So many mums feel like they are not good enough, every day.
This feeling goes beyond mum guilt (which is already a challenge). Feeling not good enough creates shame within us.
Brene Brown defines the difference between guilt and shame:
“I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
As an aside, guilt is less helpful when we hold ourselves to problematic standards, rather than our own values, but that’s not what Brene is referring to here. You can read more about this in my blog post on mum guilt.
Shame, on the other hand, transcends the issue at hand and threatens our innate need to be accepted, loved and connected.
When we feel like we aren’t good enough, we think we’re always being watched or judged. The smallest comment or sideways glance from someone, an honest mistake, a missed goal, or seeing other mums coping well, can trigger these feelings of shame. This traps us in a cycle of thinking that we aren’t good enough and believing that others are thinking the same. We forget all the wonderful things about ourselves.
Lovely mum, what would it be like if you truly believed you were good enough?
I’m asking you this, because I know that you ARE enough. Just as you are right now. You are worthy of love and belonging.
But I also know, that telling you this, doesn’t make the uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy go away. So, I’d love to share some helpful things that you can do and remember, when you’re not feeling good enough.
15 things you can do and remember when you’re not feeling good enough
1. Remember, it’s not that you don’t measure up, it’s that you are unique
Unfortunately, we often see our uniqueness as inadequacy. So, it’s helpful to focus on the fact that no one else is on exactly the same path as you and no one can be better at being you, than YOU!
Only compare yourself, against yourself. There’s no point comparing the highlights of everyone else’s lives, to your behind-the-scenes. You only see what people want you to see of their lives. You can’t see what’s going on behind closed doors, or how they are really feeling inside, which makes it an unfair comparison. It’s more helpful to think about how far you have come in your own journey.
2. Identify and understand your inner critic
You don’t need to believe every thought you have. Our thoughts are just that; thoughts. They aren’t necessarily truth.
Believe it or not, that negative voice in your head is actually trying to protect you. Unfortunately, she’s doing this by constantly reminding you of all the ways you aren’t good enough because she’s scared of what might happen if you change anything. In most cases, there’s actually no real threat to your safety. It may be helpful to ask your inner critic “what are you trying to protect me from here? What are you afraid of?”. Acknowledge her compassionately (because she is trying to help you after all) and then redirect your thoughts to something more helpful and supportive.
3. Think of the things that you are good enough about you
There’s more right about you than there is wrong with you, so when you’re not feeling good enough, choose to focus on your strengths and how you have overcome challenges in the past. This may take a bit of practice, because if you’ve been feeling like you’re not good enough for some time, it might be very hard to see the positives. Even if you can only think of something very small – start with that! You are already good enough, so the “right” things are there and with practice you will find it easier to see them.
4. Love yourself the most when you feel like you deserve it the least
It’s so important that we learn to love ourselves, and the most critical time to love ourselves, is when we feel unworthy of love. Criticising and berating yourself or not being good enough will certainly not help you become any better. Love yourself unconditionally and without judgement because you ARE enough. When you love yourself, you also show others how to love and support you.
5. Practice acceptance
Even if things aren’t as you would like them to be, beating yourself up about it and wishing they were different, won’t change anything. What you resist, persists, so by accepting the situation, your feelings and yourself, as you are, you can release the negative feelings and move past them. Options will appear and you can keep moving forward.
Extending yourself some compassion is a wonderful form of self-care. We are all human and imperfect. All you can reasonably expect of yourself (and others) is to do the best you can, with what you have and what you know at the time. As you progress in life and learn more, you can do better, because you know better. But that is for later.
6. Find an exception
It’s very common for people to exaggerate situations. For example, if one of your parenting decision turns out to be less than ideal, you could conclude that you are a bad mum. That you always get things wrong. But this is not true. So, rather than staying with not feeling good enough as a mum, bring to mind the exception to this. The time when you made a great parenting decision.
A bad moment doesn’t mean you are a bad person or bad mother. There’s always another moment, and there’s always an exception.
7. Think of the things you are grateful for in that moment
Gratitude is an effective way of developing a more optimistic and positive perspective, improving resilience, reducing stress and boosting self-esteem. It also helps you feel more satisfied with your life, and less envious of others. So, when you’re feeling like you’re not good enough, take a moment to focus your mind on the things that you are grateful for in yourself, the situation at hand and in your life.
8. Identify and remove the trigger
Sometimes our feelings of inadequacy are repeatedly triggered by the same event or situation. For example, you might find that you always feel like you’re not good enough when you scroll through social media, or when you spend time with a particular person who constantly puts you down. Or perhaps you are part of a mums group who are intent on comparing your children and that makes you feel like you’re not a good enough mum. Consider whether you can remove the trigger from your life or at least lessen your exposure to it.
9. Ask yourself “what’s ONE thing you can do right now to improve the situation or move you forward?”
When we’re stuck in not feeling good enough, taking action can be hard. This question requires you to find just ONE thing to do now. Not what you should do, but what you want to do or feel is the right thing to do. I want to be clear that this action isn’t about doing things to make you good enough, because you are already good enough. This is just about being able to make progress with the situation rather than being paralysed by our feelings.
