Overcoming the Fear of Not Being Good Enough

I was terrified to start my own business. And even now — now that I’ve made the leap and I’m in it, for better or for worse — I’m still scared for at least a little bit, every day. I’ll have moments (or hours or days) when I believe that I’m not smart enough, not productive enough, not talented enough to make this work. I’ll be certain that I’m not competent enough to build a business and be a success, no matter how much I want it — and no matter how much I may have already proven otherwise. There are days I’m convinced that any success I’ve had thus far has been a fluke — a careful combination of luck and timing. So, even I grapple with feelings that I am just not good enough. How about you?

Not every day is like this, of course. There are days when I feel more confident, when I believe in my own ability; but it can be hard to remember those moments of positivity when I’m mired in feelings of self-doubt, when I feel like an impostor, or when I’m sure I won’t ever quite measure up to the sky-high success of the other women entrepreneurs I watch and admire.

My friends are often surprised to hear this, just as I’m surprised to hear of their own insecurities. The women in my life are incredibly smart, hard-working, and talented. And I’m not just saying that because they’re my friends (although, of course, these are many of the reasons I want them in my life to begin with!). I’m saying this because I truly believe in their abilities and their value — I see it and I hear it and I feel it every time I talk to them. So, it’s surprising to hear that they don’t always feel the same. But then again, neither do I.

“I feel a lot of pressure to always be the best I can be at everything — the best wife, daughter, friend, colleague, role model, confidant, bridesmaid, bride, dog mommy, etc. You name it, I have tried to be the best at it,” says Shannon Shapiro, a 25-year old product marketing manager from Westlake Village, California. “I WANT to be all of these things to everyone, but the truth is, it isn’t humanly possible to be everything to everyone. No matter how badly you want it.”

Emily Greener, co-founder and CEO of I Am That Girl, adds: “We’re running around every day and we look in the mirror, but we don’t really see ourselves. All of us are starving to be seen, to be heard, to belong.”

Study after study confirms that this desire to be everything to everyone and the subsequent fear of not being “good enough” is pervasive, especially among women. And I’ve personally seen it manifesting itself not only in our professional lives, but in our personal lives as well. There’s no denying that it’s detrimental to our personal and professional progress, to our relationships, and most importantly, to our love for and confidence in ourselves.

Why aren’t I good enough?

There are, of course, a lot of varying factors that contribute to not feeling good enough, including the usual suspects: the unrealistic portrayal of women in fashion and media; the seemingly constant murmurs to be the best wife/mother/boardroom executive you can be; and, of course, Beyoncé.

If we recognize and pay attention to the source of our self-doubt, there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll be conscious of it and able to work through it once it starts to creep in. So it’s important to note that two of the biggest proponents of low self-worth require a little more self-reflection: constant comparison of ourselves to other women (particularly on social media platforms) and the insane amount of pressure we put on ourselves to do, be, and have it all.

Comparison

“We’re an obsessive, icon-type of culture, so we want to be like other people,” said Emily. And I’d agree.

As a society, we’ve identified invisible markers of success: do you have a booming career and a nice house? Are you married? Are you healthy and conventionally fit? More often than not, we compare ourselves to those we feel have already reached these “accomplishments” — even if their actual reality may be different than what we perceive or if our personal definition of success isn’t on par with someone else’s. 

As a society, we’ve identified invisible markers of success. More often than not, we compare ourselves to those we feel have already reached these “accomplishments.”

“I think social media plays a huge factor in making women feel like they must be absolutely perfect all of the time. It’s so much easier to compare yourself to others’ seemingly perfect lives and get sucked into a rabbit hole of comparison, self-doubt, and shame,” says Nailah Blades, the 30-year old co-founder of social media marketing agency, Donna and Nailah.

Alishan Hopping, a 32-year old healthcare recruiter from Atlanta, agrees: “The Internet brings on a lot of this pressure because there’s a constant barrage of someone doing more. Someone being better. Someone giving more. It’s exhausting.”

When I find myself in comparison mode (one quick scroll through Instagram oughta do the trick!), I try to weigh my perception with the likely reality. And I remind myself that someone else’s definition of accomplishment doesn’t necessarily have to be mine. I’m always seeking to understand what “success” means on my own terms and remember to view my own life through that lens. 

