How to Cure a Severe Case of Not-Good-Enough-itis

This feeling: second-guessing, self-doubt. And with it, a choking sensation: I'm Not Good Enough. It feels similar to regret. It feels like a missed opportunity, like waking up and realizing you just slept through an important event.

People say hindsight is 20/20, right? I say hindsight is curse/curse. Looking back, I can only see all the ways I could have done better, said more, said less, used a different tone, tried harder, tried less hard. Hindsight always reinforces my deepest fear: I'm not good enough.

Sometimes people ask me about the lingering effects of being raised in a high-demand church. This is one of those effects: always feeling like I never measure up, that no matter how hard I try or how much I do--it's never, never enough.

I think many people feel this way--even if they weren't raised in a high-demand group. Our society itself has become high-demand. So much is expected of us and there is so much pressure to perform.

But when you're never given the freedom to make mistakes--or even the freedom to just be human--you end up holding yourself to an impossibly high standard and harshly berating yourself whenever you do make mistakes.

When someone tells me there's "always room for improvement," I feel a sudden wave of panic. On the one hand, I want to improve. On the other hand, the pressure to improve paralyzes me.

I usually try to improve by placing the bar so high and packing my schedule so tightly, there is no margin for error. The problem is that mistakes will be made, but if there is no margin for error, the accident seems huge and uncontrolled.

I once heard that walking is controlled falling. I'm trying to be better about creating margins for "controlled falling" in my life. This means I have to literally schedule time to crash-n-burn. I build hard-stops in my schedule for "controlled falling."

Right now that time is 1pm. I work really hard every morning, knowing that at 1pm, I need to let my brain crash and burn. Even if I'd rather work through my scheduled crash-n-burn time, I force myself to go crash on the couch. I tuck myself in with a quilt and I turn off my brain.

How do I turn off my brain? A cooking show or light-reading book. Nothing too stimulating. Nothing, in fact, that evokes any kind of feeling or provokes thought. The goal is to let my brain rest. If I'm successful at calming down, I'm able to fall asleep for about fifteen minutes.

When I'm feeling particularly down on myself or convinced that I'm not Good Enough, it's usually because I'm overtired, over-scheduled, overworked or worrying about the outcome of some future event.

For me, at least, the best way to resolve a severe case of Not Good Enough-itis, is by allowing myself to be human. When my brain and body get a chance to relax, I'm able to see things more objectively. But as long as I stay in a frantic, fast-paced mode, I am unable to see things clearly and that's when dangerous mistakes happen.

There's this expectation out there that applauds the high-performing multi-tasker. I can definitely perform for short bursts of time in a high-producing, multi-tasking environment. But I also desperately need down-time.

Otherwise, I won't do anything well.