The Not Good Enough story is a pain in the arse.
Most of the men & women I coach feel fundamentally socially disadvantaged in some way. It could be their race, gender, skin colour, their income status or background, their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, body shape, or personalty type.
Whatever it is, they can tell you straight up what aspects of themselves are "Not Good Enough."
In response to these negative self-beliefs, they often don't even try to socialize, because they predict failure.
When they do attempt even the smallest of connections, they expect rejection, and attach it to the Not Good Enough story...
"I smiled at that dude and he didn't smile back... it must be because I'm Asian."
"I didn't get the job interview... it must be because I'm a woman."
"That cute girl didn't want to give me her phone number... Proof! I'm obviously too fat."
This thinking can lead to a deep cycle of self-abuse, self-rejection, and loneliness.
"I am Not Good Enough," because...
My own Not Good Enough story ruled my life for years, and it was based on two negative self-beliefs-
- I was too introverted
- I didn't look good enough, and / or I was too fat
In my mind, both of these were permanent conditions that I was unable to change. I fully believed that I was doomed forever to social judgement, exclusion and loneliness.
On the rare occasion that I did feel like I was connecting with someone, or that someone might actually be interested in me, I viewed it with disbelief & suspicion...
Whaaat??... this cute girl is being friendly to me. Oh! She must want help with her calculus homework. Or, this could be an evil joke to make fun of me...
It's all about the Fear of Rejection
At its core, the Not Good Enough story is always about the Fear of Rejection.
You are always "good enough" for yourself. The Not Good Enough story only comes up in social situations, when rejection becomes a possibility.
Why is this exactly?
Think of your mind as having two voices...
- Fear, which is designed to keep you safe & alive at all costs, even if your life is 100 percent boring and lonely.
- Adventure, which wants more out of life - excitement, meaning, purpose, adventure, great social connections... everything life could possibly be.
These two voices are always in conflict, because they have different goals. Adventure is all about change, while Fear rejects all change as risky.
As a mammal, your Fear voice is strong, because fear is a form of pain.
A big part of the reason you are alive right now ( and able to read this ), is that your brain is exceptional at noticing, and avoiding pain. If that weren't the case, you would likely have died long ago... by eating more pizza than your stomach could fit, or running across the street with your eyes closed, or doing some crazy ridiculous stunt at the playground as a kid,
From a practical sense, you can think of fear like you think of your house. It shows you where you are comfortable, warm, dry, and safe. Hell, you can run around naked if you like, and probably no one will mind.
But if you spend ALL of your time living inside the walls of your house, and never go outside, what kind of life would that be?
In Truth, Not Good Enough is just an excuse
When you feel fear of rejection, and your mind can't explain the fear clearly, it is very good at finding legitimate-looking reasons.
Think back to a memorable situation where you felt not good enough. Most likely you can identify these two things in your thinking...
- Rejection is certain. Even though it's obviously not, your brain will work hard to convince you that, beyond any reasonable doubt, you will be rejected.
- Rejection has permanent, harmful consequences.
Grasping at straws
What I want you to see very clearly here is that the Not Good Enough story is simply the result of your brain "grasping at straws." Trying hard to justify the feeling of fear.
When I was a kid, I wasn't that fat. And, I wasn't that introverted. Almost certainly, I would not have been rejected by every person I said "Hi" to. But my brain did its best to ensure I never took that risk.
You can choose to react differently
All of your fears, including the Fear of Rejection are completely natural feelings. But many of us react to our fears by trying to justify them. We want to explain them, and give them legitimacy.
Why? Because when your mind experiences pain ( or fear ), it immediately wants to identify the cause, so that it knows what to avoid.
When we feel the emotion of fear, we then try to rationally explain it in a way that makes sense to our minds... identify a "legitimate" reason for the fear - and then we use that belief to justify why we should not proceed through the fear.
... because obviously, staying right were we are and doing nothing has kept us alive so far.
Avoiding fear is easy... but not free
The choice to Fight, Flee, or Freeze is ours to make ... but each choice is remembered, and reinforced.
We are creatures of habit.
Your brain learns from your choices, and - assuming you survive them - will strongly prefer that proven-survivable choice the next time you're in the same situation. This neurological mechanism in your brain is known as dendrites, and it's why habits are hard to break.
This is an crucial reality to understand, because avoiding fear is easy - but not free.
When you think "next time... I'll do it" you are in fact making next time much harder for yourself.
The "flee / freeze" pathways of your mind are reinforced every time you make that choice.
Here's what your mind is doing...
( Note: In general, I view the green pathways above as helpful. The red pathways as unhelpful, and the gray pathways as neutral. )
Key concepts to apply to your life
Study the diagram above carefully. I've condensed a lot of wisdom there.
Here are the key takeaways...
- Your Not Good Enough story is total bullshit. I mean that in the most literal sense of the word - it is a belief you create with zero regard for actual evidence.
- Fear is normal.
- Your mind prefers experience to imagination. When you have real-life experience, you mind chooses that as real evidence. When you have no real-life experience, your mind only has imagination, and uses it fully ( often, to imagine the worst case scenarios ).
- Rejection cannot harm you. Before you said "hi" to this person, you had no relationship with them. After you said "hi" to this person, you might still have no relationship. You have lost nothing, and gained confidence as you act with courage.
- The only way to make the fear of rejection disappear, is to face that fear with courage, go through it anyway in small doses, and survive it. This kind of evidence-building is known as immersion therapy. It's the only way your mind can see clearly that that fear is bullshit.
- Every time you choose to flee or freeze, your fear is validated, and reinforced. It will be stronger and more persistent next time.
- Every time you choose to fight - to go towards the fear and confront it directly, your fear is challenged. If you survive, you will have proven the fear has little basis, and that the threat wasn't that real. Next time you will feel less fear, and more excitement. Persist, and soon all the fear will be gone.
- As the Fear of Rejection dissipates, so does your Not Good Enough story.
Now get out there and kick butt.
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I remember as a very young child, that fear of rejection didn't exist. Whenever I saw another kid, my immediate reactions was Holy Crap, a KID! Let's go meet them.
I haven't found direct evidence of this, but my personal experience is that when we rationalize fears, my mind often seek something that is unchangeable.
I think this is a cop-out mechanism. If I can't solve the problem now, then I can't move forward safely.
Thoughts on fight, flee & freeze
Recent neuroscience indicates that the Fight response is different from the Flee / Freeze responses. See Dr. Andrew Huberman - The Neuroscience Of Courage & Fear.