Getting Over Our Feelings of Not Being Good Enough
As I was listening to Kevin Costner’s speech at Whitney Houston’s funeral last year, I was surprised, even shocked, to hear that an incredible singer, actress, and woman like Whitney suffered from feelings of self-doubt.
I couldn’t help but wonder what it is that makes us feel the need to pretend that we are strong and confident in our abilities, although most of us actually share feelings of self-doubt. After all, we are the ones who are “the sum of its parts”; society is made up of each of us, the same society we are so nervous about fitting into.
Interesting enough, during my internship at a private practice in Chicago, I heard even very successful and accomplished people talk about a fear. The fear of “when will people finally find out that I am actually not that great and intelligent?” It’s like waiting for the curtain to fall, waiting for the day when others will “figure me out.”
In psychology, we call this the “impostor syndrome.” It’s a phenomenon in which people experience self-doubt and the fear of not being good enough simply because of an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a belief that their success is a lucky circumstance or due to deceiving others.
In the past, I often found myself being exhausted and frustrated because I simply couldn’t meet the unrealistically high standards that I set for myself.
It took me a while to start writing because of my perfectionism and fear of not being a good enough writer. I kept asking myself: What will the other people think? What if they don’t like it? What if they make fun of me? Or, I know they will say [insert negative thoughts]. Finally I told myself: So what?! And if not now, when? There is never going to be a perfect time to start a new project, make a change in your life, or fulfill a personal dream.
Here are six ways that you can overcome self-doubt:
1. Eat your fear
This is a simple strategy that the keynote speaker Maria Hinojosa (anchor and managing editor for National Public Radio’s weekly show, Latino USA) offered to us at my master’s commencement ceremony. Eating your fear will help you block out the little “What if?” thoughts in your head that give you excuses and prevent you from moving and starting.
2. Transition your “others-esteem” back into “self-esteem”
Liberate yourself from the approval of others. As long as you worry about what they think about you, you are owned by them and not free to go for your dreams and become your true self. And who wants to live a life that everyone else likes except you?
3. Trust yourself
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~ Buddha
Again, trusting yourself is essential for your personal growth and development. If you don’t truly believe you can do it, you won’t do it. In psychology, this is called self-fulfilling prophecy. As an example, I was a C and D English student in high school. If I told my high school English teachers today that I got three university level degrees in my second language, English, they wouldn’t believe me.
I went to the USA and studied there, because I wanted it and believed I could do it, despite the doubts of others, or what they thought or told me. I just trusted myself.
4. Listen to your gut and inner voice
Find your purpose in life.
“The most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain
So sit down, listen to some music, drink a hot cup of tea, take a long walk, do yoga, or do whatever relaxes you, and think about what makes you happy. What do you really enjoy doing? What are you passionate about? Make a list! And now start envisioning a plan for how to integrate this passion into your life, whether it is through a job or a hobby.
5. Make friends who focus on the positive
Make friends who support, rather than belittle your ideas. Be self-nurturing and start removing unhealthy relationships from your life. Look for people who see the positive in you, and your potential, instead of bringing up your past mistakes.
6. Think positive
Positive thinking is just as important as real friends throughout this treasure hunt called life. It is like the snow shovel when it snows heavily, the umbrella when it rains, and hiking shoes when you go for a challenging hike. It will keep you from losing your grip when your path gets rocky.
So just keep going.
Unload your self-doubt. You’re doing great!
Karen Naumann earned her M.A. in Counseling & Organizational Psychology in Chicago, IL. After living in the USA for six years, she decided to move back home to Germany in 2012. She’s a strong believer in the mind-body connection and looks at each individual as being unique. Karen is a health-nut, and passionate about traveling, cultures, languages, healthy nutrition, as well as practicing yoga and Pilates. Her goal is to inspire others, and to share the importance and beauty of life with positive thinking even in difficult times.
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Assistant Ed: Wendy Keslick/Ed: Brianna Bemel
Photo from martinaphotography at Flickr