Day 4: How To Stop Feeling Like You're Not Good Enough
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Have you ever taken the time to think about or wondered where your internalized message of “I’m not good enough,” actually comes from? Do you feel as a perfectly imperfect human you give life your best, work hard, try hard, but still can’t give yourself some form of credit when it's due? Or constantly shy away with embarrassment when others pay you a compliment? Are you one of those people who continually beat yourself up and think that somehow you should be more, do more, be better, and you don’t measure up in your own mind?
After more than three decades of living life with dysfunctional family dynamics, particularly those of narcissistic and abusive families, I have seen first-hand where this ultra internalized “not good enough” message comes from. While it seems easy to comprehend on the larger scale (when you're not in the middle of it, in the moment), I have also found that understanding emotionally and freeing oneself from old negative messages is a journey in itself, one of recovery which can take some serious work. When we make changes, we usually find that leap of faith within awareness first and then it takes our emotional being some time to catch up so that the head and gut are congruent and saying the same thing. I can say from experience it is not an easy road, but the storm does pass and the triggers get less and less as you find new ways to change those patterns and behaviors and the adult begins to emerge.
But how does the message “I’m not good enough” get internalized you ask? You say it's childhood but where does it really come from? To start with, I want you to think about small children and how impressionable they are, how they are soaking up life just like a sponge and trying to learn, understand and adapt to the world around them. And, the most important thing to them, the one thing and the only thing that matters is gaining love and affection from their caregivers and family. They do not yet have a worldly or experienced understanding of human behavior as an adult does or why people behave in certain ways. Their main goal is to be loved, and this is of course, what every child in this world deserves.
Now let’s take some examples of dysfunctional families to help you understand a little more just how deep this issue of not being good enough REALLY starts young, and start with the alcoholic family. A child does not understand why the addicted alcoholic parent is sometimes there for them in loving and tender ways and sometimes not depending on the substance usage. In a narcissistic family (one which is near and dear to my own personal journey many times over both in my childhood and as an adult), the child does not understand that the narcissistic parent is not capable of empathy or real love and may even begin to equate the narcissistic behaviors as being love (since they have no real gauge of what love looks like). In abusive families or families with domestic violence, the child does not understand why the adults are acting in horrible ways and not seeming to tune into how that effects their children or if you were like me did not even realize anything was wrong or different until a much later age. So, given that the child’s goal is to be loved and cared for, the child begins to try to “fix” the adult problems so they can achieve their goal. They don’t do this consciously, of course, but many start this at a very early age. “If only I was a better, this would not be happening.” “If I did better in school, my parents wouldn’t fight.” “If I listen to my parent’s problems, maybe they will be less stressed and will have more time to spend with me, happier.” “If I do more chores or housework, or maybe take on some of my parents work, maybe my mom won’t be so sad.” “If I become a great ballerina, maybe Dad won’t drink so much beer or disappear all the time to places i'm not allowed to go, because he will want to come to my recitals.”
Children are like sponges and take in their environment on emotional levels as well as physical and intellectual levels. They learn very early that if Mommy and Daddy are happy then they themselves will be much happier too and get more of that love they need and crave. “When Mommy is happy, she will play with me and spend time with me.” “When Daddy is not mad, he will be nicer to all of us.” Kids want peace, love and harmony in their lives and need it to thrive emotionally. So, if it is not there, guess what they do? Try to fix it by trying to be a better at all costs, or they may also try the opposite and act out to get their parents to focus on them more. But they are learning very quickly and unfortunately internalizing that no matter what they do, they cannot fix their parent’s or caregivers problems. They are children, and of course this is not their problem to fix, but there's the first downfall towards this behavior pattern - they don’t know that yet. So, they keep trying.
