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5 Vital Lessons for People Who Feel Like They’re Not Good Enough

Sad Woman Behind Bars

“What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?” ~Erin Hanson

Like most people, my life has had its share of ups and downs.

My household growing up could be best described as a roller coaster. There were times of excitement and happiness, then there was the plummeting into darkness, shame, and self-loathing.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I felt that I was a mistake, unloved, and unwanted by my father. His mood swings and verbal abuse would come raging like a storm without any warning, and without any end in sight.

He often told me that I wasn’t good enough and that I was the reason for all of his problems.

I was often frightened to go home and face him. When my mother would have to go out of town, I would insist on staying with a friend because I didn’t feel safe being alone with him.

I was extraordinarily lucky to have such a warm and loving mother that provided me the love and support I needed to keep going. Despite all of her good intentions and love, though, I still found myself falling into a deep hole of depression and severe anxiety.

Some of the happier times that I remember from my childhood were the years that I was in gymnastics. It made me feel alive and free to express myself.

However, that too slowly led to destruction, as soon I began competing. My obsessive need to please others caused me such significant levels of anxiety that I decided to quit. I was only twelve, and my dreams of becoming an elite gymnast were over. 

Though it was a good decision to move on from that life, I was still left with this feeling of shame because I couldn’t mentally handle the pressure. I felt that I had let everyone down, including myself.

Also, without this release, my anxiety levels continued to increase, leaving me feeling on edge and awkward in my social interactions.

As I entered adolescence, I found it harder and harder to put myself out there, in fear that others would judge me. I worried that they would think I wasn’t good enough, cool enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.

I eventually created this hard exterior to prevent people from getting in and knowing the real me.

I believed for a long time that this wall was there to protect me; however, all it did was prevent me from building relationships with others, or even a relationship with myself.

For many years I self-medicated in various ways to deal with the pain and to allow myself to let my guard down just enough to find a solid, small groups of friends.

It wasn’t long before I became so depressed and anxious that my family doctor put me on medications to “fix me.” They numbed me so much, though, that I medicated myself on top of that to feel alive, which of course was a recipe for disaster.

After years of taking these medications, I couldn’t function without them. I’m became so desperate to feel alive that I took myself off of them cold turkey. This was not a pleasant experience. I went through a period where I secluded myself away from my friends and family and fell back into old habits.

I eventually managed to pull myself out of that hole after some intense therapy and self-reflection; however, I still struggled daily with my depression and anxiety.

Fast forward several years, after I graduated from my Masters program, and I found myself happily married, spending time with my close knit friends again, and working daily on myself.

I had finally cut out everything negative in my life except for chain-smoking cigarettes, and then I became pregnant with our first child.

My husband and I were ecstatic, but making that final step to quit smoking so suddenly threw me for a loop. Since it wasn’t just me now, I made the decision to try something new, yoga.

At first it was hard, boring, and frustrating. I didn’t get it. I kept going, though, and about the time I was six months pregnant I was finally getting the hang of it.

I didn’t just like it; I loved it! It has been just over five years since I walked into that first yoga class, and I am so thankful for everything it has taught me.

Here are the top five ways that I believe yoga has saved my sanity. It taught me that:

1. Practice makes progress.

For someone that struggles with perfectionism, this mantra has been a lifesaver.

When I first started my practice, I felt frustrated because I couldn’t make my poses look like the advanced yogis in the room. The reality was that those yogis didn’t accomplish those moves in their first class. It took time, patience, and self-acceptance to get there, and those poses could continue to progress from there.

There is no such thing as perfect but rather always room for growth. Striving for perfection is a no-win battle in all aspects of life, for perfection is a defining wall that we create in our own minds.

2. We have to acknowledge our own successes.

I have never been one to take compliments well. I doubted them and worried that they were insincere.

Even as I became stronger in my practice, I didn’t feel secure enough to attempt difficult poses in a class full of people. I feared that someone would find flaws in them or think I was a show-off.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally decided to just go for it. Since I made that leap, I have been able to grow so much more in my confidence and praise for myself.

If you can’t be proud of yourself, how can you expect others to be?

3. We need to surround ourselves with positive, happy people.

Ever heard of the phrase “You become who you surround yourself with”?

The yoga community is filled with joy, support, and kindness everywhere you turn. Although I am still not the most outgoing or social person, I embrace the positive energy every day when I am in a yoga class.

Everyone there has come there for a purpose—to better themselves. We all have our own stuff going on in our lives, but have taken a moment to come together and to take care of ourselves.

4. We can conquer our fears.

The first time I saw someone in crow pose, I convinced myself that I could never do something that difficult. I just knew I would fall on my face and everyone would laugh at me. I resisted even attempting it because I was scared of failure.

