“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Louise L. Hay
It’s so easy be dragged down by your own thoughts.
So easy to not feel like “I'm not good enough”.
Not good enough to maybe to go for the job or promotion you want. Or out on a date with that person you’d really like to get to know better.
Or even as you do your best you may feel like it’s still not good enough. And so you feel that you’re not good enough either.
Such thoughts combined with the pressures and stress of today’s world can quickly start tearing your confidence in yourself and your self-esteem to pieces.
I think most of us have been in that situation.
I’ve been there many times. And let those thoughts hold me down and back from what I wanted.
But I’ve also – over the years – learned quite a few things that help me to prevent those thoughts from popping up in the first place. And to handle them when they do come running towards me.
1. You don’t have listen to your inner critic (you can shut it down).
When I was younger then I didn’t know I had an inner critic. A voice inside of me that would tell me that I was lazy, that my plan wouldn’t work and that I could have done an even better job.
The inner critic could sometimes motivate me to work smarter and do better. But most often it just tore me down.
I also didn’t know that you don’t have to listen to everything your mind is telling you. That you can actually talk back to that inner critic in your head.
But when it pipes up nowadays I know what works best for me is to – in my mind – shout:
Or: No, no, no… we’re not going down that path again!
And the quicker I do that after the critic starts babbling the easier it will be to shut it down.
2. Find the exception to open up your mind again.
When you’re lost in a snowball of thoughts of how you’re not good enough then it can be tough to change your headspace to a more positive one once again.
You may think to yourself you’re not doing a good job at all in school. Or that your dating life sucks.
When I get lost in such thoughts I like to ask myself:
What’s one small exception to that though?
When I, for example, asked myself this one during my school years I’d remember that I was actually doing well in English class. Or, later on, that I had some nice dates with that one person 5 months ago.
And that small exception opened up my mind to more rays of optimistic light.
To finding more positive things that were actually in my life and that I had done or was doing at the time.
3. Make a list and then take a few minutes to soak in your positive memories.
Take out a pen and a piece of paper. Or a blank memo note on your smart phone.
And simply think back. To times and situations when you felt good enough.
Or to times when you may not have felt quite good enough at first but still took action and did well or even better than you had expected.
Write a few such memories down. And then when you feel uncertain or your confidence drops in some situation then pull out that note and soak in those memories for a few minutes to change your outlook.
4. Stop getting stuck in the comparison trap.
When you all too often compare yourself to others, to what they have and what they’ve done then you’re getting yourself stuck in the comparison trap.
This destructive habit tends to feed that feeling of not being good enough.
Because this habitual comparing is not a game you can win.
There will always be someone that’s better than you or that has more or has achieved more. Somewhere out there in your neighborhood, country or the world.
I’ve found that a much better alternative for me has been to compare myself to myself. To see how far I’ve come and what I’ve overcome.
Making that a habit and only occasionally checking out what other people are doing also makes it easier to not be envious but to be happy for their successes.
5. What people share online is usually a high-light reel.
In the past you had to sit down and think about what friends and acquaintances may have had. Or perhaps turn on the TV to see how someone famous lived.
Nowadays it’s often right there as soon as you pick up your smart phone or sit down in front of your laptop.
It’s harder to avoid the comparison trap these days then it was 10 or 15 years ago.
But one thing I try to keep in mind and that really helps when it comes to social media is this:
What people are sharing is a high-light reel of their lives.
Nothing wrong with that. But if you think that’s how their lives look all the time then you’re likely fooling yourself and making yourself feel worse without any real reason.
Because they usually share just the happiest, most fun and exciting moments of their lives. But no matter who they are everyone will still have bad days, get a knock-out flu, eat some food they shouldn’t have and they’ll have their own worries.
So don’t fall into the trap of comparing your low-points or everyday life with someone else’s high-light reel.
6. You may not want to check social media more than once a day.
I find that I can quite easily revert back into the comparison trap and into starting to feel like I’m not good enough if I check social media too often or spend too much time there.
Checking it quickly just once a day is enough for me and it keeps my focus and thoughts in the right place.
7. You can always start small with a right thing string to change how you feel.
One thing I like to do in the morning or when I’m not feeling too good about myself and that helps me to keep my self-esteem stable is what I like to call a right thing string.
Here’s what you do:
Do something that you deep down think is the right thing. Do it right now…
- Give a genuine compliment to someone at school, work or in your life.
- Take 3 minutes to unclutter your workspace.
- Or help someone out with a bit of information that they’re looking for.
Then add another thing that you think is the right thing to do.
Have a banana instead of candy or potato chips. When you feel like judging someone on social media or on TV then try to find a kinder and more understanding point of view.
Then add another thing. And another.
