“I’m insignificant in this world.”
That was the last drunken text I sent before realizing I was sliding down an alcohol-lubricated slope. It was what caused me to actively seek out help for my drinking.
6 years later and I’m in therapy again while my wife and I deal with some issues.
My therapist and I were talking last week and I was talking about masculinity and being clueless about how to be masculine since my father was a weekend Dad and effectively couldn’t teach me how to deal with feelings in a constructive way; instead I learned by emulating other guys – holding my feelings in and trying to appear tough, the whole while, toiling in the pain of being uber sensitive.
I mentioned that I used to play baseball and I would be able to hit the ball fine during practice. But my Dad would show up and while I was up to bat, he’d yell “Go Mike!”
I would freeze. Something about him being there and seeing me made me so nervous that I would just stand there, not swing the bat and walk or strike out.
“What about your father being there made you so nervous” my therapist asked.
I thought and sat in silence while I tried to remember and examine the feeling.
“I don’t know. He just wasn’t there that much and it was a lot of pressure” I said.
“What was the fear? What was causing you to be so nervous” she probed.
“I didn’t want him to see me fail. I didn’t feel like I was good enough.”
She said “that’s really powerful. These deep beliefs can really be hard to get rid of.” So I finally started seeing how many times it’s shown up in my life, including that last drunken text message.
It’s always been there. Like a ghost hovering over my bed.
What’s crazy is that I couldn’t see this belief for what it was. It was/is so limiting and debilitating.
She asked me to examine all aspects of that belief and then answer the question “when AM I good enough?”
I was barely able to answer that question this week, except to say “when I was singing Guns ‘n’ Roses while walking down the street and day dreaming about singing at karaoke.”
So I obviously need to work on that one, but here are some of the ways in which it presents itself in various areas of my life.
Do any of these apply to your life?
- I’m hardcore into self-improvement and having the best possible life. So not only am “I” not good enough, but I’m also highly critical of my wife and our home and to a lesser degree, our kids.
- My wife has remarked that nothing is ever good enough for me. She’s right.
- I get something set in place and then move on to the next. I’m not sure what percentage is perfectionist vs idealism vs ADD mind spinning out of control.
- I work in a super competitive industry where companies seem to think they own you and your time because they pay you well. And I never feel good enough, so I drive myself to exhaustion and then collapse and start slacking off for huge periods. It’s a very predictable cycle marked by overachievent and underachievement and it very succinctly describes my entire professional career. The low points cause me to quit and leave for a new high stress job that pays more. And the high points make me look good enough that I don’t get fired during the low points. Good Christ.
- Let’s not talk about how all of this plays together with my need for external validation, because that’s when it really gets messy.
- Other than marriage, it does affect my home life. I’m unhappy when I see a messy house. I’m unhappy with the way my schedule is put together, the lack of alone time, lack of time with other adults, etc.
- I give my 5 year old shit for not doing X the right way. I’m so happy I found this belief because it shows me that I’m trapping him in the same feelings.
- I can’t just write a blog post and publish it. I belabor it for days until I finally lose interest or give up (admittedly I wrote this a week or two ago and am forcing myself to finish it today). So you’ll see periods of nothing on my blog for months or years at a time. But behind the scenes? I think I have hundreds of ideas, some titles, some half written articles. I recently wrote an email to my readers about filling out a survey and tested two different versions. One I wrote in minutes. The other I belabored, made it this big personal story and I liked writing it. But it took a lot of time so had it not been for needing important information from my readers, I probably wouldn’t have finished.
But guess what?
THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE OPENED EACH EMAIL!
I didn’t need to beat myself up about writing this fantastic message.
I didn’t need to spend precious time that I don’t have writing a second email. Good enough is good enough!
This is a colassal finding for me. It has shaped my entire life and continues to be a button I let people press in me.
How will I gracefully tell people “I’m fine just the way I am” without ending it “go f*ck yourself if you don’t like it” remains to be seen. But for now, it’s a game changer.
Have you had any huge perception-shifting realizations about yourself? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
When you’re done here, come share in our Facebook community. There’s already been some great comments about not feeling good enough and a great TED video about vulnerability! Come join in the discussion!