Thursday, 15 September 2016

The trap of not feeling "good enough"

Margot, founder of YourMind, writes about how "not feeling good enough" is something many people go through, and explains how eventually, it can become manageable.

-Margot

The feeling of not being “good enough” is a feeling that I know well. It’s like an old friend that I know is bad for me but am too afraid to push away. Once in a while, it pays a visit - uninvited - and sits in my stomach, giving me that feeling of helplessness and laughing at my dreams of success. 

In the past, I would think to myself: “Yes, it’s uncomfortable and painful. But it’s been around for so long, how do I get rid of it now?”. I would struggle with it for days on end making myself miserable until I would get good feedback from someone, recognition for something that I had done; only then would it would evaporate. Of course, the fact that I relied on external validation to make the feeling go away meant that I was completely at its mercy. It was impossible to tell how long it would last.

The peak of my inability to deal with this feeling came during my Master’s year. I had applied to an MSc at a top university to test myself: in my mind, this would be the ultimate proof of whether I was “good enough” and, if I got in, would once and for all settle this gnawing feeling. I got accepted to the MSc but, needless to say, this didn’t help. Quite the contrary.

From the first day of the MSc, I started thinking that the admissions board had made a mistake. I was sure that someday I would be called into an office and told that there had been an “unfortunate mix-up”, and that I was not supposed to be on the course. With each difficult test or coursework, I became more convinced that I was the least clever person in my class and that everyone knew my secret: I was an impostor.

I started to believe that grades were the ultimate test of my intelligence. However, this was a trap. It didn’t matter that I did well in tests or graduated above my classmates: I kept telling myself that this didn’t prove anything, and that I probably had to work a lot more than my peers to achieve similar results. I reached the end of the year feeling completely drained. I felt like for the past year I had been running a marathon in which the end line kept getting further and further. I decided that I did not want to enter working life in this way and started seeing a therapist who helped me to develop healthier thinking habits.

These days, I am much better at taking control of my feelings. This isn’t to say that my old friend “not feeling good enough” never pays a visit, but it does mean that when it arrives, most of the time I am able to acknowledge it, greet it and live with it without making my life miserable. It eventually gets bored of me not giving it attention and goes away. I won’t lie and say that this change in attitude came easily: it didn’t. It required significant work on myself to change my thinking habits and at times the process seemed useless. However, it was worth it. 

Through working on myself I started telling people around me how I felt and realised that many people feel the same. I started seeing more and more people around me falling in the “not feeling good enough” trap that I knew so well and decided that if I could learn to avoid it then others could too. I was lucky enough to grow up in an open family with whom I could be open about my feelings, and that I was able to get therapy. I know very well that these are luxuries that many people unfortunately don’t have access to: seeing a therapist is expensive, time consuming and embarrassing for most people - so we don’t want to do it.

I began to wonder how these hurdles could be overcome and decided to set up YourMind, a platform to improve mental wellbeing through easy to implement tips and Skype sessions with highly qualified therapists. Skype sessions with therapists are highly effective and significantly more affordable than face-to-face therapy. I hope that with YourMind more people will have the opportunity of learning to be kinder to themselves and improve their mental wellbeing.

Building YourMind has not been easy and my old friend “not feeling good enough” visits on a regular basis. Some days I am better equipped to let it sit there alone while I get on with my life whereas others I fall back into old habits of engaging with it and end up feeling terrible. However, I know that habits aren’t changed overnight, so I keep working on it. 

You may be thinking that none of this applies to you and that you feel completely adequate. In that case, great! However, take a minute to think about whether there are other feelings or thoughts that affect your mental well-being. If there are, I encourage you to be mindful of them and speak to a friend or a professional - it can make a huge difference to your overall state of being. I’m not saying it will happen overnight, but it could make a bigger difference to your life than you expect…

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