You know when you walk into a shoe store, ask for a pair of green Italian leather brogues that are 3 sizes too small, squish your feet into them, buy them for $300 and then stumble off down the high street wearing them? No? Right, that would be ridiculous. What would be more ridiculous would be to spend the next few years of your life wearing them in agony, beating yourself up for not having smaller feet, or for not having the right style to suit green Italian leather brogues. Those shoes are for someone else. Maybe they were for your father, or someone else you want to impress, maybe you saw a commercial with a guy looking happy in his tiny brogues and were convinced those shoes were for you, but they aren’t.
I hope this analogy helps you see the absurdity of how so many of us lead our lives. We stubbornly follow a path that doesn’t suit us. We start living someone else’s life and before we know it, we’re miserable, falling short of our own expectations and the expectations of others. Then we see the mismatch as a reflection of our own shortcomings.
In today’s article, I want to break down that experience of feeling like you’re not enough, and then help you on the path to fixing it. If any of the following sounds familiar, know that you are not alone, and continue reading to find out how you can turn your ship around.
Feeling like you’re not enough becomes even more problematic when on the surface of it you seem to have it all. Maybe you have a caring partner, a beautiful family, your own business. You should be feeling blessed for what you have, but you can’t connect with any of it in the way that you want because there is a part of you that’s not fulfilled.
2. Primary Guilt
If you confide in anyone about how you’re feeling, they’ll tell you to look at what you’ve got and be grateful. Their intention is to reassure you, but more often than not it has the unintended consequence of making you feel incredibly guilty for not being happy with your lot.
3. Secondary Guilt
As if you haven’t suffered enough, you then feel selfish for indulging in self-pity. You try to snap yourself out of it and think “People are counting on me. I need to work harder, and dig deeper to pull through for the people I love.” This might work in the short term, but you don’t have the energy to keep up the charade, and in time you feel like even more of a disappointment.
You start pulling away from the very people you love the most. They’re a reflection of your failings as a parent, partner, coworker, friend. Instead of dealing with the problem and taking affirmative action to make change, it’s easier (at least in the short term) to start distancing yourself from those people. Gradually you become more and more isolated, and the possibility of change seems further and further out of reach.
But I have amazing news. Change is ALWAYS possible, and it’s completely in your hands. You can start making positive changes right now.
1. Forgive Yourself
I part ways with other life coaches who say that guilt is a completely useless emotion. Sure, there’s no use wallowing in guilt, but it can be a useful indicator that something’s not right and something needs to change, and it’s up to us to establish what that is, so we can take positive action and make the situation right again.
If you’re not fulfilled, your family are likely having to deal with the consequences. We think that the selfless thing is to ignore our own happiness and become some kind of martyr, but in reality you owe it to the people you love as well as to yourself to be your true self and live a fulfilled life. When you realize your purpose in life and become the person you were put on this earth to be, it positively affects everyone around you. In this particular instance, the only guilt you should feel is in not taking steps to change your situation. The wonderful thing is that as soon as you decide to take positive action you are completely absolved of your guilt. It doesn’t matter how tiny the steps are, you’re doing something, that’s amazing and brave and you should congratulate yourself.
2. Reconnect With Who You Are
Now we get to the crux of your feelings of inadequacy. You need to rediscover (or discover for the first time) who you really are. What shoes fit you?
What you want and need in life to make you feel worthy and fulfilled can’t be dictated to you by anyone else, or by some commercial. You are unique. You need to unpeel yourself and that can be very challenging, particularly for people who always want to put the needs of others first.
When we get caught up trying to fulfill roles (the perfect parent, son, partner, boss) it’s easy to forget ourselves and what motivates us. I know what this feels like first hand. In my book The Real Me: Turning Me Inside Out I share my story and my personal journey of self-discovery through a series of life lessons. A heads-up, it wasn’t easy. As the subtitle suggests, I had to completely disassemble everything I thought I knew about myself and put the pieces back together. It requires bravery, time, commitment and vulnerability, but the process literally saved my life. And I mean literally.
To successfully find out who you are on your own is nigh on impossible. You need guidance and support, preferably in the form of a life-coach who shares your outlook on life and will really encourage you on your process. You can also make great headway by asking yourself some key questions. Download our mini-course, designed to get you started on your journey to self-discovery.
3. Find Your Purpose
Every single person was put on this earth for a reason. Their challenge is to realize their purpose and live it. A great deal of personal satisfaction and fulfillment comes from being useful and serving others. Once you’ve found out what makes you special, your next job is to discover how you can charge your uniqueness with purpose. What’s your personal mission, that one thing that only you can provide to serve others in this world?
As a religious man, it’s obvious to me that God has created incredible potential in others, that each person has their own light to shine. But even if you’re not religious, it is self-evident. Look at the people who you love, family or friends. Outline their best qualities, what makes them who they are? What do they have to offer the world? What joy do they bring to you? If you can see it in them, you can find it in yourself and apply it to what you do as a career and to the philosophy by which you live your life.
There are so many people out there counting on you to live your full potential. Many of whom you haven’t even met yet. The world needs you to realize your purpose and start living in your own shoes.
It all starts with a first step.
I’m always at a loss for words when it comes to describing just how amazing it feels to help others find their true potential. When my clients first come to me feeling dejected, inadequate, at their wits end, it takes me right back to when I was at my lowest ebb. I remember how insurmountable the idea of making and sustaining real change felt. I had no idea of my purpose in life, or about the incredible life that lay ahead for me, I was totally lost.
It’s strange now to think how pitiful I felt asking for help, when the one thing I don’t feel for my clients is pity. I feel empathy, I feel overwhelmingly humbled by their bravery in seeking help and showing their vulnerability, but most of all I feel an incredible amount of excitement and bright, luminescent hope for this person who, at whatever age they come to me, has a life-changing experience ahead of them.
I know how talking to someone can be daunting, which is part of the reason I created my mini-course which you can download here. In the course, you’ll ask yourself some key questions to help start you on your journey to self-discovery and realizing your full potential.