to love yourself, and the more you will love others. When you love yourself and love others, you will automatically draw other people to you. It may or may not be a throng of attention, but it will be the exactly the kind of attention that matters most to you. It will be genuine and authentic attention and the kind that actually brings the things you desire the most.
The next time you feel bad because you compare yourself to others and think you are not good enough, here is something you can say to yourself: There is no comparison, no contest. Other people can cultivate their own unique being, and I am going to cultivate my own unique being.
It is natural to go through times when you do not feel good enough. You are always good enough, Friend. You have a powerful light in you, and all you need to do is cultivate your light and let your unique being unfold. The world needs your light.
If would like to read more about some of the ideas in this post, you might enjoy reading some of the following posts:
 This is intended to be an observation rather than a judgment. And of course, there certainly are happy famous and successful people. This observation is merely intended to point out that fame and success are not automatic guarantors of love, happiness, and meaning.
 Different religions refer to this special capacity humans have as the image of God in us; our divinity; our True Self; our Buddha Nature; our Atman.
 Remember people are notoriously fickle, and so they may pay a lot of attention to someone one week and move on completely to another person the next week. The worth of the original person has not changed. Rather, people are fickle, and this is why their attention is not necessarily equivalent to love and meaning.