What To Do When You Think “I’m Not Good Enough”

Most of us have moments when we think, “I’m not good enough” — for that job, that person, or that life.

Whatever home environment we had growing up, it’s less common to have a healthy sense of self-worth than to think, “What if I get this opportunity and then prove to everyone (including myself) that choosing me was a mistake?”

But there are things you can do to build healthy self-confidence and feel like you don’t have to be perfect.

That good enough is enough.

The 15 tips that follow can help expose the lie behind questions like, “Why am I not good enough?” so you can see the truth of who you are.

And the truth is way more interesting.

What Causes a Person To Feel Not Good Enough? 

Sometimes, you don’t need a reason to feel bad about yourself. Life’s pressures and cultural expectations are enough to make you feel as though you don’t measure up.

But there are other measurable causes of low self-esteem and insecurity that you may find familiar.

  • General Unkindness: People treating you like crap, criticizing, or shaming you can erode your confidence. If someone pelts you with unkindness, practice compassion by viewing the offending party’s actions as symptoms of their insecurity, immaturity, or shallowness. (Also, remember that what goes around comes around. It may take time (maybe lifetimes), but “karma” always circles back for the cruel.)
  • Past Trauma: Unresolved trauma can demolish one’s sense of self-reliance — especially if it involves sexual or physical abuse. As challenging as it may be, dismantling past problems can give you a new lease on life. 
  • Implicit Bias: We all swallow and regurgitate implicit biases. Unfortunately, it’s just how the brain works. But when those subconscious criticisms pile up, they chip away at the target’s self-esteem. Alas, unconscious bias is difficult for some folks to comprehend (especially if they’ve never experienced it), so affected parties must learn to recognize it, brush it off, and see the purveyors for who they are.
  • Toxic Parenting: Were you raised by narcissistic parents who always put their needs ahead of yours? Did they frame themselves as the put-upon victims when, in reality, they were pathologically self-centered and emotionally greedy? If this sounds familiar, your lack of self-belief may be rooted in toxic parenting. Recognizing the patterns is the first step in freeing yourself of this experiential burden. Trained therapists are the best at helping folks erase the damage done by terrible parents.

15 Things to Do When You Think You Are Not Good Enough

1. Make a list to remind yourself of personal highlights.

The antidote to thoughts like “I’m not good at anything” is a reminder of something you have done — and done well.

Look back and think of moments when you were proud of something you accomplished.

Then make a list of those moments.

Keep it somewhere you can look it over whenever you’re tempted to think you’re “useless” or out of your element.

If it helps, post copies of that list around your home. And leave room for new additions.

2. Find the exception to your always/never thoughts.

Ever caught yourself thinking something like, “I’ll never get good at this,” or “I’m just not good with people,” or “Things always go downhill for me”?

Think of at least one small exception to the rule you just imposed on yourself. Challenge your negative beliefs.

For example, think of an instance where you made a good impression on someone.

Or recall a moment when your own efforts led to success, however small it might seem now.

Get your head back on track by questioning those always/never statements.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others.

When you’re tempted to look at someone else and think, “They’re so much smarter/prettier/more talented than I am,” remember that your perspective can be clouded by your own insecurity.

It can also be contrary to what other people see.

Focus instead on what you like about yourself.

For all you know, that person is looking at you and seeing something they wish they had.

4. Limit your exposure to other people’s highlight reels on social media.

If you’re spending time on social media perusing your feed, chances are you’re seeing posts that make you feel as though your life is small and pathetic compared to those of other people.

What they’re sharing, though, are the things they’re especially proud of.

You don’t see them looking through their social media feeds and feeling less worthy of attention than those whose posts get more love.

All you see is them enjoying themselves. So, why not focus on enjoying the things you’re proud of?

5. Start your day with one small, positive action and build on it.

Create a chain of small, good actions or words throughout the day, starting with one small act in the morning.

Do that small thing with the intention of adding one new link after another as you go through your day.

Look for ways to add a little brightness and color to the lives of those around you, as well as to your own.

, or do small, thoughtful acts that make the lives of those around you a little easier.

6. Focus on the process — not on perfection (or the lack thereof).

None of us is a finished product. While we’re alive, we should be actively working on our own personal development.

It’s a process, not a one-and-done, and you’ll be working at it every day. And there will be setbacks.

Focus on the process rather than the ideal of who you want to be.

Focus on the progress you’ve made and on what you’re learning now as you keep striving.

As long as you haven’t quit the process, you have something to be proud of.

7. Celebrate ALL your wins.

Celebrate every win to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made and the importance of honoring each milestone. Every win counts.

