Got a feeling – of not being good enough?
A simple exercise to transform ‘not good enough’ into compassion
Have you been hard on yourself lately? Have you or someone you love been extra critical about yourself, or feeling discouraged about mistakes or failures? Are you sometimes (or always) plagued by the feeling of not being good enough, no matter what?
You are not alone
You are certainly not alone if you struggle with these feelings from time to time or often. In this rapid-fire culture of images, information overload; overwhelming work and personal responsibilities, and the ever striving pursuit of happiness, it’s easy to feel less than good enough on every front.
Comparing yourself unfavorably
You may compare yourself negatively at work to colleagues who are more productive, or more social, or who seem to have it easier than you. Then you might come home and feel like a bad parent because you forgot about your daughter’s list of camp gear she needs by tomorrow. You may feel bad about your home and how messy or disorganized or small it is. Or overwhelmed because you can’t keep up with writing postcards and making phone calls to your political representatives about all of the current important injustices there are to address.
Shame around impossible expectations
Lots of times, our sense of overwhelm or not being good enough comes from how much there is to do, and how inadequate we feel to do all the priorities at 100%. Our sense of overwhelm can also come from how we view not only what there is to do, but ourselves, in that negative, diminishing way – somehow feeling shame about ourselves because we have so much to do and can’t possibly do it. And we think everyone else is on top of it all. Or because we don’t feel smart enough, or quick enough, or thin enough, or with enough energy; or funny enough, or beautiful enough, or rich enough… On and on it can go. Good enough for what, I wonder?
To help you put a pause on that potentially endless and relentless barrage of inadequacy you (or someone you love) might be inclined to put upon yourself, here’s a sweet and simple exercise that could have a powerful impact. Try it out with someone you feel close to (a partner, close friend, pet).
An exercise in compassion
Each if you think about a recent time when you were highly self-critical or did something that you felt not good enough about, or blamed yourself or were especially hard on yourself about… Got it? (Usually it doesn’t take too long to come up with at least one thing).
Talk openly, one at a time to the other about what that was like for you. What were your feelings? What kinds of things did you say to yourself? How and where did you feel that sense of inadequacy in your body?
The listener’s job is to listen and hear you fully, and breathe in those feelings of self criticism that you are saying. Then with intention, transform those feelings into compassion.
Breathe in the hurt
The listener can transform the feelings that have been hurtful to you by first feeling just what it feels like to say mean or discounting things to oneself (we all know how awful that can feel). The listener breathes in that hurt and shares in what the partner is feeling.
Breathe out the compassion
Then he or she offers statements of compassion like, “Oh that must have hurt.” “May you be free from that suffering.” “ May you be at peace.” “May you let go of that pain.” “May you be happy.” “May you be kind to yourself.” “May you treat yourself with the compassion you deserve.”
Breathe in the compassion
When the listener says these kind of things to you, your job is then to receive that compassion. Breathe in the kindness or the understanding your partner has presented you. Take 15 to 20 seconds to really feel what that feels like and install the good. See what it feels like, to be listened to with compassion, and to take that in.
Softening the part of you that feels not good enough
Pay special attention to that part of you that felt not good enough – has it softened even a little bit? Of course, this is best as a shared exercise, so after you’ve fully taken in that compassion for who you are, it’s time to return the favor and hear from your partner his or her experiences of not feeling good enough; and transform that into your compassion and then give it back.
If your close one can’t articulate their self-demeaning experience (like a child or a pet), you can still practice breathing in their hurt and transforming it into compassion and then offering it back in some way (a gentle touch, a soothing song, a sweet smile) and see how your infusion of compassion might change how they feel.
Shared common humanity affects how we see ourselves and can help us to feel good enough
Experiencing common humanity or getting a sense of suffering being shared, helps to transform one’s experience of not being good enough. Receiving and giving compassion can directly impact how we feel about ourselves. Be generous with your compassion, and you’ll probably also end up feeling better about yourself.
I’d love to hear from you about ways that you offer compassion to yourself or to others when struggling with not feeling good enough. Respond to this post with your comments and ideas.
To learn more ways to feel better about yourself, please visit my website here…www.cindiriveratherapy.com.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
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