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You’re just not good enough

9.25.12 Journal Blog post about my experience counseling in the inner city (For more context- please refer to Corporate Girl in an Inner City World)



Feeling not “good enough”

I am now co-leading a class at Union Gospel Mission’s women’s shelter called “Patterns of Change” and thought I would share something we discussed that I think everyone senses this at one point of another– whether they know it or not…this sense that deep inside, you’re just not… “good enough.” 

Maybe it’s in your career, maybe it’s in your appearance, maybe it’s with the opposite sex…hey, you don’t have what it takes. You aren’t pretty, handsome, rich, smart or successful enough… You aren’t enough and one day…others will find out. You will be found out…

Shame is defined as –1. the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another, 2. susceptibility to this feeling…

Not many people know how to put their finger on it…or know how to articulate it but it’s really the difference between guilt and shame. I write about this in my blog post “Vulnerability: Power, Strength, and Beauty” –

“When Guilt says,” you made a mistake,” Shame says “you are the mistake.”

Shame is what keeps people from truly living out of their true nature, true heart, with the underlying fear that if people really knew you, they would not want to connect with you.”

It’s the beating up on yourself, it’s the constant wearing of a mask of what you think others will accept. It’s the faking, it’s the stuffing and avoiding. It’s the fear…and all that you do out of your fear.



Healthy vs. Unhealthy Shame

But I learned a new concept today– I never knew there was something called “healthy shame”– Healthy shame is simply consciousness that you have done something wrong or something is off!

This may be your responsibility or not. Examples of this include embarassment or a healthy feeling of conviction that you have done something to hurt God or others… (e.g. telling a lie or stealing something)

We need healthy shame…or conviction…to live lives that are pleasing to God and are moral and upright.

However… this all goes awry when there’s unhealthy shame…

This is the sense of condemnation– the sense that you have to run away and not towards God (maybe because you think He’s not happy with you) because you have done something wrong or you feel you are wrong. Instead of turning to God to cleanse you and forgive you, you try to clean yourself up…you don’t surrender…you live in shame. This kind of unhealthy shame limits many people (whether that actually did something wrong or not!) from living free and successful lives…inside and out.

Unhealthy shame is what drives you to cover the real you.


Signs of Shame (Reference: “Patterns of Change class from UGM ’12)

Here are a few symptoms that you may have some shame in your life….keep in mind that you may not experience all of them but do pay attention to the areas you identify with:

*You simply can’t bring yourself to do certain things, go places, or be around people because you feel intimidated.

*You experience recurrent bouts of depression.

*You are in self-isolation: physically or emotionally distancing yourself from others, particularly those who care about you the most.

*You pretend to be other than you are.

*You rely on habits (such as an eating disorder or other obsessions…can be as harmless as TV or sleep) or substances to medicate inner pain and self-loathing.

*You exaggerate and/or lie about yourself, your accomplishments, your lifestyle.

*Your public identity and private self are markedly different.

*You blame yourself when someone treats you poorly or hurts you.

*You have had suicidal thoughts.

*You make excuses for people who abuse you or treat you with disrespect.

*You are unable to accept yourself as only human, and can’t accept both good and bad within yourself. You cling to a view of yourself as all bad or all good, or you alternate between the two.

*You deny the nature or severity of your addictions.

*You lose yourself in the needs of others: busying yourself taking care of others. Trying to control, fix, or change them…trying to solve their problems while neglecting your own life.

*You feel driven to achieve, over achieve, or excel to feel ok about yourself. You try to prove your worth by what you do and not by who you are.

*You focus on the failings/flaws of others– being judgmental and critical of others to draw attention away from yourself and console yourself as not as bad.

*You break off relationships with people you care about deeply before they have a chance to know the real you and reject you.

*You fear expressing your honest opinions/feelings, you adapt your opinions to try to match those expressed by people you are associating with at the time.

*You are lonely.

*You fear being found out as a phony.

*You are a perfectionist, trying to make up for who you are by doing everything perfectly.

*You fear failure, which keeps you from trying new ventures.

*You resist setting personal goals in areas where you have a sense of shame.


Loved and Accepted Unconditionally

In the heart check section below, I encourage you to examine your own life and see if any of this is relevant…I certainly know how it feels! (See my post “Comfortable in Your Own Skin“)

To be loved and accepted unconditionally seems so out of reach in our performance oriented world but…if you’re hurting and you need this paralyzing shame to be broken off your life, I really encourage you to be in for the journey (I write about this journey of healing in my blog post “Emotional Health Check“) and I sincerely believe that half the battle is really…finding the core root of the shame. (Who first told you that you’re not good enough?- e.g. maybe your mom or dad did, etc.)

And bottom line, for those open to faith…know that the only one that can really love you unconditionally…is God. Jesus.

My prayer for you and for those I work with in counseling experience this unconditional love and recognize the shame and start making strides away from shame and self-hatred…and into a healthy life.


Heart Check

1. Note the items above that are symptoms of shame in your life– which three are the most prevalent? Note any specific areas where you feel inferior to others because of a sense of shame that makes you fear something is wrong with you.

2.Describe specific incidents where these three symptoms of shame were manifested recently.

3. If you have detected a level of unhealthy shame in your life, what would it be like for you to begin to break the power of that shame in your life? (e.g. talking to another admitting your shame or detecting the first time you felt that sense of shame)

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