Does a ‘Not Good Enough’ Story Hold You Back in Life?

A ‘not good enough’ story is the one I learnt early on in life.

I was 6 when I witnessed my mum’s slit writs and two puddles of blood on the kitchen floor. She was ushered to the hospital and stitched up. News spread like fire in Azerbaijan, and later that day I found myself on the staircase alone with several dozen pairs of shoes. As relatives and neighbours trickled in, I sat alone reflecting on why my mum tried to die and leave me behind. None of the adults took time to explain anything to me. I came to the conclusion that somehow I was not worth living for, that I was the cause of her unhappiness and that it was my fault she wanted to die. In short, I decided that I was not good enough. Looking back over my life, I can see how that belief has played out in many aspects of my life.

Here’s how that pattern showed up in education.

At school, although I worked hard, there was a girl in my class who performed better than me. Intellectually, I knew she had more support at home. I still beat myself up for not matching her results. When we were graduating from school, the top performers were awarded a medal. I had excellent marks in all subjects except one ‘4’ (equivalent to a ‘B’), so I got a silver medal and not a gold one. I knew that to get a gold medal, you needed to pay bribes and have connections in the town hall. Still, I never went back to school to collect my award, because it was not good enough.

You’d think I’d get wiser with time, but exactly the same thing happened when I graduated from my Masters course in England. I was three points short of getting a distinction, so I didn’t bother to go to my own graduation ceremony. Anything short of perfection was not good enough.

In my work life, the ‘not good enough’ story showed up in two ways.

For many years I was plagued with an imposter syndrome. I didn’t feel good enough and lived in fear of being discovered as an incompetent fraud, so the only solution was to hide out and keep a low profile. This story made me work harder than others; the belief that what I offered wasn’t sufficient nearly ran me into the ground.

And then there was money side of things, of course. Coming from a poor family, I made a vow to never be poor. But what qualifies as poor or rich? How much money is enough, right? Contrary to my hopes, my bank balance didn’t make me feel any better on the inside. I still felt poor irrespective of the amount I earned.

Another area of my life where the ‘not good enough’ story caused a lot of pain was in relation to my body.

Irrespective of my size and shape, for many years I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Whether I weighed 53 kilos or 80, my attitude towards my body was the same. I could detect (or imagine) some fat lurking under the skin and redouble my efforts to reach perfection. It was hard work and with time I gave up, choosing to ignore my body, except the story drained my energy in the background and encouraged me to hide away even more.

As to writing… well, don’t let me even start on that one!

It’s only becoming a mother that made this pattern so unbearably painful that I had to stop and take a hard look at it. On the one hand, I felt not good enough to mother my own kids. In my head, everything I did was short of perfection. Not only did I give myself a hard time, sometimes I turned against my husband too. My children deserved the best, I told myself.

But here’s the paradox: meeting my children’s needs was not good enough. I needed to be well, nurtured and resourced for them to feel settled in themselves and happy. The moment I slip into the old story, they mirror my inner distress right back at me. This realisation made me wonder whether I absorbed the story of ‘not good enough’ from my own mum long before she slit her wrists. Knowing how much this belief has cost me in life and how much it has held me back, I want to set a different example for my kids so that they can grow in the knowledge that they are whole and loved.

After all, it’s just a story.

you-are-enough

It can be hard to see it for what it is sometimes. I had to clear many layers before I could step out of the story and see it for what it is.

I’m working on a healing compassion meditation on ‘good enough’ which I will send out to people on my e-mail list in mid-November. Consider joining in  and please share your thoughts on this topic below.

23 thoughts on “Does a ‘Not Good Enough’ Story Hold You Back in Life?

    • How wonderful, Matthew, I’m so glad you got to that point. Life is so much easier and lighter when we are not caught up in those stories. Thank you for sharing.