Celebrate it in a way that doesn’t undermine your efforts or sabotage your progress.

Don’t downplay those small victories and think, “I’ll celebrate once I reach the finish line.”

Celebrating the milestones in between shouldn’t slow you down; it should refresh and restore you for the miles ahead.

It should remind you of why you’re doing this.

8. Vent away some of your tension.

Sometimes, you just need to vent those negative thoughts so you can see them more clearly.

Until you acknowledge them by either writing them down or saying them out loud, it’s too easy to just let them keep circulating in your head.

By putting them into words, you admit to yourself that you’ve allowed those thoughts to influence you.

Only by expressing exactly what you’re feeling can you do something about the thinking behind it.

This is why daily journaling is such a powerful habit.

9. Focus on what you’re doing right and build on it.

It’s not a sin to be proud of what you’ve accomplished or what you’ve done well.

Don’t cheat yourself out of the chance to feel a healthy pride by criticizing yourself instead.

If you’re determined to do so, you can always find fault in yourself (or in others).

But what does that accomplish other than to reinforce the idea that whatever you’ve done isn’t good enough?

Don’t downplay your strengths or your victories, even if others do.

Focus on what you’re doing right, learn how to improve in the areas that need improvement, and forge ahead.

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10. Find a creative outlet.

Learn how to create something you — or someone else — can use or enjoy.

As your skill grows, you’ll have something to show for it that you can take pride in.

Not everyone knows how to cook, bake, knit, carve, paint, or build things that are pleasing to the eye (or palate).

And when you look at a finished product, you’ll know that your skill, plus the time and effort you invested (which you might otherwise have wasted), are what made it possible.

And you can add that to your list of things to be proud of.

11. Replace negative influences with positive ones.

Make a list of the negative influences in your life. Think of those who make you feel that, no matter what you do, it’s never good enough.

Ask yourself how you could limit your exposure to them.

What would you need to change about your daily routine, for example?

Or what could you change about your environment to swap out those negative influences for positive ones?

12. Wear something that reminds you of what you like about yourself.

Maybe you have a favorite look — a simple ensemble that makes you feel ready for anything — or maybe it’s a favorite jacket, a pair of shoes, or a piece of jewelry.

Or maybe you’ve just had another partial foil because the brilliant streaks make you feel more alive on the inside.

Whatever it is, it makes you feel more like yourself. And because it does that, it makes you feel more capable and impressive than you feel without it.

By reminding you of what you like about yourself, it helps keep your focus positive.

13. Spend some time every day learning something new.

Do something every day to develop a skill or to learn something new.

Make time for it, either to improve your career prospects or to pursue a personal interest.

If you’re a history buff, read a book (or listen to an audiobook) on an era or subject that fascinates you.

If you love languages or want to travel to a particular country, learn the language and study up on the culture.

Whatever you choose, you’ll have something to show for the time and energy you invested in it.

And who knows what other opportunities it could lead to?

14. Practice reasonable self-care every day.

Don’t punish yourself for perceived failures by denying yourself basic self-care.

Get the sleep and nutrition you need, attend to your daily hygiene requirements, and don’t neglect your need for either solitude or good company.

Make time for what you know will help you perform at your best.

You’ll notice it’s much easier to keep your thoughts positive when you’re honoring your own legitimate needs.

I bet you wouldn’t hesitate to defend someone else’s right to self-care. Do the same for yourself.

15. Practice mindfulness.

Start a new daily habit of mindfulness meditation to become more aware of and grateful for the good in your life.

Just paying more attention to your senses and to what they’re picking up can make you feel more connected — not only to the natural world but to other people.

It can also remind you to slow down when you need to in order to be more present.

While you’re eating, allow yourself to eat more slowly and to enjoy the sensations in every mouthful.

Or when you’re taking a walk, allow yourself to be more aware of the details around you and what your nose and ears, as well as your eyes, can pick up.

Are you still thinking, “I’m not good enough”?

Which of these tips appeal to you most? Which are you most inclined to try today?

Whatever actions you take, I hope what you’ve read has helped you see one thing more clearly: You are good enough.

No person, no job, and no lifestyle is too good for you.

After all, a more important question is what they bring into your life — and whether they help you become the person you want to be.

Another important question is what you bring into theirs.

And, speaking from experience, the people in your life are often a better judge of that than you are.

Choose your thoughts and your daily actions thoughtfully.

Choose them as if you already know you’re good enough and just getting better.

And may your growing confidence and creative energy influence everything you do today.

How do you handle it when you think "I'm not good enough"? Do you give in to the feeling or do you work on your confidence? Use these 15 strategies to help.

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