Self esteem: Am I good enough?

Am I good enough? Am I a fraud? How long will it be before my boss figures out I don’t know what I’m doing and lets me go? These questions are asked by pretty much everybody at one point or another. I don’t care who you are, or how skilled you may be in a given area, every now and again you will feel the exact opposite. You’ll find yourself feeling like an unskilled tosser who doesn’t deserve to be in your position. For most of us, these feelings are fleeting. They come, and then they go just as quickly. We write off our losses (or our failures) as just a bad day, or a run of bad luck. Sometimes however, these ideas about ourselves seem to run on an endless loop in our heads. We just can’t shake the idea that it’s all going to come crashing down at any moment, and that we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

So how do we deal with all this, and just where does it come from? Well, there is no “one size fits all” answer but there are certainly some common elements we can look at which you may find helpful. In order to make this conversation easy, I’m going to pick a single life skill that most of us will be able to relate to: Driving a car. If you think back to your first driving lesson, you’ll remember how nervous you were. Oh sure, you knew the basics of operating a vehicle in that you understood the right hand pedal made the car go and the left one stopped you, but actually sitting in the driver’s seat quickly showed that there was a lot more to be learned. Over time however, you got the hang of shifting, signalling and moving out into the flow of traffic at roundabouts (at least the ones near your house). Eventually you gained enough of these new skills that you passed your test, and you were given the keys to the automotive kingdom. You were now a driver (at least on paper).

If you look back on that now (or just have a peak at the constant batch of new drivers being unleased on our roads), you’ll recognise that you thought you had far greater driving skills than you actually had. The knowledge that new drivers think they know more than they do is the reason that insurance costs are so high for them. Now, years later, you actually do know more about driving and you’ve probably got several thousand miles under your belt to boot. Having said that, you also now know what is actually involved in driving a vehicle well, as opposed to just being able to reach your destination without crashing into a lamp post. This is why, when you leave your driving comfort zone and do something like travel to another country and rent a car, the whole idea is so daunting. You know that your excellent skills driving around Hertfordshire may not be all that helpful trying to tackle the 405 Freeway through Los Angeles at rush hour. In fact, it is precisely because of your greater skills and awareness of what good driving entails that you’re so painfully aware of that which you don’t really know how to do.

This idea can be transferred across a great many areas of one’s life whether you’re a stock market trader or a school teacher, a solicitor or a warehouse manager. You now understand just how much there is to know about your area of expertise that once upon a time was beyond comprehension. Often, this greater knowledge leads us to feel as if we know nothing, and sometimes these voices can be difficult to shut down. The problem is that no matter how much we’ve learned, or how great our skills become, we just keep finding out how much more there is to know. Couple this with the simple fact that sometimes there are forces in the world that we have no control over (other people’s lack of knowledge and competence for example), at times it can feel that no matter what we try to do we’re just going to be a failure.

Coming to a place where one feels “good enough” can be tricky, but it is certainly not impossible. To begin with, it might be helpful to have an independent person to speak with who understands how the mind works, and how these voices can sometimes get so far into our heads that they seem impossible to get out. If you sometimes have a problem feeling good enough, or wondering if you’ll ever be found out, then it may be that a short spell of counselling can help. If you would like to know more about how counselling can help with these feelings and you live in the general Bishops Stortford area, please feel free to contact me on 01279 834467 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs prior to making an appointment.