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  1. Dear, dear Gulara…I just always enjoy reading your posts. Not because they’re funny, because always real and filled with honest wisdom.
    I read this early this morning and I got me thinking (as usual haha): Isn’t it ironic how we spend so much time not becoming our mother and without realizing, in a way, we become like her? For a part it helps me understand my mother more, at the same time it helps me discover the same patterns and why we better of without each other, as sad as that is.
    Thank you again Gulara for another great post.Big hug, XxX

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    • I totally know what you mean, Patty. I vowed to NEVER be like my mother, and I was horrified to see some of the patterns playing out in my own family. Needless to say they had to be cleared, but yes, even when we think we are doing a diametrically opposing thing, it’s still ends up unconsciously mirroring our own mothers, because the point of departure is what we witnessed, and doesn’t come from our true centre. Connecting to our true selves is the only antidote. Walking is great for that 🙂 And dogs. Big hug xxx

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  2. When I was a child, I was told being ‘only human’ was never good enough… My mother was a very narcissistic person so whatever I did…it was never enough. After many sessions of therapy, today I know good is good enough….but I still do not feel it. The feeling of being a incompetent fraud in everything I do, remains always in my head like a little devil on my shoulder shouting my writing is of very poor quality and all the languages I speak are of none importance in life, and I do not mention my poor qualities as a mother… I always feel like the little child in front of my narcissistic mother. All tough she is old and a lot less dangerous today 😉
    Thank you so much for bringing this up, as it really supports me.
    Making a succes is really just doing it and trusting you are good enough. Because….we simply are good 😀
    Thanks again. And….trust yourself. You are doing great! Big hug 😘

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    • Marije, my heart goes out to you! It’s a painful legacy to live with, and doing anything through that pain is like pushing a boulder up a steep hill. I’m so glad you healed some of that pain and know that you are good. We all are. I think most of the world’s pain comes from this feeling, and people act it out in different unhelpful and unhealthy ways. Our parents are no exception, except as children we have no idea that that’s the case, and by the time we grow up those stories solidify in our systems. It’s possible to flush them out though. Thank you very much for reading and sharing your story with me, Marije.

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  3. Lovely honest post, Gulara. Thank you for sharing your story – a work of fiction as you say, that can be changed. Changing it is never easy and takes much work. You are doing well, and I’m sure your children will benefit greatly from your self-awareness and self-determination.

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    • Thank you for your kind and encouraging comment, Norah. It’s true, change can take some time and requires self-awareness and determination to work through layers. It’s worth it though, because we benefit so many people, and the world at large by our own willingness to show up and face the uncomfortable stuff. As always, many-many thanks for all your support. I’m so grateful for our connection.

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  4. Hello Gulara,
    Thank you so much for writing this.
    This hit the nail on the head. It brought up very sad memories for me, me being on the other side of the fence at first, then having the same issues you battled with. I think the not good enough issue has been with me since childhood and it surfaces every now and then, more obviously than usual.
    I am looking forward to the healing compassion meditation. I’m not good with meditation at all but I will surely give it a try. I know, we must continue to work on this until it has no negative effects in our lives.
    I would have liked to re-blog this but I don’t see a re-blog button. I’d share via Twitter and I’d also like to ping back to it, if you don’t mind.

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    • Oh, Anne, I feel your pain. It’s hard when those stories come up. You have more awareness and capacity to feel and deal with them, and that’s why they get stronger these days.
      I call it meditation, because I guide you through a set of statements in the recording, but it a healing through the power of compassion. It’s not something you do every day. You can take it when the stories get loud for example, and you can feel the effect very quickly. It clears deep layers of consciousness. Amazing stuff. I hope you like it.
      And of course, Anne, please feel free to share the post in any way you like. Many many thanks!

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  5. Oh my goodness Gulara – how our childhood shapes our lives until we take that gigantic step and step away from it. It’s never easy – re-writing the script is the most difficult thing to do. Yet, becoming a mother is a great opportunity to open our eyes (your eyes) and KNOW that we cannot pass on our baggage to our offspring … Thank you for this heart wrenching post.

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    • Thank you for reading, Susan, and your heartful comment. Yes, neither carrying nor passing on the baggage doesn’t feel an option. Becoming a mother has been the steepest learning curve in my life. If I was doing self-development and healing like a full-time job before kids, after they arrived it became 10-fold. All worth it. With every story shed, I feel freer and happier. Hope you are keeping well.

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  6. You were good enough to attract a husband who blessed you with the gift of life by creating a child with you! You are GOOD, period! Me and my husband are not producing children, due to a disease I carry called Multiple Sclerosis.

    My system is not good enough to be a mother to my own children. Since I am now wheelchair bound, would not be able to give a kid enough play time together. You are able to do that!

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    • Dear Jeanette, I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who gifted me my children. I’m sorry to hear that you couldn’t have children. When I look at some parents, I wonder how come some people are even allowed to have children. I don’t think it has anything to do with being good enough. I also know some amazing people who couldn’t have kids and they have so many ways of mothering – birthing books, supporting other people, connecting with kids… Having said all of that, I hear you. I hear your pain. I hear your disappointment at not having kids. Thank you for reading and connecting with me here.

