Not Good Enough & Anxiety
This will be my 15 minute rant of a psychotherapist, which is a title my kids adore… “hah mom- you’re a psychotherapist… mhmm yeah mom, you are” the psycho part I guess. What I want to discuss is today, the concept of “not being good enough”. I’ve had 5 sessions today, and this is a theme that recurs in most of them. No matter what we talk about, it usually comes back to the feeling of “I'm not good enough”. Sometimes it’s not as blatant as that, but sometimes it is. It always comes back to a sense of fear, of not living up to expectations. But what does this mean, “I'm not good enough”? I’ve struggled with this feeling for my entire life and being where I am now, having been practicing as long as I have, I genuinely believed that I’d worked though my issues with self esteem and self worth. That this feeling is not something that I carry or harbor anymore, but it is sneaky… it creeps up on you when you don’t even see it there. When out of nowhere a new opportunity, venture, project, or relationship hits, voila- there’s a pause. A pause where this feeling, of not being good enough, pops into the back of your mind. If you examine this pause, you can ask yourself- am I pausing because it’s new, uncharted, unexplored territory unknowing of what’s going to happen? That pause of I wonder- is healthy. Or is it a pause of I can’t, a fear based pause? I talk a lot about fear based and desire based pauses in my sessions because the things that we do typically falls under one or the other. Desire based is “this is fun for me, I enjoy it”. Fear based is “I have to do this because I'm trying to avoid a consequence” or “I have to do this because I am trying to prove something to myself or other people”. If this is something we struggle with, this concept of not feeling good enough bleeds into everything we do. It rears its ugly head into places where there should be joy. It’s the opposite of confidence, of “I’ve got this”, and of empowerment. This feeling goes a step further and is a manifestation of a heavy feeling in the chest, quickening of the heart, out of fear or dread. Then what? At some point we all feel this until we get to know who we are but for some of us the pause lasts a little too long and creates doubt, which manifests into anxiety. It transforms and builds. Anxiety is a feeling more than nervousness. It serves as a warning. I believe in the way that I practice, and with my experience through literature and personal experience, that I’ve noticed and learned that everything we experience happens for a reason. I’m not talking about divine reason. I’m talking about that it serves a purpose, whether it is a beneficial or harmful purpose. Every reaction, every thought we have serves a purpose. It’s there because there is a lack of something, or because of prior history. Anxiety serves as a warning to either “hey, pay attention to this warning” or “hey, do you know what’s going to happen if you do this?” Most of the time the ones we recognize are the “what are you thinking, do you understand how you’re going to crash and burn if you do this” warnings. Those are the ones that are more prevalent, that we’re mindful of because the other ones come and go.
If you look at this feeling of anxiety, where does it live? What do I mean by that? All of our emotions live somewhere in our body. It sounds crazy, I know, but think about it. When you feel scared, what do you feel? Commonly, when you feel scared it’s something in your chest. A lot of people say “I felt it in my chest, my heart skipped a beat”. For other people it’s like something dropped in the pit of their stomach. For others, like myself, fear is a tingly sensation in my fingers. So take an accounting of were these different feelings resonate, where does it live in your body? Another thing that might be a little different- take loneliness, for example. For me, loneliness makes me feel physically cold. I can be under my comforter, with the quilt on top and still feel cold, even with my house set on 75! Seriously 2 blankets and I still feel cold!? Either I’m sick or something else is up. And in being mindful and paying attention to what’s happening before and now after I’ve been able to connect the dots to everytime that I feel lonely, I feel cold. So, why do we need to pay attention to what’s going on? Well our minds and our bodies are all connected. A lot of times you experience a sensation physically that you’re not aware of consciously. For example, one day 2 years ago, I had just dropped my kids off with their father and they were going to go to school the next day, which happened to be my son’s birthday. After dropping them off, I went to the grocery store to buy candy and things for his goodie bags and cupcakes to take to his school. I know that I made time to spend his birthday with him. We also did something the day before, and had plans for that weekend. If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to overcompensate. That’s just what I do. So we got the birthday covered, right? I’m parked outside of publix, sitting there, and I realize that I’m having a hard time breathing. So I take a deep breath and think “okay what’s going on”? I was on the phone with a friend, so I'm talking this through and I think “I don’t know what’s going on…” and then the difficulty breathing started to feel like a pain in my chest, so I’m like “ooookay… numbness in the arm on the left side and tingly feeling in my fingers… don’t really know why”. I am having a great conversation with my friend right now and had plans to eat dinner and relax later, (which I don’t get a lot of time to do) so this is a great moment. The kids are handled, with their dad. Everything is good… what’s the problem? I consciously, cognitively, could not come up with why. Why am I having this physiological experience unless I'm having a heart attack? I thought I might have to go to the ER because maybe this is the beginning of a heart attack. Who knows? I’m not old enough to be having this but we all know that’s how it works sometimes. So I took a moment and thought “okay, this is very similar to having a panic attack… why would I be having a panic attack? What am I panicking over? I’m not panicking over anything. I'm laughing, talking, excited about having a day off and relaxing, so what is the problem?” I could not figure it out. Well those of you who know me would realize, and I know that this is my first of many blogs so you will get to know me- that these kids are everything to me. I breathe and bleed for them. One of my most significant reasons for existing is for these babies. They’re mine and everything to me, and for the first time since my son was born, I will not get to wake up with my baby boy on his birthday. So even though on the surface everything is great- I have a plan for the day, I'm going to see him at school, celebrate him that weekend, for the first time ever I don’t get to wake up with him. This led to me having a panic attack because someone that is so important to me is going to be inaccessible. When I was able to figure that out, the pressure valve was released a little bit on the anxiety in my brain. That nervousness that had manifested in the panic attack is tied to my worth as a mom. What kind of mother is not there to celebrate her son’s birthday. Is it true? No. I know you guys are thinking that, because I'm thinking that. Hello… overcompensating mom over here trying to make sure this baby knows he’s loved. He knows he’s loved. This is my stuff that I needed to work though. Have I yet? No. I’m working on it and we are all masterpieces at work on ourselves. I didn’t feel worthy enough, I didn’t feel like a good enough mother because I couldn’t make this thing happen. Now, once I attach it to the sense of worth, I realize this is a deep wound that the reactions resonates from. This is one example of not feeling good enough. We all have our own, and we need to take the time to figure it out. One thing that I can tell you all for sure, is that it’s universal. We all experience this from time to time. The next time you feel this anxiety or don’t feel good enough, try to see why and where its manifesting from.