The thing is, though, sometimes we have to fall to then pick ourselves back up and try again.

Once I started practicing and finding success, I become braver every day on my mat and found that I could, in fact, accomplish much more than I ever believed I could. We are stronger than we think we are.

5. It’s okay to let ourselves be vulnerable.

There is a moment at the end of every yoga class when you lie on your mat in shavasana, with your eyes closed, and just breathe.

The idea of surrendering yourself in a room full of strangers is terrifying. This pose has taken me forever to feel comfortable in. It taught me that it is okay and actually good for the body and mind to let it all go and just be. This is when you can find peace within yourself.

It has now been twenty years since I quit my gymnastics career, and I have finally found something that has allowed me to get that same sense of freedom that I once felt as a child.

I know that every day after I finish my yoga class, I have let go of the enormous amount of tension that I constantly carry with me, and I feel content, relaxed, empowered, and proud of myself for what I have just accomplished.

I truly believe that yoga has saved my sanity and taught me how to love and respect myself. But you don’t need to go to a yoga class to learn these lessons. You can make the choice to let go of the pressure, tackle your fears, and celebrate yourself for being bold, brave, and vulnerable.

Sad woman image via Shutterstock

About Kelly Holmes

Kelly Holmes, LCSW is a psychotherapist and the owner of Monarch Counseling & Family Services, LLC located in Katy, Texas.  She specializes in helping adolescents and adults create positive changes in their life through strength based and empowerment approaches.  Connect with her on Facebook and subscribe to her blog and monthly newsletter through her website.

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  • Yet I have gone through life and no one has acknowledge my accomplishments or what I have done.

  • Sarah

    I could relate to so much in this. Especially the description of a life of anxiety caused by a critical parent. It’s nice to hear from someone who has made positive changes as I am striving to do as well. Great post! Thank you.

  • Bullyinglte

    Such an excelling article, Kelly. I went through much the same as you and felt I had lost the things I loved doing at a certain point and everything I did was for others. I started to get my self-worth, based on how others felt about me, instead of loving myself.

    Then I went through my dark days and realized with great help that I had to find the peace and reward in me and not through others. I chose exercise, Yoga, and Meditation as my “me” time and fell in love the learning to “practice” each of these. I gave up perfection with the idea of continual improvement.

    The calm of Yoga and Meditation in addition to the adrenalin rush of running and exercise was my ticket out. I continue to focus each day on finding the me in my life and carving out that space to spend with myself, to take care of myself, and actually be a friend to myself. It does work and your tips are great.

  • Great post Kelly, thanks for sharing your experience.

    I love the mantra
    ‘Practice makes progress’ something I will use myself when the ‘not enough itis’ comes a calling.

  • Acknowledge them yourself. Getting others to validate you is pointless. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself” x

  • Chantel Snow

    Beautifully written<3

  • Christina Rae

    sorry, but your mom should was not loving and caring leaving you with that man. your mother is just as responsible for what happened to you by him as he is. i am happy for you that you have found a non self-destructive manner to cope. i hope you are able to give your child everything you never got from your parents. and i hope you keep your child away from them.

  • Great article Kelly. Your description of yoga is such a great metaphor for life. As we learn all those wonderful lessons on the mat, we create the strength and awareness to use them off the mat. Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom.

  • Still not good enough

    I really find it odd that you would say surround yourself with positive people as I read that a lot…but you were not positive at that time and I’m sure the people who were at yoga class also wanted to surround themselves with positive people… So should you have been there? Maybe you would have brought them to your level…..I don’t know, I’m tired of that saying because I am not negative, I’m struggling I lived a life similar to your story except both parents were neglectful and I grew up in the system. Suffering from BPD, dysthymia and ADD, now 41 I am not married, no kids, no career, no friends, no money….no life…..you think yoga is going to change that? Whatever….

  • True, inside I have acknowledge all my achievements on the inside. Though on the outside, no one knows what I have accomplished.

  • Kate

    Your dad sounds incredibly abusive. You say, “I was extraordinarily lucky to have such a warm and loving mother that provided me the love and support I needed to keep going.” The most loving gesture your mom could have made was to leave your father and get you out of that destructive environment.

  • Kat

    Hi, Both of my parents were a nightmare. I chainsmoked most of my life. I also found yoga and finally found myself. I have been doing it for many years now. Its truly the way back to the body i was so scared to be in thanks to my scary parents. I moved now and havent found a yoga place yet. Reading this reminds me how important it is for me.

