Fear and Shame of Being “Not Good Enough”

Janette could still recall the fear and shame that overtook her 30 years ago when she was riding the TTC.  It was a hot summer day, and the bus was quite stuffy.  She longed to stand-up and open the window that was positioned between her and the next person.  But she couldn’t do it.  She could not do the simple task of opening a window to get relief from the heat. 

It wasn’t that she was physically unable, rather it was because she felt paralyzed by what other people around her would think.  Would they get angry if she opened the window?  Would they think she was being forward?  She felt they would look at her and think she’d done something wrong.  The feeling of shame and fear that Janette experienced traces to an underlying belief of “not being good enough”.

Many of us walk around with this belief.  Typically, it traces from childhood and for many of us, it relates to being from a dysfunctional family.  However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case.  For some people, adverse experiences during school, work or other social settings, can also bring about this belief. 

To counteract this, we might avoid social situations.  We might not speak up and let our needs be known.  If we stay small and invisible, then it reduces the risk that someone will look down on us.  It decreases the chance of activating the sense of low self-worth that comes from the “not good enough” belief.  Or we might become people pleasers, over-achievers, or perfectionists.  There’s less risk in being shamed If we are doing everything right and making everyone happy.

While this helps to get us through life without activating the shame and fear that comes with not being good enough, it creates conflict within.  It takes a lot of energy to go through life and put-up walls to keep people out.  And it takes a lot of energy when we take on the fears and worries of other people.     

It’s not easy work to let go of the fear and shame that keeps us from being our authentic selves.  It starts with building awareness that this is happening and then being curious about why it is happening.  It takes time to work with a therapist to uncover and understand these issues. 

Once we become aware and begin to understand and accept why things are as they are, then we can begin a journey of transformation.  A journey that allows us to be okay with who we are.  The parts of us that are wrapped up in people-pleasing, social isolation, over-achieving, or other defense mechanisms, begin to let go and shift.  With a shift, we can then work on self-growth.  It is then okay to live the life we want.  To live a life of purpose and fulfillment.