You are amazing. You are more than enough. You are creative, talented, effective, and beautiful. Yet, so self critical.
The truth is, many of us often engage in a very critical inner dialogue flooded with “I can’t,” “should’s,” “what if’s,” or “I am not enough.” Words that play into catastrophic (imaginary) outcomes as it plays out in our minds (often in elaborate detail) and throws a wrench in our progress.
Have you ever wondered why you can be so self-critical and how to tackle the thought I am not enough?
Here’s to some deep soul searching today.
In rare cases, self-criticism can be helpful- it may give some valuable insight, but it’s rare. The problem with self-critical thoughts or that unchecked inner mean girl is it takes a direct hit at your confidence and sense of self. Unchecked, it increases your risk for stress or experiences like depression anxiety.
Don’t think your way out of how capable you are. Instead, remember that thoughts are not facts, and if you shift your thoughts, you can shift your experience.
Ten affirmations to replace critical conversations:
I am capable of doing hard things.
I am focused and persistent.
I am safe.
I am in charge of my own happiness.
I am doing the best that I can.
I am capable of creating positive change.
I am the expert in the room.
I am dismantling systems that create inequity piece by piece.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am proud of myself and all that I have accomplished.
Which of these speaks to you?
To embrace those I am’s and respond to them in meaningful ways instead of our fears, it becomes essential to explore the source of our negative thoughts. With awareness, you can gain the insights and skills to reframe self-critical thoughts, so they don’t continue as barriers as you execute your goals.
Let’s tackle I Am Not Enough
It’s one of the most common self-critical thoughts. It is often connected to early family stories, invalidating environments, traumas, or shame-based experiences that can emotionally paralyze us in real-time. For example, Mark (definitely not his name), grew up with a very old school strict father who wanted him to “man up,” a consistent message in his young life. When his eight-year-old self (the client) brought home 90’s, it would be met with, well why isn’t it a 100?
While it was never clearly stated, what is the underlying thought or belief you hear with this example?
It’s not enough.
As a developing being, if you repeatedly hear negative messages, it can quickly become internalized into this belief that no matter how hard I work, it is not enough. I have to work extra hard to be “enough” or be seen, acknowledged, or accepted. The most challenging part is that the achievement will never resolve “I am not enough.” It becomes complicated to feel or be satisfied. This dynamic around this idea of “enough,” or any self-critical thought, can consequently create space for things like anxiety, perfectionism, worry, overworking, and stress.
How do I change the I am not enough thoughts?
A significant step to change is awareness. It’s helpful to think about where the thoughts or ideas come from.
Ask yourself when does this happen to me, and begin to get curious about the experience.
Ask, why do I feel like I’m never enough? It is important here to also take a moment to acknowledge the feelings that accompany that experience. Often those same emotions you notice were never given space and were instead met with the message don’t cry, what’s wrong with you, or feelings are a sign of weakness.
Once you realize that thoughts based on your past may still be showing up to control your present, it gets easier to address them in real-time, like using the above affirmations. The key is finding the unhelpful thoughts or beliefs based on old ideas that no longer support your life and learning to reframe them. It becomes easier to like who you have become, accept you are enough, and embrace your success with new perspectives.
Reflection Point: Changing The I Am Not Enough Thoughts
- Figure out the source. Spend some time unpacking your thoughts and feelings.
- To help your awareness – Try journaling, meditation, or other contemplative activities to find and release the things holding you back. You can give our self-love journal a try. The prompts help you to approach self-criticism from a place of self-compassion.
- Every time you have a negative or critical thought, replace it with a new thought that uplifts you and makes you feel good enough. Or repeat to yourself, I am good enough or another affirmation as mentioned above. The research suggests that affirmations can help you to perform better. Spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities can decrease stress, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of success.
A Licensed therapist and coach for high achieving women. It’s important to note when resolving complex thoughts is challenging, it is also helpful to enlist the support of a therapist or a coach.