  • Matt

    “not married, no kids, no career, no friends, no money” …. I say pick one from the list and change it, make something. Maybe it won’t change anything but what if, down the road, it would?
    Pick one

  • Being denied love and being made to feel unworthy is, unfortunately,
    so prevalent in families and results from the transmission of this
    trauma from generation to generation. This is samsara in its social
    context.
    As a mindfulness therapist, I find that the application of
    mindfulness meditation is one of the most effective approaches available
    to heal that core emotional trauma. We need to meditate on the
    emotional pain itself (not the breath as is so often taught) because
    that is the source of our suffering and that is what requires our
    conscious attention and compassion if it is to heal. this is in stark
    contrast to our habit which is to avoid our suffering by distraction.

    Think of the emotional trauma as a child in pain and treat it the same way
    that you instinctively know to be right for the child and you will be
    meditating as the Buddha taught – for the purpose of bringing resolution
    to suffering internally and externally.

  • Jen

    Well done, Kelly! Ignore the negative comments here. I can relate so much to your youth with your dad. I’m in my 30s now and also working on letting the hurts from the past go. Keep going! Namaste!

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you Sarah! I appreciate you taking the time to read my post. Best wishes in your journey and keep working on making those positives changes!

  • Kelly Holmes

    Kate, thank you for taking the time to read my post. What I failed to share is that I never shared any of this with my incredible mother until my father was out of our lives. Children often don’t share with others about the distress of verbal abuse out of fear that no one will believe them or that what is being said to them is the truth. She is an amazing, kind, and loving mother and still carries the guilt with her about how I was treated. I hope that helps you understand why I made the statement I did.

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you for your kind words Jen! Namaste.

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom Peter.

  • Kelly Holmes

    Kat, thank you for taking the time to read my post. Best wishes in finding a place to practice your yoga and also know that creating a home based practice can be just as healing and rewarding!

  • Kelly Holmes

    Surrounding yourself with positive people helps provide you support in your struggle. Yoga and the community within is what helped me. I felt the same way when I started, but I kept at because I wanted to find the peace that I saw in others around me. Try a class and if it’s not for you I encourage you to explore other avenues and find the best fit for you. Best wishes in your journey 🙂

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you for you kind words Jennifer. Best wishes to you on and off your mat 🙂

  • Kelly Holmes

    Christina, I am sorry that that is what you took out of my post. The truth is my mother never knew the things he said to me because as I child I was scared to reveal them. When my father finally did leave and I informed her of what was going on growing up it hurt her and still does to this day. My mother is an amazing woman and I love her deeply. I hope that you can find some of the more positive lessons in my post rather than focus on a woman that wasn’t at fault.

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you Chantel and best wishes to you!

  • Kelly Holmes

    It really is a wonderful mantra isn’t it. I hope it brings you peace and awareness on those ugly “not enough itis” days 🙂

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you for your inspiring words and for sharing your story. Sharing our journeys not only can help others in need, but can also be healing for us to see how far we’ve come. Best wishes to you!

  • Kelly Holmes

    I am proud of you for acknowledging your achievements on the inside and I encourage you to share them with others. If you do not feel that you have a safe and supportive network already, seek out groups of people that share your interests. Finding others who share your passion will help you create the support group that we all need.

  • I try to find groups of people who share my interest but then again, the way society is going these days, is slim to none

  • Alexander

    Nicky,
    Your patience is amazing, and I think you are going about things the right way – reading Kelly Holmes’ article on this website, commenting for feedback, and being honest with yourself. Just remember, we will often draw people and experiences into our life which pretty much are aligned with how we view ourselves. Keep doing your best to grow internally into a positive and active person, and in turn, you will start to see happier and active people being drawn to you. They will want to be around you, and will not be able to stop in acknowledging your accomplishments – the biggest one being that you are the best version of yourself.

  • Alexander

    Great Article! I’m sure it will help several people 🙂

  • mona

    You’re so brave for sharing this story. Very eloquent, too. This motivates me to also establish a better sense of self and resilience.

  • Pamela

    I identified so much with what you have said here. I struggle with all of that on almost a daily basis. I have since had to confront a bunch of that. I have overcome a bunch of it, but I still have a long way to go. Your phrase, “Practice makes Progress” meant so much to me. Thank you.

  • jules

    I sort of know what you mean.
    I was impressed that you know how to tell the sory so well, it is comforting. It also makes me wonder, and makes me doubt myself. Why if this is what happens to so many people, or girls?, why don’t “we” acknowledge this painful fact that living parents influemce the comolete lives if their children and therefor their son or daughter in law, the parents and siblings of the in law, the friends of their child, and grandchildren.. etc all directly and indirectly.

    Its also as if we have had peace in our societies long enough now to be able to relax enough to stop using fight and flight, freeze and fawn responses, on ourselves amd children. Its as if we felt constantly threatened by others.