Remember, own your definition of success, not someone else’s.

Self-pressure

Though feelings of low self-worth can be traced to external sources, the pressure to be perfect often comes from within. 

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, writer and research professor, Brene Brown, says: “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect.”

And I think most of us, inherently, know that. So why the constant quest for it? If we understand that perfectionism is not a reality, why do we pressure ourselves to achieve it? To attain the unattainable?

“We, as women, put the pressure on ourselves because we know what we’re capable of and we want to make sure that we step up to our own expectations of that,” said Stephanie Guerami, a 29-year old associate director of marketing living in New York. “It’s a matter of changing our own minds about the fact that it’s OK to not have everything together 100% of the time.”

There’s value in setting high expectations, of course — and in pushing yourself to pursue goals and accomplishments outside of your comfort zone. But I try to remember that striving for something — moving past the fear of “not having it all together” and going after what I want anyway (as I’ve done with my business) — is its own version of success too, whether I fail or not.

How do I overcome the fear of not being good enough?
 

So, what then? How do we move past this fear? We can’t just forever avoid the siren song of Us Weekly and Instagram (well, I certainly can’t; maybe you possess some sort of superhuman time-wasting-activity willpower). Once we recognize our feelings of inadequacy and we’ve pinpointed the source of our insecurity, how do we push forward?

The struggle is undoubtedly real. But I think we can change that.

Be honest and encouraging

If we were all a little bit more transparent about our lives, about our fears, about where we feel we’re falling short — we might better understand that we all struggle with this; we’re all in this together.

I’m not saying you have to (or should) take to the Internet to air your deepest insecurities, but you can at least be open and honest with the people that you trust. We all have people in our lives who know us well — those who can often see us better than we can see ourselves. Turn to them for perspective when you’re least able to see it.

Donna Queza, a 30-year old co-founder of social media marketing agency, Donna and Nailah, shares: “I’ve worked really hard as I get older to surround myself with smart, honest people. It’s not about comparisons and one-upmanship; it’s really about finding people who support you and make you a better version of yourself.”

“[At I Am That Girl], our special sauce is being vulnerable and sharing honestly where we don’t think we’re good enough,” said Emily. “When one person is brave enough to do that, everyone feels permission to do the same. All of a sudden, you have a room full of people comfortable being who they are.”

When you find yourself comparing your behind-the-scenes to the perfectly-filtered highlight reel of someone else’s life, remember that every one of us has our own “behind-the-scenes”: private struggles and missteps and insecurities.

When I have these kinds of conversations with my friends, I’m reminded that my people — and most women — suffer from the same insecurities I do. And the more I lift them up, the better I feel and the easier it is for each of us to recognize our own positive qualities.

Remember that having it all together is unrealistic (for ALL OF US)

When you find yourself comparing your behind-the-scenes to the perfectly-filtered highlight reel of someone else’s life, remember that every one of us has our own “behind-the-scenes”: private struggles and missteps and insecurities. It’s very rare that we post these for the world to see.

Stephanie Siefert, a 29-year old marketing coordinator and mother of two, acknowledges this: “I think it’s important to realize that everyone feels like they are not good enough in some aspect of their life.”

When I start to see other people (particularly the women I admire the most) for who they really are — beautiful, imperfect human beings, just like me — and not who I perceive them to be, I’m less likely to compare myself to them in a way that detracts from the reality of who I am and my value to the world (or theirs!).

Focus on what you do right

“No one is perfect and instead of pretending we are, we should be acknowledging the strengths we do have and focusing on the positive,” Stephanie Siefert adds.

For every misstep you’ve made, for every opportunity you’ve missed, for everything you wish you’d said, remember: you’ve done so much more right. When we are bogged down by where we fall short, we’re blind to everything we do have going for us. Every moment when we make the right move or say the right thing, we DO have moments when we are good enough. More than good enough.

We need to give more credence to those moments. Write them down and return to them when you need to. Be proud of yourself. You are far wiser than the mistakes you’ve made. You are far better than the moments you wish you could do differently. You are worth more–inside and out–than you give yourself credit for. All of us are.

