by Judith Albright
There is no need to carry the burden of other people’s negative opinions
Have you spent most of your life feeling unworthy or somehow inferior? How many times have you held yourself back or prevented yourself from doing something you really wanted to do because you were convinced you weren’t “good enough?” This insidious belief is the silent saboteur that prevents us from going to college, seeking a promotion, finding a better job, signing up for the art class we always wanted to take, learning to play the piano, finding the right partner, and on and on…. It is a mental straitjacket that prevents us from achieving our goals.
How does this begin?
Were you told as a child (or even as an adult) that you’d never amount to anything, weren’t smart enough or just didn’t have what it takes to go somewhere in life? Did you learn to settle? Do you keep thinking that somehow you have to keep paying for or make up for past mistakes?
Much of what we believe about ourselves as adults reflects messages we’ve received from the people around us — family, friends, teachers, school mates, neighbors, religious leaders, bosses and co-workers. If you’ve had mostly positive feedback through the years, you are more likely to view yourself as a worthwhile and “good enough.” On the other hand, if you have received mostly negative feedback, especially during your formative years, and have been criticized, teased or devalued by others, you’re more likely to struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of failure.
When deep down you truly believe that you just don’t have what it takes and are never going to make it or be good enough, you keep repeating the old self-defeating behaviors and the same things keep happening. Isn’t that the definition of insanity… to keep doing what you’ve always done and expect something else to happen? Regardless of what you do or don’t do, you are stuck — mired down in your own destructive beliefs and thinking patterns.
What can you do about it?
To get unstuck it is necessary to take these old thoughts and beliefs out of the closet, dust them off and carefully examine all the reasons why you believe you are not good enough. Is this belief rooted in past failures or fear?
If it is any consolation, some of the most successful people in the world have struggled with multiple failures and suffered the caustic opinions of others. Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific inventors in history (holder of 1,093 U.S patents), yet when he was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. As an adult, he tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.
During Walt Disney’s first press conference, a newspaper editor ridiculed him because he had no good ideas for film production. Albert Einstein’s grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit because “he would never amount to anything.” Before joining the NBA, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because of his “lack of skill.”
If fear is holding you back, what exactly are you afraid of? Is this is a real fear or does it exist only in your mind? Ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that could happen to me if I were to do or try this? Would I be struck by lightning? Probably not. Would people laugh at me? So what? Laugh with them. Would I make a fool of myself or be ridiculed? Maybe, but not by anyone who truly matters. If someone ridicules you or fails to encourage your efforts, it says more about him or her than it does about you.
What or who is the source of your fear? When did this start — as a child or later on? Where did it happen? Who was involved? Whether or not you are still in contact with any of these people, it is time to break their power over you! What happened with a former boss or co-worker or what your third grade classmates or eighth grade teacher said or did is no longer important or relevant. You are not that same person and you are well past whatever happened. If it is unlikely you’ll ever have to deal with these people again, why are you still carrying around what they said or did and giving them free reign in your head? If the source of your fear is a particular event, learn what you can from it and let it go. Stop allowing something from the past to define who and what you are now.
While your parents and others may have shaped your beliefs about yourself in the past, you alone are the person who is in control of your adult self today. There is no longer any need to carry the burden of other people’s negative opinions around with you, and there is no time like the present to start altering a lifetime pattern of feeling “less than”. When will you be good enough? It will happen when you decide to be. You have the choice of continuing to agree with other people’s past negative opinions of you or you can choose for yourself who you are and who you want to be today. You may need a little help doing this, so find a trusted friend or a professional who can guide and support you through the process. The destination will be well worth the journey.