    In the light of yestersays its not odd your mother did not know because you didnt tell. But. Unfortunately, sort of conflicting for me, there were plenty of signs he behaved like that. My mother choose to protect herself, my father choose to protect himself, they never yelled at eachother but we were sort of forgotten a lot of the time.
    In their freeze-modes they just hide away. There was not alot of interaction.
    There’s no way to talk about that paet of your life, I feel dissapointed that my mom or dad wasnt able to change everything.
    I feel its unfair because i feel i have to try harder to change everything and be happy, and actually it worked pretty well so far. I wish they tried harder.
    Now after 15 y they start to become a parent again. I cannot lie, it is the best feeling.

    Thank you

  • Tell them, but you can’t expect them to react in a way you expect – they’ll react the way they react – you can’t control that. Knowing what you have inside is enough, isn’t it?

  • Lizzie Merritt

    Powerful post Kelly. Thank you. I believe that a lot of our issues with weight stem from the feelings that accompany “not good enough.”
    If we could just feel “enough” on the inside and not constantly compare ourselves to everyone else, or society’s impossible standards, then we would be free to love who we are, inside and out.
    The question is: “how do we feel ENOUGH?”
    Thank you for offering good advice on that.

  • Makayla

    As much as I want to accept myself, I’m like you. When I accomplish something I don’t let myself be proud… because if I do I feel like a liar. I too, think peoples compliments are not true, etc. And yes, I am a perfectionist, never happy with the results..
    I’m glad to know you are now in a happy place!

  • Lindsay Smith

    I can really relate Kelly…I have been going through some awful times the last 5 months…my husband left me and we are getting divorced…I have a two year old son…I have severe depression and anxiety and I take medication for it but it doesn’t help…I was having a really hard time making it through the days and still do….my dad is a recovering addict and I hate myself and am disgusted….I can’t get out of this hole I am in of hating myself as much as i try to think happy thoughts…..I am desperate for relief from this pain….I’m tired of panic attacks and thinking I would be better off dead…..I don’t feel I deserve anything good or a good relationship for that matter…..I really need help…..

  • Relationships can be a source of tremendous pain and suffering, but if you can learn to be compassionate toward yourself and heal this pain then you will have so much to offer to others. This is your chance to grow.

  • “You become who you surround yourself with” is a familiar phrase, indeed and one of the biggest takeaways from reading this article. A question came to mind that has me wondering….but what if someone is a loner? Then what does that person become since he or she isn’t surrounded by anyone on any given day? Maybe the answer is somewhere within the other four lessons listed here but I couldn’t help but wonder what type of impact does not being surrounded by people has on a person, whether positive or negative.

  • Kelly Holmes

    Thank you so much Alexander! Best wishes to you 🙂

  • “Conquer our fears” what a wonderful approach to life. Takes me back to all the wonderful coaches and mentors who showed up as “assistants” in helping me conquer fears. Thanks for the lovely reminders.

  • Jasmine

    I can certainly relate”not being loved by parents and siblings.All my life I fought hard to seek their approval,but nothing doing.I feel angry,and also jealous of those who have everything that I always wanted like loving husband,caring and understanding parents/siblings.How do I deal with that feeling of jealousy?
    And finding positive people,I can’t seem to find that either.Any one that I think could be helpful and supportive turns out judgmental.It would be nice to have people/friends that are supportive..But where,or how I find such people,no clue.

  • This makes good sense. 🙂

  • Ryan

    Can I ask which medications your doc put you on that numbed you? I related a lot to that part of the story, as I’m prescribed Adderall and sometimes smoke pot to feel alive again.

  • Marc

    Very wise words and ones I have heard before. Unfortunately, facing these fears and pains, for me, just seems to cause MORE pain, to the point that I can’t focus on anything else and often bring myself to tears many times. Also, they force me to mentally relive the experiences, which hurts even more. I definitely talk about them with others (including here!), but I have a feeling that the pain will never completely go away. I feel that all I can do now is just accept it as a part of my daily life. :-/ *BIG loving hugs to you and everyone*

  • This is a common problem at first, but it can be overcome with practice and right understanding of mindfulness meditation. The first point is to explore the nature of your relationship to the emotion and this means exploring the inner emotional imagery of the emotion. A common problem is that the inner picture of the fear is too close and too big and typically resides in a position above us. This is how the emotion exists internally. A simple practice to incorporate in your meditation on the emotion is to experiment with actively moving the emotion further away, to a lower level, and make it smaller. This is an advanced form of samatha meditation – to establish balance in relationship to mental content. Let me know how this works for you and feel free to email me if you have any questions.