Another question you could use is “if you did believe you were good enough, what would you do now?”.
10. Talk to someone you trust
Whether it’s a loved one or a professional, talking to someone else can help you clarify how you are feeling, make the feelings less intense and put things in perspective. They may be able to provide you with the encouragement you need, or some help looking at options for your situation. A trained professional can help you explore where long term or persistent feelings are coming from, and work to move through and past them. Keeping your feelings inside, or pushing them down, will only help to amplify them and they will undoubtedly come up for you again in the future.
11. Write it down
Similar to the point above, writing is a great way to work through the feelings of inadequacy. Just like talking, writing about your feelings can help you clarify them, make them less intense or put them in perspective. If you’re not sure how to do this, just start by answering the question “how am I feeling today?”. The answers can be single words, phrases, sentences or even a few pictures. Follow your thoughts and explore them as they come.
12. Remember, that other people’s behaviours and responses are more about them than they are about you
If we don’t learn how to separate the behaviour of others, from our own value, we can end up personalising everything that happens around us, and possibly even defining ourselves by these things.
Consider that when someone behaves or reacts negatively towards you, this is more about their relationship with themselves, than it is about you. It could stem from something they dislike about themselves, something that makes them uncomfortable, or their own beliefs about what is “acceptable” and “good enough”. If someone is telling you that you aren’t good enough (perhaps not that directly), then that’s their perspective and reflects something about them. This is not necessarily the truth about you (of course, there are times, when you do need to take responsibility for mistakes that you’ve made, but this still doesn’t make you not good enough).
As mothers, I’m sure we’ve all had people making “helpful suggestions” or giving us advice on things they have no idea about! We have to make our own choices and back ourselves. You don’t need everyone else’s approval. Your value is found within you.
13. Stop striving for perfection
I know this one well, as it has been a significant part of my story. For many mums, perfection is seen as the path to worthiness or being “good enough”. But perfection is definitely not the same as being good enough. Perfectionism sees us striving for extremely high and demanding standards, that are often unreasonable to others. Trying to be perfect in motherhood is untenable and is not as motivating as many people think. So, when you’re feeling like you’re not good enough, ask yourself:
Is the standard I’m trying to reach realistic and necessary?
What are the negative consequences of me having this standard?
How can I make this standard more realistic and balanced?
14. See mistakes as opportunities to learn
For some of us, mistakes are seen as setbacks that reinforce the fact that we aren’t good enough. If this is the case, you might feel threatened by other people’s successes, or feel that you have to constantly prove yourself. This is a key component of a fixed mindset, as described by Psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck. A person with a fixed mindset believes that their intelligence and talent cannot be changed. And so if they aren’t good enough now, they won’t ever be.
On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset, believes that they can develop their intelligence and abilities with some effort. They are inspired by the success of others, and see mistakes as opportunities to learn and become smarter and more successful. They are more resilient and persistent through challenges. And their worth is impacted by mistakes that they make.
When you’ve made a mistake and you’re not feeling good enough, try to focus on the learning. Everyone makes mistakes. So forgive yourself and think about what you might do differently next time (just as you probably encourage your children to do!). Remind yourself that you will get better at this.
15. Be present
When we’re feeling like we’re not good enough, we tend to ruminate on our past failures and worry about the future. But we can’t do anything about the past, and the future is not yet here to deal with. All we have is now. The ups and down are all part of your journey and things will come together. Sometimes we can’t understand why we experience things until much later down the track.
So, in the meantime, bring yourself back to the present. Focus on what’s important right now – the task at hand, the child in front of you, the relationship you are investing in, whatever it might be. Be mindful in this moment, which means that you are aware of where you are and what you are doing, without judgement and without being overly reactive to what’s happening. Mindfulness calms your nervous system and will help you stop replaying those “not good enough” feelings over and over in your mind.
What is good enough, really?
Lovely, I want to leave you with an important thought.
What is enough, really?
Can we define it?
I mean, if a woman has a perfectly clean house, is managing to balance paid employment with motherhood and makes sure her kids are impeccably presented all the time, is that good enough? What if that mum also feeds them take away pizza almost every night, or belittles her husband? Is she good enough then? What if she enrols her kids in all the activities but she’s late to every class? What if she looks amazing and works out 4 times a week, but yells at her kids regularly? Is that good enough?
These are all arbitrary, and in no way represent what I consider to be good enough, but I’m hoping you can see that it’s impossible to clearly define it.
When we look around and see other women excelling at different things, it can sometimes make us confused about what really makes a mum or woman good enough.
It’s just not that simple.
You actually don’t need to be able to define it to that level of detail. Because YOU are already good enough. As you are. Good enough = YOU.
Everything you have been through has prepared you for where you are now, with your children and your life. Just like everyone else, you have some qualities that are helpful in motherhood and some that aren’t. And anything you don’t know, you will learn as you go, as will I, and as will all mums.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
What can you do, to help you deal with your feelings of not being good enough?