A New Pandemic Killing Self-Esteem

A New Pandemic: I AM not ENOUGH

There has been an increased number of people coming to my office with feelings of inadequacy and thoughts similar to “I am not enough” leading to a decrease in confidence and self-esteem. Like the pandemic COVID-19 that began an epidemic and grew into a pandemic by March 2020, these thoughts and feelings rooted in inadequacy are growing and not limited to one specific geographical area. Why is it that so many people are carrying around this feeling and incorporate it as part of how they view themselves?

Part of our western culture is to compete to get ahead and live the dream. Some of us feel in order to do this we have to be the best. This leads to a pattern of comparison where no matter how hard we try someone else comes in with a funnier joke, more clever idea, higher score or better looks. Add to this the social media access to a massive amount of feedback around every aspect of our lives. Some thrive on the likes and positive feedback as it validates their sense of self.  One problem with external validation is it is a fickle thing. It can leave as quickly as it comes.

As human beings we thrive on connections. Through these connections we can gain a feeling of being needed and feeling important. On the other hand, if you are competing with your work associates, friends and family members to be the best this impacts the quality and level of the connection you may achieve. Additionally, you may be seeking to please them to gain their approval, time and attention measuring your value as a human based solely on their responses and feedback. In unhealthy relationships, without appropriate boundaries, this feedback might even be toxic. Many people caught in this pattern are susceptible to depression or anxiety.

Surviving a Pandemic

Some of the things we needed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic were soap, disinfectant, and personal protective equipment especially for medical personnel. Likewise, this new pandemic effecting so many people’s emotional health requires some additional protective measures. These include: self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-compassion.

These practices are very effective yet it takes time to foster and grow them into new habits. The goal is to shape a new pattern of thinking that is: I AM ENOUGH. To foster a feeling of being enough it is important for an individual to prioritize self-respect. Additionally, for these practices to be effective, asserting personal boundaries is essential. The priority being that an individual does not sacrifice their own well-being to please other people. As you begin this journey of self-awareness and self-acceptance, you will observe, recognize and honor your own inherent worthiness. In addition, you diminish the time spent in seeking external validation or engaging in the habit of comparing yourself to others.

Best Practices for Building Confidence

In addition to practices we have already discussed in my previous post https://achievefamilytherapy.com/i-am-enough-achieving-confidence/ including mindfulness, self-compassion, recognizing and challenging thinking errors and self-care, there are additional practices to help you foster a sense of being enough. Here are a few:

  1. Seeking Support: Anytime we are attempting to make a significant change in our life it can be helpful to have supportive family members, friends or a therapist to encourage you. A therapist can help provide additional perspective and reassure you during the challenging times and transformation.
  2. Accepting your Imperfections: An important part of self-acceptance is recognizing and owning your own flaws and how these contribute to your uniqueness and journey. I have found Brene Brown’s Book, The Gifts of Imperfection to break this principle down into smaller parts and a beneficial tool to help those seeking to let go of the should thinking and move into the stance of truly embracing and accepting who you are.
  3. Gratitude Practice: Our minds often gravitate towards focusing on what is wrong making it difficult to notice what is working in our lives. Taking time to acknowledge your strengths, appreciate your accomplishments and find joy in the positive aspects of your life can shift your feelings of inadequacy towards improved feelings of being enough. I have personally practiced gratitude for the past five years. I now know from my own experience that it required intentional effort. As I have made it a regular practice, over time, it has become easier for me to observe on a daily basis what to be grateful for and this has had a positive impact on my mood and feelings about myself.
  4. Personal Growth: Fostering a growth mind set and embracing opportunities for learning will help you in time develop an attitude of increased confidence and foster a view of life that is richer and more meaningful. As part of my self-care practice, I have challenged myself to learn a new language, grow a new talent playing a musical instrument and took up photography while enjoying nature.
  5. Setting Realistic Expectations: One of the most helpful tools for me as I have walked this journey is breaking things down into smaller, manageable pieces. Setting achievable goals prevents feelings of failure. There are two very common behavior patterns one is to dive in and approach the problem with high expectations of outcomes or to procrastinate and avoid the expectation of the uncomfortable feelings associated with approaching it. Setting realistic expectations and SMART goals can help us with either one of these traps. It is important to acknowledge that perfection is not attainable and measuring and celebrating small successes along the way fosters increased confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Celebrating Survivors

I have come to truly appreciate and respect my clients and feel it an honor to witness their resilience, courage and growth. Each of them is unique and their stories are different yet I have grown from the connection. I can say with authenticity, “THEY ARE ENOUGH”. It brings me joy to see their confidence grow and their mindset transform.

Though these lists of practices are easy to write about the act of making them an integral part of your life is more complex. We are here to help! Reach out today by clicking the button below and begin your journey towards increased self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-compassion.



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