When You Don’t Feel Good Enough…

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Lately, as I’ve become aware of the role fear can play in my work, I’ve become aware of feeling not good enough.

Years ago, I remember attending a church with two ‘perfect’ couples. One husband was a doctor another husband was a Director at a local company.

I realize now, that these people did not do anything to be perfect. If anything, my perception of them seems to be based on ‘not feeling good enough,’ while they seemed perfect in comparison to my feelings of personal inadequacy.

Desiring to better understand my own feelings, I googled the topic and found this article, Why Do I Feel So Inadequate?, written by Hilary Jacobs Hendel LCSW.

Hilary shares her experience with one of her clients who could not shake the nagging feeling that he wasn’t enough.

Hilary asked her client,“Could I get you curious about this part of you that feels inadequate?”

Hilary suggested that her client travel back in time to when he first felt not enough.

Her client admitted that he was “maybe 6 or 8 years old.” His Father was extremely successful and relocated the family to a country where most people didn’t speak English.

He was scared and felt like a stranger there. He had no friends for a long time.

While his parents meant well and were trying to encourage him, they pushed him hard.

He felt overwhelmed by his new life. He misinterpreted their words as disappointment that he wasn’t enough, a feeling he still had today.

As I read Hilary’s article, I couldn’t help thinking about my own experience.

My three siblings were born between 1950 & 1953.

I was born in 1959, so, it was easy to conclude that they hadn’t planned on having another child.

Once when I was depressed I asked my mother why she didn’t have an abortion when she became pregnant with me.

My mother didn’t always think before she talked, she simply responded.

Because it wasn’t legal.

Hilary shared,

As adults, armed with education on emotions and how childhood adversity affects the brain, we can understand that feeling “not enough” is a byproduct of an environment that was insufficient. We are in fact enough! Yet to feel more solid in our Self, we must work to transform the not enough feeling.

Hilary went on to suggest that her client,

Feeling not enough might be a defense against his deeper emotions towards others who had hurt him or not been there for him when he needed support.

Hilary brought up a concept called The Change Triangle.

They discussed his feelings towards himself and his parents.

Without judging his core emotions as right or wrong, he accepted that he was angry at his father for uprooting him, a move that had cost him his confidence.

I resonated with this story, because I did not feel like my parents were there for me. My Father was gone most of the time. When my extroverted siblings criticized my introverted ways my Mother did nothing to stop them.

Obviously, I can never provide the level of insight found in Hilary’s article, but I can share some of her suggestions on what we can do in the short run to help the parts of us that feel not enough.

  • We can remind our self again and again that the feeling of not enough was learned. It’s not an objective fact, even when it feels so viscerally true.
  • We can connect to that part of us that feels bad and offer it compassion like we would do for our child, partner, colleague, friend, or pet.
  • We can practice deep belly breathing, 5 or 6 times in a row, to calm our nervous system.
  • We can exercise to get adrenaline flowing and create a sense of empowerment.
  • We can remember this very helpful phrase: Compare and Despair! When you catch yourself making comparisons to others, STOP! It doesn’t help and only hurts by fueling feelings and thoughts of not enough.

Hilary goes on to share,

In the long run, we heal the parts of us that feel inadequate by first becoming aware of them. Once aware, we listen to them and try to fully understand the story of how they came to believe they were not enough. Over time, by naming, validating and processing the associated emotions both from the past and present, the frequency and intensity of our not enough parts diminish.

I wrote this post not just because some of us feel inadequate, but also because our feelings of inadequacy can lead us to feel like imposters.

I hope you found this helpful.


Clark Finnical is the author of 

 Job Hunting Secrets (from someone who’s been there)

LinkedIn Strategies to Take Your Career to the Next Level , 

 12 Lies Told To Job Seekers,

 How to Stand Out: From All of the Other Candidates

What No One Told You About Job Titles and Your Job Search  

The Job Loss Mind Game: What Really Happened And What You Need to Do Now


Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash

Article originally appeared in clarkfinnical.com