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"Am I Good Enough?!" The Most Damaging Question You Can Ask Yourself

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

Did you know that one of the most common fears among Americans is the fear of public speaking? This fear is typically ranked higher on most surveys than the fear of dying!

Like Jerry Seinfeld once famously pointed out, “…most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give a eulogy.”

From a therapist’s standpoint, very few people are actually afraid of public speaking.

Instead, what is actually happening is a fear of being rejected by those people staring at you. They may believe you aren’t knowledgeable, you look funny, you’re stuttering, or maybe that you’re just a waste of time to listen to.

When you dig deep underneath all of these little fears the bigger fear is wondering "am I good enough for my audience?"

"Not Good Enough" - A Very Common Fear

Regardless your age, marital status, occupation, or household income, everyone at some point in time wonders "am I good enough?"

Am I being a good enough son or daughter?

Do my kids think I’m enough for them?

What if my boss doesn’t think I’m good enough at my job?

What if I’m not good enough to find a spouse and get married?

Unfortunately, a lot of people spend hours wondering if they are good enough for others. We wake up in the morning wondering what people may think or say about us or we lay in bed at night replaying a conversation—praying that we didn’t make a fool of ourselves.

We spend countless hours trying to impress others. The ironic part is that those people you are trying to impress are wrapped-up in their own heads wondering the exact same things.

Did I make a fool of myself?

Did I ask the wrong question in class?

Did I disappoint someone else?

For some of us, the questions never end. And with every question asked, the anxiety and fear of believing you are not good enough, increases.

So how do we make it stop? How do we calm our thoughts and worries of "am I good enough for others?"

Activity to Overcome the "Am I Good Enough" Fear

My favorite activity to give clients that are struggling with fear is a self-reflection letter.

Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, just go with me—What do you have to lose?!

First, grab a pen and paper and think about the very first time you felt like you were not good enough for someone.

Write down how old you were, what grade you were in, and what did you look like. Close your eyes and try to remember the specific details of that event. Write down everything you can about the memory. Chances are, you were probably pretty young, maybe even in grade school.

Now that you have a written out memory of what occurred, write a letter to your {age} year-old self.

For example, a client told me that her first experience was when she was 7 years old. Her teacher called on her to answer a question. When she answered, the whole class laughed and the teacher giggled.

It took my client a long time to dig to her very first memory but when she found it, she knew that it was her first one because that was the exact moment she stopped answering questions at school.

During the letter that you write to yourself, there are three key pieces you need to include:

First, write down everything that you needed to hear during that event/memory. What did you need to hear from your parent, a friend, a teacher? This list can be as long as you like. Write all of it down.

The second piece is, if you were sitting with your younger-self right now, what would you say and do with him or her? What would you say to calm the child down? Would you hold her? Would you sit next to him? Again, write down everything that you would do.

The final piece to write about is why you ARE good enough during that situation/memory. Write down what made you a good enough person/student/child during that event.

Now that you have finished writing this letter, keep it. I recommend that clients re-read the letter and add to it as time passes. Is there more that you need to tell your younger self? She or he may creep back up again and need some comfort.

Don’t dismiss your feelings and emotions; calm your inner child by telling yourself what you needed to hear as a child.

How Does this Help You Overcome the "Not Good Enough" Fear

A lot of clients give me a blank, and even a crazy, look when I ask them to do this exercise. I ensure them that it will help for one large reason.

A lot of what we currently believe about ourselves was shaped when we were children!

Unfortunately, when we experience negative or harmful events those “lessons” become a part of our identity.

When clients return to the age when the memory of when they were “not good enough” happened, we can heal it. Over time, we can start to create a new identity that includes, “I am good enough!”

This activity tends to be difficult activity for people to do. Not because it’s challenging but because it’s emotionally draining.

It’s hard to go back to a wound that may have never healed. It’s tough to return to the past and remember such a hurtful event. But I promise, it’ll help you heal.

Summing Up: You Are Good Enough

One of the worst questions you can ask yourself is: What if I am not good enough? This question leaves an opportunity for fear to come in a say, “You are not good enough. You’ll never be good enough.”

Instead, return to the event and answer the question by writing a letter to your younger self.

Change the question to a statement: I AM good enough and here’s why…

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