You are good enough.

image via

 

You’ll also like:

READ: 21 Ways to Feel Better When You’re Stuck in a Rut

 

READ: What is Imposter Syndrome and How to End It Once and For All

 

READ: Coffee Talk: What Advice Would You Give Your 23-year-old Self?

  • This is a great read. I struggle with comparing myself to other people and being overly critical of myself and my work. I’m making positive affirmations (to myself) a daily practice and this makes me feel a lot less alone.

    • Hi Haley! I tend to be my own worst critic too. I love that you’ve switched it around with the affirmations (even if it does still feel like a “practice” in the beginning). You’re definitely not alone, lady! Thank you for reading 🙂

  • Lisa

    This made me cry! In a good way. I have had so much struggle with this recently & my good friends have almost all moved for jobs & other reasons & it has been so difficult to get my life going again. Thank you so much for this article It really helped me.

    • Hi Lisa – I always appreciate happy tears 🙂 I’m sorry to hear that you’ve struggled, but it makes me so happy to hear that this article helped, even if only a little. Feel free to connect with me if you ever need an ear!

  • I love reads like this. Never comparing myself to filtered snippets of someone else’s life is what I always try to be mindful of.

    • SAME, Rena! It’s not easy, but I’m getting better at it 🙂

  • My friends are also shocked that I would feel this way, feeling doubt. This is definitely a great read and it’s wonderful for you to share this with us women because I’m sure most of us do feel this way. I need to stop comparing myself to other’s success but it’s just so hard. You want to be where they are but it’s not like they started from being successful, it takes time. It’s great to have reminders that we are great the way we are. We have to set goals for ourselves, but not outrageous ones. Start small and it’ll feel great to succeed in that goal, then it’s time to set another one. Thank you for sharing once again. It’s time for me to get back to my business and stop slacking, summer can really get me off track. I love to relax!

    • Ahh, Jasmine – there’s so much gold in your comment! 100% agree with everything you’ve said. The comparison-itis is hardest for me to beat too. But having open, honest conversations with other women show me every.single.time that they struggle too – even the most successful women (or men) in your life have doubt, feel rejection, feel like they’ve failed, etc. Like you said, we’ve just got to work to remind ourselves – and others – that we’re pretty great the way we are and none of us is perfect. (And there ain’t no shame in relaxing, girl. I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer!)

  • Christina Dely

    I love this, deeply. Jenna you have a beautiful way with words!

    • Thank you so much, you lovely lady! <3

  • donna w.

    Hi Jenna! This really hit home for me. Lately, I’ve been trying my best to work on myself and not focus on what everyone else around me is doing. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like I’m not good enough or wondering what I’m doing wrong.
    Over the past few months, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I want to accomplish in life. I’ve been trying to figure out what my purpose is and what path I should follow.
    I’ve realized that what I thought I really wanted in life (to be in love, get married, have kids), may not be what I want at all. Instead, I realize all I really want to do is to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to share my experiences with the world. I want to land a job with a nonprofit. In the end, all I want is to feel happy and fulfilled.
    No matter how difficult life gets at times, I try and remind myself that I am not alone. Yes, relationships will end, friendships we thought would last forever will end, we will face sickness at some point and so will our loved ones. People will betray us. But these trials only make us stronger, force us to dig deep and recognize things about ourselves that we didn’t notice before.
    Thanks again!

    • Beautiful, beautiful insight, Donna – thank you so much for sharing! And may I say how awesome and honorable it is that your purpose is to make a difference in the lives of others? I have no doubt that lifting up those around you will, in turn, have the same uplifting affect on your own self-worth. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts – and good luck on your new path! 🙂

  • Breanna Keeler

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a graduate student, and often struggle with feeling like a total fraud who is only here through some strange stroke of luck, so this post really hit home for me. It can be so hard to remember that it is TOTALLY unrealistic to have it all together, or that one misstep does not negate all of the other things I’ve done right. So, thank you for the reminder. And the reminder that none of us are alone in this.

