How do you cope with not feeling good enough for a job you’re getting paid to do? Or maybe it’s not about work: you don’t feel good enough in your family, relationships, or as a parent. How do you start feeling better about yourself when you constantly feel bad?
On What to Do When You Feel Bad About Yourself, I described how I grew up not feeling good enough. It was worse, in fact: I hated myself. I always blamed my feelings of low self-worth on having a schizophrenic mother and no father (I finally met him when I was 29 years old). I couldn’t commit to a long-term relationship or marriage because I didn’t feel good enough to be loved. I didn’t know how to love myself, so I couldn’t love others.
Maybe you don’t feel good enough for a happy relationship, better job, or nice friends. Maybe you even hate yourself, like I did. Maybe you feel stupid, fat, and ugly – and maybe you deliberately hurt yourself because you think you deserve to be in pain. Maybe you binge on cookies and ice cream, buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have, or sink into a carafe of wine at lunch. You know it doesn’t help you feel better, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.
I don’t know how you cope with not feeling good enough…but I know you’re coping somehow. You’re dealing with your pain and shame one way or another, and it’s not working for you. If it was, you wouldn’t be saying “I don’t feel good enough.”
7 Ways to Start Feeling Better About Yourself
“I am 58 years old and for the first time in my entire life, I am genuinely happy,” says a reader called Brian on one of my managing stress blog posts. “I am happy with the person I have become. Because I made the decision to work on my relationship with myself, I am able to do what I truly love the most. I am able to develop positive relationships with others and help others who have been through similar issues.”
I don’t know exactly how Brian learned how to feel good about himself, but I do know what worked for me. I’ll share what helped me feel better about myself here; feel free to share your own story and thoughts in the comments section below.
1. Recognize the signs of self-hatred, shame, and pain
The first thing is to pay attention to how you show feelings of inferiority. There are signs in your life that you aren’t happy, that you don’t feel good enough, and that you need to renew how you think about who you are. Sometimes these signs are clear! For example, I wrote “I hate myself” in my diary when I was in grade 8. And when I was in university. And when I was in my mid-30s.
Other signs of self-hatred or pain:
- Cutting or physical self-harm
- Drug or alcohol addictions
- Financial debt
- Overeating, anorexia, or other eating disorders
- Unhealthy relationships
- Self-harm or hurting others
It’s important to recognize how you’re trying to manage or cope with your feelings of not being good enough. This says a lot about your personality and can offer clues on how to heal your self-image.
2. Become aware of how you talk to yourself
I used to call myself stupid, fat, and ugly. I beat myself up for making mistakes, and refused to let myself off the hook for anything. I’d ruminate on something I said or did 20 years earlier. I didn’t just not feel good enough to take up space, I hated who I was and what I was doing. I couldn’t start feeling better about myself until I noticed how mean I was to me.
How do you talk to yourself? Do you berate yourself for mistakes, call yourself names, or focus on all the ways and reasons you’re not good enough? Or maybe you hear your sister’s voice in your head, or your mom’s. You’ve heard people tell you you’re not good enough all your life…and you believes them. So that’s what you tell yourself now: “I’m not good enough.”
3. Get it out of you
I always felt ashamed because of my mom’s schizophrenia. Her appearance, actions, words…it was so hard to admit that she was my mother. She’d show up at school and I’d run and hide. She’d call me on the phone, and I’d press the phone hard against my ear so the people around me couldn’t hear her yelling weird stuff.
When I finally started telling my friends that my mom is schizophrenic, I was shocked at their reactions! In a good way 🙂 They were supportive, kind, understanding, and accepting. I thought I had this deep dark secret that I needed to hide…but people were actually so nice about it. I couldn’t believe it – the ugly secret that I had been hiding for so long was actually harmless.
It’s hard to admit that you don’t feel good enough, but talking can help heal the pain and shame. What you hide in the dark shadows grows big and ugly. What you bring out into the open starts to breathe and heal. Talking to people you trust doesn’t just bring peace, it brings you closer to them. This will help you feel better about yourself.
In Rising Strong, Brene Brown says walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous – but it’s how we heal. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Rising strong after a fall is how you learn how to cultivate wholeheartedness.
If you can’t admit to people that you don’t feel good enough, learn how to be vulnerable and honest. It’s scary! But it’s worth it.
4. Learn how they started feeling better about themselves
Different people learn how to feel good about themselves in different ways. Some people volunteer, others dedicate careers to finding a cure for cancer. Some people get super fit and healthy, others teach kids how to read. Some people write, others build bridges. Remember that everyone feels bad about themselves sometimes; ask people you respect how they learned how to stop feeling bad about themselves.
You might even interview yourself! When was the last time you felt good about yourself? What were you doing, who were you with, how long did it last, why do you think you felt so good? If you’ve never felt good about who you are, read How to Stop Hating Yourself.
5. Take little steps every day
“I spent so much of my life longing for external acceptance from others that I never looked within myself,” said Brian on my article about feeling better about yourself. “I never listened to my internal feelings, I never put myself first. Working on developing a stronger sense of self is not an easy task…Working on small aspects of yourself every day is how we can all begin to learn to love ourselves and let go of that guilt and pain that we are all so familiar with.”
Developing a stronger sense of yourself is one way to overcome feelings of not being good enough. It didn’t work for me, though. I don’t have enough love or spirit to fill myself with an endless source of peace, joy, and compassion. What worked for me was building a stronger, more personal relationship with God.
6. Become aware of who you might have to forgive
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that you might not feel good enough to be loved by your mom, husband, children, coworkers or neighbors. Maybe you feel bad about yourself because you were deeply hurt. It’s hard to work through the pain, but forgiveness is one of the best ways to start feeling better about yourself.
Forgiveness was key to Brian. “This self-hatred that had consumed me for so many years has now disappeared. I now realize that I know I am a good human being and that I do matter, regardless of what I was told by my parents my entire life. In fact, I am so incredibly content with myself that I have forgiven my parents. I now realize that my parents also had a poor upbringing, and I can understand where their actions and words were coming from.”
7. Learn the power of God’s love
The only way to learn how to love yourself is to accept love from a perfect source. You can’t engineer or create your own source of love. A human can’t give you the love you need. A possession or situation can’t stop you from not feeling good enough.
In The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself: How Loving Yourself the Way God Does Can Bring Healing and Freedom to Your Life, Jerry and Denise Basel reveal how to stop punishing yourself for not being good enough. They’ll teach you how to love yourself the way God loves you. Opening your soul to God – who is the only source of pure, unconditional, perfect love – is the key to learning how to love yourself. Accepting His love, basking in His warm light of acceptance and grace, and filling up on His Spirit is the only way you’ll ever get enough love.
Learning how to feel better about yourself is a gradual process, like a seed growing into a plant and blossoming. Find the right path. Keep growing forward.
My goal is to be like my dog. She doesn’t have to learn how to feel better about herself; in fact, she never thinks of herself at all! She just exists in the moment. She loves to sleep when she’s sleeping, she loves chasing and playing with other dogs when she’s at the dog park, and she loves eating her frozen peanut butter treats when she’s snacking in front of the fireplace. She doesn’t care what people think. She is just is her authentic self in all situations.
Wouldn’t that be sweet?