As a coach, I have the opportunity to have really deep and meaningful conversations with people around me. I am struck by how strong the belief that “I am not good enough” is in many people, especially with women. This is not to say that I don’t have bouts of that, but I know when it gets triggered in me 😉
Something very closely linked to this thought that ‘I’m not good enough’ is the belief that we failed in something, that we did not do what was expected of us or that we were not successful when we tried something and sometimes these events are indelibly preserved in our memories and shape our beliefs about ourselves. For example, maybe you stood on stage and completely forgot your lines when you were 8 years old and experienced a strong sense of fear and shame and to this day you believe that you are not a good public speaker because of that one incident.
What’s important to know is that these deep set beliefs are based on memories which are actually not accurate. Even the memories of our important days in life or strong emotional memories are subject to distortion. We remember some pieces of an event but forget others, and the event details we recall often are shaped by our current mindset and moulded by thoughts and experiences that have occurred between the original event and the moment of remembering. And to top it all, our brains are wired to remember the negative experiences more than the positive ones.
So in simple terms, our self-concept is based on our distorted and negative-focused memories. We simple fail to take into account all the good things we have done, all the positive impact we have had and all the successes we have had. This imbalance in how we look at our past experiences is what leads to this feeling of ‘I’m not good enough’.
So how do we change that? One way is to catch yourself, in the moment, when you are focusing only on the negative experiences and remind yourself of all the positive experiences related to that context. And then choose to take a more balanced view of your capabilities. This is one way to stop holding yourself back.
The other way is to start looking at any experience as just one of your life experiences and not as your ‘defining moment’ for life. So what if you forgot your lines – nothing is stopping you from stepping up on the stage and trying again. Only you are!
In fact, if you reflect back and can be objective, the things that seemed like a failure at that moment later probably turned out to be something that moved you in the direction that you really wanted to go in. There is no failure – it’s just another experience which teaches you more about the direction you want to go towards.
Here’s a great video of Oprah talking about failure.
So go on, live in the moment, let go of past baggage and be kind to yourself!