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Managing the “I’m Not Good Enough” Story

What we’re going to be talking about today is something that happens inside your head that may determine whether or not you have an action-packed enjoyable week or whether you have a crappy week.

What I’m about to reveal is the best-kept secret on the entire planet.

This is something that everybody has in common and yet nobody talks about it. What I’m talking about is the “I’m not good enough” story.

This is a story that we all have inside our minds. It’s a story that tells us why we suck. It’s this voice – this radio in our heads – constantly broadcasting negative thoughts, negative messages,  creating negative feelings, and every single person has it.

There are some possible exceptions, like highly psychopathic narcissists for example, but I believe even they have the story.

It goes a little something like this:

“You’re not good enough. You don’t know enough. You’re not brave enough. You can’t do it. It’s too hard. You suck. People are gonna judge you. You’re not gonna be able to achieve this. Give up now. You don’t have enough time … bla bla bla bla bla bla bla!”

This radio station in your head, constantly pelting you with really really unpleasant messages. Now most people walk around with this the story playing in their heads and feeling like they’re all alone, like they’re the only person that has this constant negative broadcast.

And by constant I don’t mean that it’s all the time. Sometimes you do feel good and you don’t hear those voices. But most the time, if you sit quietly long enough and you look at what you want to do with your life, this radio station starts playing. Sometimes it’s quiet; sometimes it’s loud.

And what we’re going to be talking about today is not trying to get rid of the radio station – because that’s actually not possible – we will talk about how to live with the radio playing, with the station playing inside your head.

What we’re talking about here is how to accept the negative things that are happening inside your head, rather than trying to fight against them, because here’s another big secret:

The harder you fight, the bigger and stronger they get!

They only control you because you try to fight them. But how do you deal with them if you can’t fight them? What are you supposed to do, just sit around and bathe in negative thoughts and negative emotions all day?

Of course not! That would suck. What we’re going to talk about instead is coming to terms with having the story in your head, realizing that you are a human being and part of the way that our cognition works – the fact that we have a brain that thinks with language and predicts the future and looks over the past – means that we are guaranteed to have this story inside our heads.

Where the story comes from

For most people, when you track back to when this story first started broadcasting inside your mind, it’s usually in childhood.

There is a kind of carefree attitude in childhood but eventually something comes in and cuts into that. Now for some people it’s their earliest memory. People who have had neglectful or traumatic childhoods, straight away from the very beginning there was the I’m not good enough story.

Some people might call it The shit life story or the I’m a bad father story or the I’m a loser story or the nobody likes me story… it doesn’t really matter, it’s the same story. It’s the I’m not good enough story.

So for myself – full disclosure – the started for me as far back as I can remember. In my earliest childhood there was the story. Now there’s other stories in there as well. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not  like I live with entire negativity – nobody really does – but there are some people who are attached to the story more than others, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

So my story started when I was a lot younger. Particularly I have memories of when I was 5 to 7 years old – that’s about my earliest memories, everything before that’s pretty much a blank. I remember being a bit of a crybaby; you know, I was one of those kids who always cried when he hurt his knee or when somebody yelled at him or when he got trouble.

I was the crybaby kid

I remember the story of I’m a crybaby in my head; this kind of identity. And what that led to be doing was trying to never cry. So I got to the age of about 7 years old and really just turned off the tears somehow. I can’t remember exactly what I went through to make that happen, but at some point I just stopped crying as a child, and I’ve barely cried since you know – at funerals maybe, occasionally some break down by myself – but most of the time I don’t cry .

I turned it off at that age and that’s when the story started for me. Now since then I’ve added plenty to this story. There are times where I look at myself in a certain role, when it’s got a specific I’m not good enough story to go with it. So I’ll be coaching people and thinking “I’m a fraud, how can I help them if I can’t help myself? And what do I know about the brain; I don’t even have a Doctorate yet” – you know; these kind of messages just broadcasting, telling me that I’m not good enough.

And what we want to do today is we want to find out what you’re I’m not good enough story is, because no matter how confident you are, no matter how much you’ve got it sorted, every now and then the story comes and plays in your head, and you know it’s in there because without this story you would not experience anxiety.

How the story helps you

Without the story you wouldn’t care about anything at all! The story is in fact very important to your ability to enjoy and experience life because – here’s a question I want to ask you – would you rather experience sadness and anxiety and frustration and anger and all those negative emotions as they’re so called, or would you rather not feel anything at all?

You’ve got those two options. (There are some people who say Yes to this, by the way.)