    • Hi Breanna, thank YOU for reading! I really appreciate it 🙂 Also, the whole fraud/impostor syndrome thing? I struggle with it every day. But we’re not (frauds, that is) – neither of us. I’m sure we’ve had some luck in our lives, but you don’t get to grad school on good luck alone. You’re clearly a smart lady! I hope you keep reminding yourself that.

  • Really loved reading this. Such a true topic that hits home for a lot of us giving our all to have it all. I loved reading Christine Cain’s book “Can I Have and Do it all please”. A really great insight into the focus of going after it all.

    • Ooh, Jenny – I’ve never heard of that book! Gonna have to check that out immediately. And thank you for reading! I’m so glad you loved it 🙂

  • Liane Pamuspusan

    This is definitely a good read for someone who tends to sell themselves short (guilty as charged!). Thank you for sharing!

  • Nina

    Thank you so much for this piece! Perfect timing for me!

    When it comes to my career, I feel like an impostor majority of the time. I don’t know how I’ve come so far, and I know I have a long way to go. My constant feelings of low self-worth stems from fear of public speaking. I’ve developed a lot of self confidence over the years, but this is one area that makes me feel inadequate. I know in my new role at work I’ll need to do more presentations and engagements, and it TERRIFIES me. I’m afraid of being caught, my colleagues finding out the truth that I’m not a good engager/presenter. When I speak in bigger groups I never know how i’m coming across-I easily get nervous and shaky and try my best to avoid it because all eyes on me makes me want to curl up and hide. Can’t avoid it for too long. I give myself a hard time for not getting over this fear, and often compare myself to others who just seem to effortlessly have their s&#! together. I also feel like it’s difficult to bring up insecurities with a boss or colleagues, even friends. I don’t know how I’ll be perceived if i bring up my weaknesses. I have a hard time finding the right people to share these things with.

    Went on a long rant here, but nice to know I’m not alone. =*)

    • Hi Nina! Long rants are always encouraged 🙂 First of all, you’re not alone – AT ALL. I’m glad the article conveyed that! Secondly, you’re not an impostor. None of us are. Impostors can only (and only care to) get so far. And finally, there are just some things each of us are not innately blessed with – that, of course, doesn’t make those things impossible. You’re probably a fantastic public speaker with the right training! (I’m not a great public speaker either – hence my love of writing! – so I’m building us both up here.) But I have no doubt you can do that – and whatever you want to do – with the proper guidance and tools. Wishing you so much luck! 🙂

  • WOW! I can relate sooooo much. Starting a business brings up all your stuff! Thanks for being so honest and vulnerable Jenna.
    xo
    Carla

    • Ain’t that the truth, Carla?! Do you have your own business too? Thank YOU for reading and commenting. I so appreciate it 🙂

  • Rozanne Zacarías

    I’ve struggled with this my ENTIRE LIFE. From grade school to my 30’s. I literally have to tell myself EVERYDAY I Can Do This!! Some days I forget. But then I come across AMAZINGLY WELL WRITTEN articles such as this one and the world of my mind is yet again a bearable place. Thank you!

    • Hi Rozanne! You and me both, girl. I can vividly recall breakdowns in middle school over this same sort of stuff. Sometimes it feels silly that it still comes up – until I remember that it’s normal and it happens to all of us. (Taking my own advice here.)

      Thank you so very much for your kind words about this article! It truly makes me so happy to remind you that you are more than good enough. If I could, I’d send you a reminder every day. (If you need one, send me a note! I’d be happy to tell you every day.)

      I hope the world of your mind continues to be a (more than) bearable place 🙂

  • Ashli

    What a touching and relevant article. In this day of social media, where everything seems so perfect, it is hard to not beat ourselves up and to remember that we are all ‘beautiful, imperfect human beings’. Thank you, for being so open and honest about it and finding other women to talk about it.

    • Thank you so very much, Ashli! In this day of writing articles that are often met with incredibly cruel comments, I appreciate people like yourself who take the time to share their honest (and kind) thoughts. Thank you for that! 🙂

  • Great read, thanks for sharing this!

    • Hi Desiree, thank you so much for reading!

      • My pleasure! I’m fairly new to your site, but I’m loving it!