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  7. Very moving, Gulara. When doubt creeps in, particularly in such difficult life circumstances, it becomes nearly impossible to erase it from our minds. But yes, as you conclude here, our stories are good enough in their own unique way. Thank you for sharing. Hugs.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting dear Silvia. The stories go deep, it’s not just mind, is it. It’s like we embody some of the conclusions we make as children. The world is a different place now. So many opportunities to heal and release the stories which don’t serve us anymore. Big hug.

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  8. Gulara are we twins who were separated at birth? I recognise your story – the players and script are different but the message is the same – NOT GOOD ENOUGH! I’m just beginning to come to terms with what that means to me today and where those messages come from. Thank you for sharing again xx

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    • Lorraine, I always felt a special connection with you. You are more than good enough, you are AMAZING. But, I know coming from the outside doesn’t always help. It’s how we feel on the inside that matters. I hope you consider giving a go to the compassion meditation I’m going to send out soon. Are you on my list? No problem if not, happy to e-mail it to you separately if needed. Thank you so much for reading.xx

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  9. Oh goodness Gulara, I so could feel your pain as it resonates a lot of my pain too. My mom tried to abort me, but obviously that didn’t work. It is amazing what took place in our parents’ lives prior to having us, but we didn’t see that we had nothing to do with the issues our parents experienced. Therapy for me and learning about sleepwalking helped me realize that the issues I faced really had nothing to do with me. As it is with you and your family. I’m not as bright as you, nor was I as bright as my brother, but I loved creativity. It took me until a few years ago to learn that it is OK being me the way I am. Heck, I’m not even a bad person.

    Your story ripped my heart out, and I can so relate. Congratulations for allowing you to be OK the way you are… the loving mother, wife, and friend. Oh, I truly wish you lived closer! BIG HUGS!!

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    • I feel so near you through comments and the connection we built over the past nearly two years, Gwynn. I love you with all my heart. I think you nailed it – as children, we think adults around us are sane and together and know what they are doing. But from the adult prospective, we know that we carry so much baggage by the time our children are born… Many thanks for sharing your story and your heartfelt comment. Big hugs xx
      P.S. I’m taking part in this meditation experience. I’ve done two others with Deepak and Oprah, and I like the format. Give it a go? You can still catch up on the first three days. No pressure though, it may not be your thing. There are so many different ways to meditate.xx (http://www.choprafoundation.org/peace-2/oprah-deepak-creating-peace-from-the-inside-out/ )

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      • I signed up for the meditation experience. I’ll give it a try. My brother tried to teach me to meditate and it didn’t connect with me. My current form of meditation is walking the Poulsbo waterfront (my laps) taking nature into my heart and thanking God for the beauty in the world with the wildlife. I treasure nature and the sea. Or when I have trouble sleeping I imagine my teenage days of laying on the sandy beach soaking in the warmth of the sand, while enjoying the crash of the surf, and the cry of the seagulls… and this relaxes me. Thanks for your suggestion about Oprah’s series… I’ll see what happens. Hugs!

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  10. What a hard thing for a six-year-old to go through, and it is not surprising it had a big effect on you.
    Feeling not good enough seems to be part of the human condition, and is actively encouraged by some religions – I grew up believing that thinking you were good enough was wrong. (A sin.) But as you say, it’s all just a story.

    I totally agree with you that children echo our stories. ” The moment I slip into the old story, they mirror my inner distress right back at me.” Exactly. One day, many years ago, one of my daughters kicked me. Apart from feeling annoyed at her, I was also baffled why she would do that. Then I paused to reflect and realised I had been mentally kicking myself all day.
    I’d also agree with your observation that you’d probably absorbed the story of ‘not good enough’ from your own mum long before she slit her wrists. My feeling is that kids absorb messages from their parents almost from the start. I’ve even read that if we are anxious during pregnancy this affects the baby, because of raised cortisol levels. That could make mothers feel even more guilty of course, but instead it would be better to help deal with the anxiety!

    I’ve used several processes that have helped over the years, but for me, recognising that “not good enough” was just a feeling was probably what helped the most. If/when I notice it now, instead of fighting it, I can (mostly) allow it, and let it pass.

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