So you can either choose to experience the full range of emotions – all the good and the bad (or should I say more like the enjoyable with the unenjoyable) – or you can have none at all. You cannot have just the positives, just the happy ones. The brain doesn’t work that way because you’d actually need a comparison to even know what those things are.

These are points of reference with each other, these emotions. You can’t know what it’s like to be happy if you’ve never been sad or bored. You can’t know what it’s like to be angry if you’ve never been calm. The story – that I’m not good enough story that’s playing in your head – actually serves as a point of reference for you to enjoy your life.

And it’s full! Jam-packed full of very valuable information for you. The I’m not good enough story tells you everything you need to know about where you can develop your life in order to become – in your eyes – a better person, a more authentic person somebody, who lives by their values.

So today I want to figure out what your I’m not good enough story is, and this is actually a very simple exercise because for most people that radio station is on all the time in the background. Sometimes it’s very very quiet; you can’t notice it and another radio station is playing like “Man you’re awesome! Man you’re doing really well” – occasionally that one comes in. That one’s much more enjoyable to listen to… but in the background, waiting to be turned up at any point of time, is the I’m not good enough radio broadcast, the big secret that nobody talks about.

Facing your dark side

I want you to get a pen and paper and I want you to get dark for a little with me ok?

I want you to sit down, I want you to write down everything that really demonstrates the story. I want you ask yourself “Why do I think I’m not good enough?” and “How do I think I’m not good enough?” and don’t try to undo this, don’t try to justify or rationalize. Don’t try to to sell yourself short like “I shouldn’t think that” and “I shouldn’t think that…” that’s actually part of the story.

If you write I’m a bad mother or I’m a terrible friend and you think “That’s a stupid thing to think; I’m a great friend!” then you’ve got to write “that’s a stupid thing to think” right? That’s part of the I’m not good enough story – invalidating your own emotions; invalidating your own anxiety.

I want you to get it all down, every thought that occurs to you that’s negative.

At some point you have to stop because I don’t want you to write like this for six months (because that’s probably how long it takes to get the full story out!) Just get down the key ones that come up all the time.

For me, if I think about my coaching, the I’m not good enough story goes something like “I’m a fraud, nobody’s gonna want to sign up with me, I’m just lying to myself, how am I supposed to help others if I can’t fix my own issues?” so on so forth – that’s my Coach I’m not good enough story.

Then there’s my Social I’m not good enough story – “Girls won’t find me attractive, I neglect my friends, I’m too scared of strangers bla bla bla…”

Now there’s plenty of evidence that goes against all of that stuff, but this is not what that it’s about – it’s about the story. Forget the evidence, forget balancing and trying to fix this just, get the true story out.

Write until you can really look at that and just feel awful. So you can look at the story and go “Man! That story sucks! Woo that stings!” That’s an important thing to get to. I probably should have warned you at the start of this video – we’re not going to be pussying around here – we’re going to cut down to the core of what undermines your enjoyment of life, what takes away the meaning or the fullness and the richness of life.

Today is all about the dark side. Get that story down. Once you’ve done that – so pause now if you want to do it – complete it, come back.

Let’s get uncomfortable

I want you to read through the story and I want you to really get into it – really buy into that story. Just allow yourself to believe it. Just really sink into the story and feel the anxiety, feel the loathing and the panic and the pain that comes with believing this story.

I’m going somewhere with this, I do promise you.

Now, here’s what’s important: once you’ve gotten into that state – really bought into this story – I want you to just gently take that bit of paper with the story on it and I want you to place it on your lap. We’re not going to deny that the story exists, we’re not going to try and escape from it, we’re not going to pretend it’s not what it is. We’re just going to live with it by having it sitting on our lap just for now.

For now, quite quite literally on your lap (it’s also a metaphor).

So the story is sitting on your lap and I don’t want you to try and forget this story. I am NOT trying to distract you from the story – that story still exists, that radio station is playing in your mind whether you want to or not. You can’t help that.

Mindfulness

But while you’ve got that sitting on your lap, I want you to just clench your fingers and unclench them, really tight, just so you can feel that pressure.

Clench and release, clench and release.

And while you’re doing that, I want you to have a look around the room. I want you to clearly identify with your eyes five objects or five characteristics of the room.

So now you’ve got the story, and you’ve got the clenched fists, and you’ve got five objects in the room, wherever they might be.

And now maybe you can start breathing deeply as well (slowly in and out).

So now you’ve got the story, you’ve got the clenching fists, you’ve got the breathing, you’ve got the five objects in the room, and you can keep expanding out like this. Find some sounds to listen to, find emotions within your body, find other thoughts inside your head, find the temperature on your skin, the pressure on your ass (if you’re sitting down) or pressure on your feet if you’re standing.