        • I’m so glad to hear that! I truly love writing, so I appreciate knowing that people (like you!) are reading and finding what I share useful or valuable 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Such a deep and inspiring article! As human beings, we struggle through a lot of the same negative emotions. Great to be reminded that we’re all in this together!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Stephanie. Thanks so much for your kind words!

  • I’m a man, and I can say that I find myself very related to everything said in your article. Thank you for sharing these words Jenna.

    • Hi Eltanin! I’m so thankful that you read the article and commented here. One of my male friends also sent me an email to let me know how much he related to these feelings. The feeling is certainly universal!

      I hope you were able to find something valuable and comforting here. Thank you for reading the article and writing to me! I so appreciate it.

  • Yari

    I needed to read this! Amazing article.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Yari! Thank you for reading.

  • Befriend yourself and be gentle with yourself. Nobody is perfect no matter how they make it look on social media.

    • You are so right, Amanda! The key is remembering that 🙂

  • Lily

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Now I see I´m not alone with this. There are too many times that I feel that I should have it all together by now, I´m in my late 20´s..and that gives me a lot of stress and feel like I´m not doing good enough..and Social media is great but why do we keep comparing to other people? It sucks..But i´ll start working on that and focus on the good things and be grateful for the things I have, for what I am and for where I am while working for my goals 🙂 .

    • Hi Lily! You are most certainly not alone, girl. I’m in my late 20s too (like the very latest of the decade), so I completely get where you’re coming from. It helps to touch base with yourself as often as you need to. Sometimes I need to step back and take a break from Instagram (or Facebook or whatever it may be) and surround myself with people who remind me of my value, and that’s okay. I do what I need to do to remind myself that where I am and who I am is good enough. I hope you do too! 🙂

  • OMG did I need this today! I’m currently drudging away in a corporate job, but my dream is to be an entrepreneur & have multiple income streams (plus teach yoga part time). I was working on something & then I thought “why am I doing this? No one will buy it” and I got so discouraged. This was exactly what I needed to keep going & stop those voices in my head. Thank you!

    • Hi Jubi! Love that you commented. Thank you for reading and for sharing your experience! I’ll tell you why you are “doing this” – because someone needs it and someone *will* buy it. (Also, what is your entrepreneurial dream?! Tell me more!)

      I love your ambition and I hope you remember this article/this comment/whatever uplifts you best whenever those voices come back (which they might; they usually do, however wrong they may be).

      P.S. I did a little research and found that Jubi is short for “Jubilance”. I am certain there is no greater name in the history of names. You are most certainly “Jubi the Great” lady. I absolutely love it! 🙂

      • My big dream is to be an entrepreneur and have control over my own destiny. I’d like to start a career consulting firm, focusing on training and coaching, from resume writing to interviewing skills to “how to be a professional”. I’d also like to become a freelance writer, I’ve been maintaining a personal blog for years and I’d love to write professionally.

        Jenna, you’re right, Jubi is short for Jubilance, which is a nickname of mine :-). Thank you so much for your words, I will be revisiting this article & the encouragement it gave me to keep working towards my goals.

        • I have no doubt you can do it, Jubi! Have you tried pitching articles to sites that focus on career preparation and development? That sounds like it would be right up your alley. I wish you so much luck and success as you follow your dream!

  • Julia B

    Thank you so much for this article!
    I’m a 22-years-old student from Germany and every time I get a chance to take a step forward in my “career” I also think I’m not good enough. My grades are not excellent, they are average. At the moment I’m thinking about taking a course that I really want, but this course is held in English. So I’m again not sure what to do: am I good enough to rock that course? The last time I spoke English is 4 years ago. And there are always people at the University that are much better than me, they look better, they have more money, they have better grades, they speak more languages, … It’s a neverending story.
    But I do my best to be more positive 🙂

    My Mum always says: When you do your best, it’s all you can do and you have nothing to regret. See yourself as an always learning person.
    Other people have other goals, and everybody starts his life under other conditions. So I think the best we can do is making the best of what we have, right?
    Thanks again, and when there’s a mistake in this comment please tell me!!

    • Hi Julia! Thank you so much for sharing your experience 🙂 I love your mom’s advice: all any of us can do is our very own best. I feel like it’s so easy to assume everyone else is doing better, but that’s not necessarily true; it’s just our own perception. I love your perspective that we are constantly learning! We’re always a work in progress, right? 🙂 Love your positive attitude and I’m so glad you found value in this article!