Build a small string of doing the right things during, for example, 10-30 minutes.
When you’ve added a right thing to your string – no matter how small it may be – make sure to take just a couple of seconds to pause and to appreciate the good thing you did.
I often think one of these things to myself:
- Well done!
- That was fun!
Building a string like this makes you feel good about yourself again, it will over time raise your self-esteem and help to keep it stable and it’s simply a good and fun way to put yourself into a better headspace again.
8. Celebrate all wins.
Not only the big ones. Because then you’ll wait a long time between celebrations and run the risk of only feeling good about yourself when you’ve reached such a peak in life.
I’ve learned that it tends to work better to keep the motivation and self-confidence up if I celebrate all wins. No matter how small.
One small step forward is still one small step forward and you need to take such steps no matter what lofty goal you want to reach.
So celebrate those wins too in some way. Maybe with a pat on your back, a tasty and delicious snack or a quiet break out in nature.
9. It really helps to let it out.
Keeping these thoughts bottled up can make them spiral out of control.
Letting them out can help you to look at things from a more grounded and constructive perspective.
Three ways to let it out are:
- Vent about these thoughts as someone close to you simply listens. Do this for a little while to release the pent up tensions and to figure things out for yourself.
- Discuss it with a friend. Let her add her perspective. Or ask him what he’s done in a similar situation. Your friend can ground you in reality again so you don’t start making a horrific mountain out of a molehill or medium-sized hill. And the two of you can perhaps come up with a plan for how you can start improving upon the specific situation you’re in where you're not feeling good enough (such as preparing for that job interview or that date).
- Journal about it. If you don’t have anyone close to you to talk to about this – or you don’t want to for some reason – then a helpful alternative is to journal about it. Just get all those thoughts swirling around in your head out of paper or in a digital document. This is similar to venting and seeing it all laid out before you can help you to more easily get an overview, find clarity and a realistic size of your challenge and see what you can do to improve upon the situation.
10. Don't beat yourself up. There are much better ways to motivate yourself.
Beating yourself up can renew your motivation to do better the next time.
But it will most likely cause more hurt than it will help you in the long run as it drags you down mentally and may often extinguish your motivation instead of renewing it.
So find another way to motivate yourself that won’t push your respect and love for yourself down such as:
- Be kinder and more constructive when you talk to yourself.
- Let it out as mentioned above.
- Look for small or tiny steps you can take today to improve the situation you’re in.
- Start building a right thing string.
And remember that just because plenty of people beat themselves up all the time or because you've done it many times in the past doesn’t mean that it’s the healthiest or best way to move forward again.
11. Focus on and take responsibility for the process.
If you focus on the process instead of always hoping for a certain result then you’ll be a lot more relaxed, the pressure you put on yourself will be greatly reduced and the feeling of not being good enough will diminish too.
When you focus on the process then you just take responsibility for showing up and taking action.
No matter if that’s at work, while building your own business or at the gym.
Results will come anyway from that consistent action. And from you focusing on your process and adjusting it along the way as you learn more about what works and what does not.
I’ve found that if I focus on the process instead of obsessing about some result I want as soon as possible – or preferably even sooner – then my patience and persistence grows and I’m lot more likely to continue on my path even I hit a rough patch or two (or five).
12. What someone has said or done to you may not be about you.
The criticism or verbal attacks you may have received this morning or during the past year might not have been about you at all.
So don’t make the common mistake of thinking it’s all about you.
Someone close to you, at work or at school could simply have had a bad week, month or year.
Or he or she may be in a bad marriage, dissatisfied with his/her career or carrying an old and heavy baggage of negativity that someone else once put on him or her.
Remind yourself of this when you don’t feel good enough because of what someone else may have said or done. And realize that you don’t have to carry their baggage and negativity.
That belongs to them. Not you.
13. You can and may need to make some real changes in your environment to feel better.
Whatever we let into our minds will have a big effect. No matter if those influences are positive or negative.
So you may need to make some changes in your environment to feel better about yourself.
Otherwise you’re always trying to move forward while powerful weights are holding and dragging you back.
A simple start to that process of step-by-step changing your day to day world is to ask yourself this:
What are the top 3 sources of negativity in my life?
It could be:
- Someone close to you or at work or in school.
- A social media account.
- A website or forum you visit every week.
- Or a TV-show, podcast, music, magazine and so on.
Then ask yourself:
What can I do to spend less time with these 3 sources this week?
Come up with one or a few action-steps for each of the sources if possible. And focus on taking action to reduce the influence and time you spend on at least one of these sources this week.
And then, during the next 7 days, spend the time you’ve now freed up with the most supportive, uplifting and positive sources – close by or far away in the world – and people in your life.