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A Stanford Psychologist Says Feeling Like You’re Not Enough Rips These 5 Things Away From You


Stanford CAPS psychologist, Meag-gan O’Reilly, PhD, identifies five things that get stolen from us when we despair that we’re not enough:

  • Dreams
  • Ambitions
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Happiness

Scott Mautz, speaker and author of ‘Find the Fire’ and ‘Make It Matter,’ was inspired by O’Reilly’s premise and her TEDx Talk: Enough is Enough, and in his article from the 4/3/19 issue of Inc., he  outlines six strategies that will boost self-confidence and self-worth for good:

1. Assign yourself a baseline of inherent value.

Many start at the bottom, assuming they’re fairly worthless, which creates tremendous headwinds for self-belief. Instead, O’Reilly encourages us to start by realizing that we’re inherently valuable. Period.

There’s no, “I’ll feel better about myself if I get to the next thing.” It’s a non-negotiable baseline value you set for yourself.

Then, don’t let your self-perceived worth ever, ever, dip below that baseline threshold. Even a nemesis who constantly belittles you shouldn’t make your self-worth drop below the baseline.

But how can you take it to heart while dealing with self-belief bullies? Remember this: Those who defy your worth don’t define you.

2. Live by the 90/10 rule.

I’ve been sharing this with audiences, readers, and coaches for years. It’s a simple formula for how to calculate your self-worth: 90 percent from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, and only 10 percent from others (assigned worth).

It’s unrealistic to not have at least some slice of worth come from the external validation of others. That’s human nature. We get into trouble when the 10 percent migrates up and the 90 percent derails down.

To help you hold true to the 90/10 rule, strive for authenticity, not approval. Choose joy over judgment and appreciation over expectations. If someone tells you you’re not meeting their standards in the face of these choices, ask yourself if they even get a vote.

3. Stop waging “worth wars.”

Even with how much research I’ve done on this topic, and the fact that I help others to stop doing this, I still catch myself comparing to others. It’s such an easy trap. The truth? The only comparison that matters is to who you were yesterday.

Easier said than done, I know. O’Reilly reminds us that the work of bolstering one’s self-worth is a process, what she calls “lifespan work.”

4. Know that it’s the small moments (not the big ones) that erode our self-worth.

Big letdowns don’t help feelings of self-value. But it’s actually life’s daily little attacks that add up and create patterns of destructive thinking. The little jab about how you’re not great at presenting, about you not being good with numbers–they create an unhealthy expectation that more cracks in the armor will keep appearing.

Catch yourself in these small moments and thrust them into perspective. And by the way, when you’re in those big moments that challenge your self-confidence, shut down your nuclear reactor and stop catastrophizing. Remind yourself that you’ve been through worse and came out stronger, and that you’ll do so again.

5. It came from somewhere so send it back.

Of some of the small, confidence-eroding moments, O’Reilly says in her TEDx talk:

These encounters echo earlier occasions in our lives when we felt like our value as a person was determined by other people, usually adults, and fluctuated depending on what they thought of our latest grade, game, performance or accomplishment. What were some of the early messages you received about who you needed to be to show up in the world as meaningful?

Note the similarity between those “old tapes” and similar messages you receive now. Recognize them for what they are — misplaced, irrelevant judgments. Strip them of their truth and release their hold on you.

6. Think of what will change if you believe you’re already enough.

Imagine if you really believed this. Seriously, I mean stop and complete this sentence: “If I believed I were already enough, I’d __________.”

It’s a powerful exercise. Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews says the single biggest driver of his multi-varied success has been his belief that he is already enough.

And guess what? Your enough is enough too.

Stanford Resources