  • Stefanie Haigh

    This is exactly what I needed to read – and it’s amazingly written. Thank you! I quit a very busy job (on a bit of a whim, even though it had been a long time coming in some respects) a month ago and have spent the past two weeks bringing together my thoughts and skills to set up on my own. Daily panics are becoming part of the routine, even though it has always been my dream to work for myself!

    • Hi Stefanie! Congratulations! I totally get the daily panic attacks, but I’m fairly certain that no one knows you better than you—and if you were meant to work for yourself, you’re about to make it happen! I’m so glad this article was helpful to you in any way! If you ever want to chat about going out on your own, send an email my way 🙂 Wishing you so much luck, lady!

  • Rashmi Varier

    great article Jenna. Can relate to this completely! Thanks for writing it so well.

    • Thank YOU, Rashmi! I so appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts in the comments.

  • Ariane

    This specific part gave me happy tears: “For every misstep you’ve made, for every opportunity you’ve missed, for everything you wish you’d said, remember: you’ve done so much more right.” It’s absolutely right. Sometimes, all we need is a brilliant reminder so we can have our next breakthrough.

    • Ariane, that makes me so happy! I only want to invoke happy tears 🙂 I’m glad this was a reminder for you!

  • An amazing read that is so relevant to my everyday struggles through navigating the early stages in my career/ social life as a working adult two years post graduation. I’ve recently stumbled (happily) into a circle of tremendous, genuine and creative friends who I love learning from and it has caused me to realize how far I had strayed from the creative side of my brain I stopped tapping when I graduated college. I am currently a business analyst at an awesome company that many people would think “wow- what a perfect job for her, she has a digital marketing degree and she loves the product they sell (makeup)” but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Where I lack confidence in myself is in my search for a position that I would be good at outside the digital marketing analytics realm. Digital marketing/ analytics is all I have experience in but what I really love is writing. Copywriting would be ideal but I can’t afford to go to an unpaid internship to gain the experience I need to even apply for a full time position. I was told to seek freelance writing gigs to build a portfolio but I feel like what I have to say doesn’t matter. All I hear at work all day is “thanks for your suggestion- it’s not a priority right now though”. I need to just pull the trigger and send stories out to blogs/editorials I love to read (including The Everygirl!) but I’m struggling to find the confidence to just…do it.

  • Linda Malcak

    This IS a great read — totally agree with everyone who has said that. I am probably the old lady in this discussion. I had my own business for 20 years, then went to work full time for a large multinational corporation. I am now contemplating going back on my own in a couple of years. When I look at the client list from the former business in retrospect, I am very impressed. Yet at the time, it was never good enough. I’m pretty sure (with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight) that I was playing the comparison game without seeing clearly the objects of my comparison.
    It’s kind of like when that perfect couple gets divorced…everyone is blind-sided because “who knew?”.

  • Cassidy

    I think you nailed the “I’m not good enough” feeling! I know when I compare myself to others, I doubt my abilities and my self-worth.

    Writing and reading about your insecurities remind me of my own internal struggles. This post is very insprirational, and encouraging to know that there are other strong women who have similar fears. I like to think when we air our insecurities, no one can use them against us. I think your post really reflects that. I write about my own doubts and insecurities in my journey through adulthood and Cassidyland so they do not become life long burdens only life lessons. I do hope you will check out my blog sometime. Thank you for your encouraging post! Best of luck! at http://wouldyoulikesomecheesewithyourwine.blogspot.com/

  • Wendy

    This article hits home for me, but lately (!) one of my biggest insecurities has turned out to be about age. I’m now over 40 and society thinks you’re only important if you’re under 35, including in this article. There is life after being 29, kids.

  • Stacie

    This resonated with me so much! Great read!

  • Ayre

    I need to work on reminding myself more of the things I’m good at and stop listening to that voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough 🙂

    thank you for this post!
    http://ariannecruz07.blogspot.com

  • Barbara

    I love this article. It was written so well. I haven’t read an article this interesting and helpful. Thank you.