How to overcome your fear of not being good enough

Feb 11, 2021

Ever felt like you’re not good enough?

That you’re not smart enough, successful or connected enough. Not attractive enough, confident enough, old or young enough. In short — you’re not enough.

Years ago — back in my legal recruitment days — I sponsored an International Women’s Day lunch for women lawyers. One of the guest speakers was a senior judge who spoke about her career journey. She blew me away as she shared candidly about her experience with imposter syndrome.

Of feeling like a fraud, not good enough and at times, inadequate compared to the women around her.

I glanced around the room at all the accomplished women, at different stages of their careers. And noticed the nodding and the looks of acknowledgement on their faces.

They recognised themselves in her story.

It was then I realised. So often at these events or in my dealings with women like this, I’d felt inadequate or not enough.

I wasn’t a lawyer. Or (as I falsely believed) as intelligent or educated enough. Despite being an expert at what I did and a successful businesswoman in my own right.

In this moment, something shifted in me. I learned that the people we put on pedestals are human beings. Each with their own vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities.

And although I still have moments of ‘not enough-ness’, over time I’ve learnt to step into my worth and value myself. To see myself and others as equals in every conversation or interaction.

I’m honoured to have coached many ambitious, successful business owners and leaders. And through this work, I’ve witnessed how widespread ‘not enough’ is.

It’s at the core of every individual’s struggles to identify or take ownership of what they want. Or the roadblocks which keep them stuck from creating the business and life they desire. Regardless how talented and accomplished they are.

Read on to discover the real reasons you don’t feel good enough — and how to overcome it. You’ll walk away with 7 ways to strengthen your self-worth and minimise feelings of ‘not enough’.

THE REAL REASONS YOU DON’T FEEL GOOD ENOUGH

Every person experiences the fear of not being good enough. The reasons vary and are often unclear. But both nature and nurture can impact our self-worth.

As human beings, fear is a protective mechanism designed to keep us safe. It presents whenever it perceives a ‘threat’ to your survival.

When the fear of judgement holds you back from putting yourself out there. Or you worry you will fail when starting something new. Who you are — how you think, behave and the traits passed down to you — also affect your self-worth. 

Another contributor are your core beliefs, adopted in childhood. Your parents, society and the media influenced these beliefs in your early years of life.

Growing up, did you receive praise for achievement and performance? Your academic results, sports accomplishments, having good manners or people pleasing. If so, you may have developed the belief you need to be ‘perfect’ or ‘successful’ to feel good about yourself.

Being criticised for making mistakes. A lack of praise or positive reinforcement. Or modelling the behaviours of others could have also shaped your self-worth.

HOW CAN YOU OVERCOME FEELINGS OF ‘NOT ENOUGH’?

I’ve learnt how to cultivate my self-worth and manage not feeling good enough most of the time. Here are my top tips.

TIP #1 — DEVELOP SELF-COMPASSION

Self-compassion expert Dr Kristin Neff talks about the three elements of self-compassion. To start, remember not feeling good enough is part of being human. We all experience it, so know you’re not alone.

Be kind to yourself when you feel inadequate or make a mistake. Rather than criticising or judging yourself.

Allow the feelings to appear, without attachment. But find a balance between suppressing or ignoring them and getting stuck in them.

TIP #2 — REFRAME NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Negative self-talk and thoughts of ‘not enough’ stem from our core, sub-conscious beliefs. The first step to working through them, is awareness. Notice the negative thought, explore it and get clear on the exact fear you’re experiencing.

Then, replace the negative belief with a positive one. ‘I’m a failure’ becomes ‘I did my best’. ‘I don’t have enough experience’ turns into ‘I have everything I need to succeed.’

TIP #3 — ACKNOWLEDGE YOURSELF

Self-acknowledgement is a fantastic way to overcome not feeling good enough. Instead of judging or criticising yourself (or others), take the time to celebrate who you are. Your best qualities.

Here’s a simple daily practice I learnt from my own coach a few years ago. Each morning, write down three personal qualities you’re celebrating in yourself. Begin each sentence with ‘I am…’, as in ‘I am creative’, ‘I am courageous’, ‘I am generous’.

It’s normal for this exercise to feel unnatural at first but don’t dismiss it! When I first started this practice it took me forever to come up with my top three. But the longer I did it (and the more I stepped into my worth), the easier it was to list off my three qualities.

Still finding this tough or feeling self-conscious? Start by acknowledging others in your daily interactions. The slower you are to judge or criticise others, the easier it will be to do the same for yourself!

TIP #4 — GO FOR PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION

At the heart of perfectionism is a deep fear of not being good enough.

Worrying about what others think. Striving for perfection and success to validate your self-worth. Or seeking the approval of others to avoid criticism and judgement.

Realise no-one is perfect and embrace your imperfections. So you can be yourself and do what you want — instead of looking to others for answers, direction or validation.

Always do your best but be kind to yourself if you fail. Remember, to fail doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Learn from your mistakes, without being self-critical and beating yourself up.

Finally, celebrate your successes. And make sure to acknowledge and reward yourself. Rather than playing down your achievements or rushing to the next goal!

TIP #5 — PRIORITISE SELFCARE

Many high-achievers base their worth on their level of productivity. Especially when you’re praised or rewarded for working hard. Your work begins to define you and you develop the belief overachievement is the key to success.

You have so much to do and so little time! Anything ‘unproductive’ — sleep, self-care or doing something FUN — becomes a waste of time. For many years when work became a part of my self-worth and identity, I was guilty of this.

People pleasing and failing to set boundaries are also signs of not feeling good enough. Prioritising self-care and learning to say no are critical steps to overcome it.

TIP #6 — STOP SEEKING THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS

A major sign of low self-worth is relying on other people’s opinions to feel good about yourself. By seeking validation from others or chasing external ‘success’. Money, status, material possessions, having the perfect job/home/family.

Overcoming self-doubt is about letting go of what you think you ‘should’ do. To live life from a place of worthiness and ‘I am enough’.

Instead of starting from the outside in, you need to begin from the inside out. By asking yourself what YOU want first, rather than seeking the approval of others. After all, you have all the right answers within yourself!

TIP #7 — AVOID COMPARISONITIS

We often feel good about ourselves until we compare ourselves to others.

One moment you’re on top of the world and living your best life. The next, you scroll social media and see someone putting the idea YOU had out into the world. Or being recognised for something you aspire to do.

Then you feel small, unworthy and not enough in comparison.

Comparison requires ongoing awareness, as it often happens subconsciously. Brene Brown talks about the importance of creativity to limit comparison. When you focus on your unique gifts — not your weaknesses or what you ‘lack’ — comparison becomes irrelevant.

We all experience the fear of not being good enough but it’s completely possible to overcome it. These tips have helped my clients and I develop our self-worth and manage feelings of ‘not enough’. I hope they support you too.

Want help to overcome your fear of not being good enough — so you can create the professional life you desire? 

Click HERE to book a free 45 minute Strategy Call to experience some coaching and find out how it can support you!

Stacey Back is a success coach, business mentor and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business.

Stacey also works with established entrepreneurs and consultants who are overwhelmed, exhausted from trying to ‘do it all’ or unfulfilled despite their ‘success’. She helps them put the right systems and strategies in place so they can find more time, freedom and build a successful business and life on their terms.

Stacey works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.