Most of us experience a brief and passing feeling at one point or another that we are not good. Sometimes, however, the worry that we are not good enough becomes persistent and recurring. It causes anxiety, self-loathing, and chronic low self-confidence.
One cause of the “I’m Not Good Enough” feeling is something I call the Be More, Do More Mindset, which is a mindset encouraged by certain values in our culture emphasized to the exclusion of other values.
The Be More, Do More Mindset actually gets in the way of us doing and being who we are, and this causes great suffering in our lives.
How Do We Develop The “I’m Not Good Enough” Feeling?
Three values especially prevalent in United States culture contribute to the “I’m not good enough” feeling. These are the values of (1) constant productivity (2) impossible beauty standards and (3) excessive competition.
Fair Rosamund, by John William Waterhouse.
Productivity is one of the most praised and promoted values in our culture. While productivity can certainly bring some benefits to our lives, it can also be harmful, especially when productivity is emphasized to the exclusion of other values such as self-care and emotional and spiritual nurturing.
Because there is often an emphasis on productivity to the exclusion of other values, it is easy to feel that we aren’t good enough if we aren’t consistently producing new and better things. However, we need times of rest and spiritual nurture to function well as human beings and will often break down or become ill if we don’t have this time. So, this tension can lead us to feel perpetually as though we are not enough.
Impossible Beauty Standards
In addition to the value of productivity, the media also regularly bombards us with the value of impossible beauty standards. On a daily basis, we are exposed to media images of beautiful bodies, faces, wardrobes, homes, cars, families, and lives.
Certainly one reason for the prevalence of these images is that the media entertains us is by creating a fantasy world in which we can explore human potential.
Fantasy can be helpful for entertainment and imagination, but if it is consistently promoted as normal as beauty standards often are in the media, it can leave us without tools for navigating our normal lives. The media also bombards us with impossible beauty standards in order to motivate us to buy products to achieve these standards.
Whether the media’s goal is fantasy entertainment or consumer motivation, we often feel pressure to achieve beauty standards which we can never fully achieve.
The excessive competition in our culture can also cause us to not feel good enough. Competition in some forms can be a helpful influence. However, through our obsession with cutthroat reality shows, elite institutions, high-stakes athletics, beauty contests, and billionaires we consistently receive the message that the most important person is the winner (or the folks at the top), and that everyone else is unimportant (and probably inferior).
Given that most of us will not be the winners or the best at what we do in our lives, the emphasis on competing for the top place inevitably leaves us feeling regularly as though we aren’t good enough.
This over-emphasis on the values of productivity, impossible beauty standards, and competition leads to a mindset I call the Be More, Do More Mindset. When we have this mindset, we continually feel like who we are and what we are doing now is never enough. These feelings can make it hard for us to try new things, to set new goals, and to accomplish meaningful projects.
So, ironically, by making us feel consistently like we aren’t good enough the Be More, Do More Mindset actually prevents us from being and doing things that would make our lives and the world better.
The Compassionate Mindset
The Compassionate Mindset is the opposite of the Be More, Do More Mindset. Rather than pushing us to be and do more, the Compassionate Mindset honors where we are at the moment, whether we are suffering or joyful.
Rather than pushing constant productivity, impossible beauty standards, and excessive competition, it recognizes that we are finite and that making mistakes and suffering through those failures is a natural part of life.
As we practice the Compassionate Mindset with ourselves, we allow ourselves to inhabit our lives fully and express our unique individuality. As we do this, we naturally begin to do beautiful and excellent things. Your job in life is not to be more or do more. Your job is to be you and to live your human life with all of its successes, failure, uniqueness, grief, and joy.
When you do this, you will live your life fully, and that is what makes your life and the world a more beautiful place.
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