Ladies and gents, I don’t know about you, but if I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself “I’m not good enough” I’d have paid off my student loan and some by now. “I’m not good enough” and phrases to a similar effect have been an integral part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember, and my god is it damaging.
However, recently I came across something that has changed the way I think about these phrases. If you don’t know who Brené Brown is, then you better get to know, because *girl crush alert* – she is incredible. I’ve talked about her before on my blog and I’ll talk about her again because her research is revolutionary and I wish everyone would embrace even a tiny bit of what she preaches. I’m reading her book at the moment called “Rising Strong” (highly recommend) in which she talks about the steps she’s found in her research that are crucial in order to “rise strong” aka how to pick yourself back up after you’ve fallen down. In going through these steps, she talks about ‘rumbling’ with the stories we tell ourselves. Basically, owning our story; getting serious and honest with ourselves, which is not always easy.
When something bad happens to us and there is a lack of real data or reason to explain this bad thing, we make up a story. You may not recognise this at first because it can be such a subconscious process, but we do. We are story telling creatures because we don’t like ambiguity; we like certainty, and the beginning-middle-end structure of stories provide us with this certainty that we crave. When our brains recognise the complete structure of a story they reward us with dopamine, so we are quite literally biologically wired to make stories. The downfall is that the stories don’t need to be true. Brené said her go-to story is “I’m not enough”. Girl, same. “I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough” is a narrative that has become so engrained in my thought process over the years that I’ve never really stopped to question it’s truth. In the face of rejection, hurt, and anger, we are more often than not fuelled by emotion instead of logic, and so we grasp onto the first thing that can provide us with some sense of meaning to explain what we are experiencing, regardless of it’s truth. We fill our incomplete stories with false information and damaging beliefs about ourselves in order to create the sense of a completion. This is how the “I’m not good enough” narrative is born.
And this next part is where Brené went and fucked me up real good – she says: “What do we call a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.” GUYS. I’VE BEEN LIVING A LIE. WHY DID SHANE DAWSON NEVER MAKE A VIDEO ABOUT THIS FOR HIS CHANNEL.
Wikipedia defines a conspiracy theory as something that is “based on prejudice or insufficient evidence. Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it, are re-interpreted as evidence of it’s truth, and the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than proof.” This is exactly what happened with me and “I’m not good enough” – I would twist any evidence that supported the contrary into evidence that supported my belief about myself. It didn’t matter what proof people had to show that I was in fact enough, I believed “I’m not good enough” with my whole heart.
“The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness.” – Brené Brown
These stories are dangerous, they are incredibly damaging. Our brains are clever; neural pathways that are used repetitively are strengthened and so the more often we engage in these false stories, the more readily they become our default thought pathways, for situations big and small. Fail a test – “I’m not good enough”, partner breaks up with you – “I’m not good enough”, get turned down for a job – “I’m not good enough”, can’t pass the next level on candy crush – “I’m not good enough”. We revert to a damaging version of reality before we even have the chance to question it.
Here’s the real kicker – “When unconscious storytelling becomes our default, we often keep tripping over the same issue, staying down when we fall, and having different versions of the same problem in our relationships.” Basically what Brené is saying here, is that it is imperative you wake up and question the stories you are telling yourself. If you don’t take the time to stop and pick apart the damaging stories you are telling yourself, the same issues will continue to haunt you. I really agree with this. I can’t even begin to tell you how much my story of “I’m not good enough” has infiltrated and caused problems in different areas of my life. It has affected my friendships, relationships, schooling, career, hobbies, personality, my dreams and goals. The story has well and truly been on repeat, and it has haunted me in places and ways I never anticipated it would. I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next person, but this one is toxic, and it’s time to put it to bed.
So I challenge you, next time you are faced with fear, hurt, pain, rejection, or any negative emotion, and you’re grappling for some sort of meaning to explain the situation, take a moment to reality check the narrative you are forming. Become aware with the story you are telling yourself – Is it factual, or merely a conspiracy theory? I don’t care if you’re a member of the flat earth society, or believe the moon landing was fake, but “I’m not good enough” is one conspiracy theory I don’t want you to believe in.
Featured image by @manjitthapp on instagram