Many times parents in dysfunctional families will blame their children or project onto their children the bad feelings the parent is feeling at the moment. I like to call it the mirror effect, where they mirror every thought and feeling they have and reflect it all onto the innocent child. Narcissists do this ALL THE TIME! (And I can say that out of experience personally and with many of my clients). They are internally self-loathing, but project this onto their children rather than embrace, become aware and resolve their own feelings, issues or struggles. It’s always someone else’s fault. A child knows no different. Of course, they take this on as well. “It must be me.” “It must be my fault if my parent/caregiver is not being very nice to me, or can’t love me, or doesn't want me.” “I must be really unlovable or there must be something wrong with me.” So the child ends up carrying the hefty emotional baggage of the parent or caregiver, sometimes an entire family if the dynamics are that way inclined. “If only I could do more.”
Just because a child grows up and may begin to become aware of the dysfunction in their family of birth or adoption etc, it does not mean that the internalized message is some how cleared away or removed. We parent ourselves in the same manner we were parented, sometimes without even realizing it. So the negative message of “I couldn’t fix it, so I am not good enough,” remains strong from sometimes generation to generation. The parent does not have to say these words directly to the child, the child is internalizing it as he or she is developing on their own journey. “I will clean the whole house tonight and then my parents won’t fight.” But, they do fight and they don’t even notice. “It didn’t work.” “I am not good enough, or powerful enough, or worthy.”
In one on one core coaching with my clients, we work on this by uncovering the deeper place this message of unworthiness is lurking from. More often than not we are lead back to childhood and that ever present sponge that has been working over time. The negative messages cannot be “undone” by simple techniques of affirmations/mantras or telling ourselves we are OK, but rather this type of inner work takes us down deep to uncover the deeper trauma embedded down deep in our inner child or that is stuck in our adult brain and body, becoming aware of it and then releasing it with the help of techniques unique for your journey and experience.
It is a difficult journey for some people to do this, because lets face it we all want to believe that we came from loving and nurturing families. It is normal to try to deny and rationalize and believe it is all in our heads because in reality as a child you knew no different, you at the time thought the life you were experiencing was normal.
I am writing this today to let you know it's not easy to remove such embedded ideals and it does take some time to desensitise to the triggeres that take us through the motion of the pattern we created when we were young. But for those who have had the courage to do this hard work, have recovered, and have been able to release the burden of carrying the emotional baggage of their families of origin. When they do this, they realize the message was wrong. It is not their fault. It is a distorted reality that they had to buy into to survive in a dysfunctional environment. It is only then, that the tightly woven deep negative message of “I am not good enough,” begins to unravel and there is relief.
I do believe in this instance that a lot of forgiving of one self is necessary to help with the final threads of the pattern we create from the behavior we experience. This doesn’t mean I encourage blame, anger, rage, or carrying resentment towards your family or caregivers. But it does need to be understood before one can heal. It is also more possible then to be accountable and realize that you can change yourself as an adult and be who you want to be and not continue to be defined by your early relationships with family.
Imagine yourself carrying a massive sack over your shoulder that holds a lot of bowling balls that don’t even belong to you. As you work backwards to find the place in your sponge that soaked up all these heavy bowling balls to begin with, imagine a hole begins to emerge in the bottom of the bag and one by one the ball begin to fall out and the pressure is taken off your own back, realizing that each one of those heavy balls belong to someone else. “This is not my stuff, I am carrying around my mother’s sadness, or my father’s insecurities.” Drop off those old bowling balls so you can see who you really , what your reality looks like. Deep down, you know that even though you have made mistakes in life as we all do, you are a good person with a wonderful heart. You are “good enough.” You deserve better and you are WORTH IT! I can say that in my own personal experience and helping clients with their own sponges, the biggest break-through I have seen (and when it happens the smile I get to see is so big and so freeing) is when they realize that they are carrying someone else’s baggage on their own back and it's time to stop. When they see that first taste of freedom it begins a new path, a path to hope, healing, and understanding. It opens more and more windows of opportunities to create the life you want and deserve. If you managed to get right to the bottom of this it's because it may have struck a nerve, I wish more than anything for you to have that too! That bag of bowling balls sitting up on your back is heavy. You too can begin to release what your inner child sponge sucked up all those years ago by ridding yourself of the burden and weight, one ball at a time. Why? Because you are WORTH IT!!!!
In Health and Happiness
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