Start finding other things that are happening in your world besides the story.

Now this is not to distract you from the story, this is just to help you understand that the story is not all there is. If you buy into that story – if you’re listening to the radio station on full volume – and you just bring their story up to your face and you’re just grounded in that story, what you’re actually doing is you’re missing out on a lot of other things that are happening. The whole world becomes the story.

And I’m not saying that the story doesn’t exist. I’m not saying to avoid the story. It’s just to make room for it amongst everything else that’s happening.

This is all mindfulness. So you don’t need to meditate to be mindful. Being mindful just means being present, being aware, being curious.

The next stage, what I want you to do is take that story page and turn it over…

Give that story a name.

Alright so mine is the “I’m not good enough story” – I find it easier to call it that. Sometimes I have a more specific story – “I’m not a good coach, I’m a bad coach” that “I’m a bad coach” story.

Some people might say the “I’m a terrible mother” story, “I’m a shit person story” or whatever – give it a name. Now you can give it a humorous name if you want, but don’t undermine the story; don’t make it sound stupid, don’t try and give it a humorous name to make it sound silly, but if it makes you laugh that’s okay.

What we want is… we want this kind of title that sums up the whole story. The “I’m a dumbass” story – the “I’m always going to be poor” story or something… whatever it is, it applies to you.

Read over your story, come up with a good title for it.

Put that title on the other side of your piece of paper. Now above that I want you to write this: “Ah ha! I know this! It’s the … story”

E.g “Ah ha! I know this! It’s the I’m not good enough story,” all right?

So what you’ve done there is you created the story on one side, and what I want you to do is I want you to read this story every single day.

Face it every day

This is the opposite, you might say, of positive affirmations.  This is about you understanding what the story is in your head that you have to live with.

Read that story every day, and then I want you to turn that piece of paper over and I want you to read that out loud:

“Ah ha! I know this! It’s the I’m not good enough story!”

And then I want you to engage in some of that mindfulness we just talked about. Recognize some other things that are happening in your world. Place the story on your lap and make it part of the world, but not the whole world. Embrace the story.

That story is part of you; that story gives you definition and helps give you reference points for what is good in life. It gives you guidance as to where you can go next to improve yourself and it also reminds you that you’re a human being – if you did not have the story you would be highly psychopathic, there would be something seriously broken. You would not be able to enjoy anything in life without the story.

The story is a part of you – you don’t have to be grateful for the story necessarily, if you don’t want to. I’m not telling you to do anything – you don’t have to do anything – just understand that we’ve all got the story.

You’re not alone.

I have this story; I’ve always had it, I always will have it. All your friends have it. The most confident people have this story.

Rich people worry about being poor. Skinny people worry about being fat. Fat people worry about being skinny (sometimes). I once worried about having too many clients… then I worried about not having enough clients.

The story that just punishes you, day in, day out, and it has no rationality. It doesn’t care about the evidence to the contrary. It’s just a radio station tuned in to gloominess and unhappiness. You try to fight the story, it just gets louder – it’s like turning up the volume, until it covers you, until your whole world is the story.

What we’re doing is, we’re not trying to get rid of the story, we just understand that the story is in context part of a bigger picture. There is also sights and sounds. There is also evidence of good things. There is also feelings in the body.

You can carry the story around and still do what you need to do.

The story that says “Hey I’m a bad coach!” – it doesn’t stop me from coaching. It’s just there sometimes while I coach.

This story that tells you that no one’s gonna like you – that doesn’t have to stop you from approaching people and making new friends. You just tuck that story under your arm and you go ahead and do it, and you feel the anxiety and you feel whatever you need to feel. But you also feel the other feelings. You also notice what’s happening in your environment. You make the picture bigger than just the story.

So have a go at that. It takes a while to get used to. This is often a big complete mindset shift for people, where they’ve tried to avoid and push and distract themselves from the story their whole lives.

What we’re talking about “No no this story is part of you.” It’s time to bring the story into your life, allow it to be, and through doing so allow your life to actually be richer more full.

It allows you to take the actions you need to take, while the story is just playing in the background. It’s just a radio station. It’s just a stone in your shoe. You can feel it, you can still do what you need to do.

2 Responses

  1. I stopped myself from crying as well when I was 9. I cried and got upset all the time when I was little and I’m not sure what changed either, but one day, I just shut it off. Through watching this video, I realized that my story is the “I’m constantly under attack” story. AH HA!

    Thanks, Dan!

    p.s. Watched your Facing Fear video from back in 2013. Is that downtown Auckland? Was in NZ for a year till 2 months ago!

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