• Hard on Yourself that You are Not Enough?

    Since my specialty is working with female identifying clients, I happen to notice a strong pattern: we are hard on ourselves. I see it in the sabotaging behaviors, the poor choice in relationships because we are settling, the criticism of our bodies, work, abilities, and sometimes even who we are. I can say that sometimes it’s painful to watch from my therapist chair. I don’t see the things you see, even though I’m listening to you, I might not agree with you. Hey, I’m there to be your mirror so you can see it for yourself.

    You ever hear the saying that someone is not going to change until they are ready to?  Those are accurate words. I can’t tell you the number of wives or girlfriends who have called me for information about therapy so that they can send their partners. Guess how many of those convert into clients?  Zero. Seriously, I have never had one of those calls work out. Each person has to be ready to take a deep dive into themselves and that can be scary. Criticism, believe it or not, is much easier. But not so pleasant.

    Why is criticism easier than just looking into what is BEHIND the criticism. It’s complicated.

    I have a friend who is super critical of herself. I think she is BRILLIANT.  She’s a powerhouse with an amazing job, she’s totally drop dead gorgeous, and she has enough personality to fill a room. I love to go out with her because she is so fun and she’s there to bounce ideas off of when I need a listening board. She gives solid advice and is super level headed. She is also critical of herself. I give her a compliment and she brushes it off. She’s always with the same partner, just a different exterior. The type of person she attracts romantically is typically non-committal.  They say they don’t want a relationship up front, but she’s up for the challenge. When the relationship goes sour, which it always does, she makes it about herself.  She was too clingy, too bossy, too available, too agreeable, and too unattractive. If she had only been less available, more open to a non-relationship (which is not what she wanted by the way) or lost another 5 pounds the person would have loved her.

    One day I hit my limit.  We were having lunch and she was telling me about the latest person who she couldn’t have a relationship with because she was too….. everything she is not. I said to her, “the reason this didn’t work out is not because of you, it is because you picked a person that was never going to work out.”  She looked stunned by my response. She answered, “Well then, why does everyone not choose to have a relationship with me?”  I answered, “because you think you aren’t enough to get the relationship you want and you attract people who don’t want one.” She nodded.

    There it was. I wasn’t her therapist but I mirrored back to her what she was showing to me. I told her that I thought she was brilliant, smart, fun, funny, easy to talk to, and I couldn’t imagine not having a friend like her. And I couldn’t imagine a romantic partner not picking her, she was a catch.

    She sat up in her chair and enthusiastically said, “Really?”  “Yes, really” I said. Doing the work on how you are not enough or how hard you are on yourself is hard, but it’s necessary work. Otherwise will you never be enough for anything. But there is a reason behind feeling that you aren’t enough. In my friend’s case, her childhood was filled with a tumultuous family life. Her mom was emotionally unavailable and withdrawn because she was consumed with feeling like she wasn’t enough for the relationship with my friend’s father. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Having an emotionally unavailable caretaker can make you feel like you are not enough to receive love, attention, nurturing, even from the person who is supposed to give it to you. It’s a tough way to start, but not hopeless. The answer is to give yourself the attention you need. Look into why you think you are not worthy of love and dig in to see why. What early messaging did you get that makes you feel this way?  Whose voice is it?  What are things that have happened in your life to confirm the way you feel about yourself today?  Did you allow yourself to feel the pain or did you push down the pain by thinking of all the ways you weren’t good enough anyway?  Your therapist should be asking these questions, I know I ask my clients questions like this all of the time.

    As for my friend, I referred her to a great colleague and she’s done a lot of work to heal the wounds from the past.  She’s looking into why she doesn’t feel good about herself and looking at it in a different way. She’s been working out her beliefs and questioning them as well. She’s doing work on herself that makes her feel a little better about herself. Sure, she criticizes herself sometimes, but she’s aware that she’s doing it.  She catches herself and reminds herself of whose criticism that is, and usually it’s not hers.

    Are you ready to do the work?  Are you ready to be enough for all of the things you want in your life?  I encourage you to dig deep and see what you find.



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