““Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose. To the question of your life, You are the only answer. To the problems of your life, You are the only solution.” ― Jo Coudert
Our first interaction with the world outside the womb is our interaction with our parents. Our perception later in life about the world comes from these early interactions. For a baby, the world means her parents. Normally, parents have to respond to their baby's every movement, utterance, and need, which fosters a solid bond of trust and love. The child learns to trust that the world is safe and responsive, and her physical and emotional needs are important, which allows her to develop self-reliance. However, when parents respond that their child is not based on her needs but their own interest, they fail to forge a secure bond with their kids. It is shocking for a child to accept this fact that her parents are not capable of real love and empathy. It is more believable to her that "there must be something wrong with me," or "I'm inadequate or unlikable." These children often blame themselves for their parents' inability to love and accept them. They always struggle to figure out the right way to respond to their parents to gain their love and acceptance. They can't realize that what pleases their parents is completely arbitrary, and it all depends on their own inner insecurities and needs.
In this toxic relationship, children learn that they are unworthy of love. They think that the problem of rarely being able to please their parents lies within themselves. They do their hardest to please their parents, to get their approval, but they get nothing but disappointment. These children don't get the chance to know their own true selves or bury their true selves to become the 'good' child of their parents at the cost of becoming an adult who never feels valued. They have the feeling of being "not good enough" woven into their personal fabric. They become trapped in a painful cycle of doubt and self-judgment that blocks them from growth.
Below are a few common childhood reasons why a person grows up into an adult feeling or believing they are not good enough.
How It Looks Is More Important Than How It Feels
Growing up, you might get this message implicitly or explicitly that "you have to keep a good face in front of others" or "It's much better to look good than to feel good." It's more like you have been designed more for the public than for the private.
Parents who give these messages experience internal insecurity and fragile ego and have a shattered sense of self. What matters for these parents is how you make them look to friends, family, and neighbours, rather than how you really feel. They see their child as an extension to them, and if their child behaves well or is successful, they feel good about themselves. On the surface, it might be seen as they are concerned about their child, but in the end, they are more worried about the impression they make upon others.
What You do Never Make Your Parents Happy, They Are Critical
It is critical for children to get attention, affection, and acceptance from their parents from an early age. And this acceptance and approval must be for who they are as individuals, not for what their parents want them to be. Some parents are highly critical of their children and never accept them for who they are. Their children continuously try to gain their parents' love, attention, and approval, but they never seem to please them. They are not able to realize that they were the only scapegoat of the parents of bad feelings about themselves, and they are being blamed for their parents' insecurity. They internalized these negative messages from their early upbringing and believed that "I must be bad that I'm being treated like this." These children turn into adults that they are harsh and critical of themselves.
You Can Never Reach Up to Your Parents Unrealistic Standards
Some parents push their children to become who they couldn't become. They often hold to highly unrealistic standards, and if their children can't live up to your expectations, they label their children as "stupid," "problematic," "mean," and even sick. They express their unmet need by punishing, rejecting or even medicating their children. They are just expecting their children to be perfect. These parents are very sensitive to criticism. If someone says something about their kids, they become defensive and try to put more pressure on their child to make them a perfect child.
You Were Responsible For Everything, And You Were Falsely Blamed
Some parents force their children to take responsibility for things that they shouldn't be responsible for. They expect their children to fulfil a role that they have assigned to them, whether consciously or unconsciously. And sometimes, these kids have to follow rules that are nonsensical or even contradictory. These children are frequently compelled to bear the blame for things they shouldn't be responsible for, resulting in developing chronic guilt and shame that haunts them long into adulthood. For example, expecting a child to take care of their younger siblings and blaming them for what the other sibling does.
You Were Target of Being Constantly Compared to Others
Usually, when I ask clients, "how this critical part is helping you?" or "why do you need this critical part?" or "what will happen if you don't have this critical part?", they normally answer, "I lose my motivation to try harder," "I won't do anything," "I will fail." They play the same role as their parents, making themselves feel bad about themselves to change their behaviour or prevent themselves from being bad. Parents and other authority figures such as teachers often compare their children to others to make them feel bad about themselves and change and modify their behaviour; why can't you be more like your brother/sister? Your cousin is a great student, and I wish I had a kid like him. These parents always wanted their children to be smarter, well-behaved, or more athletic. They send this message to their child that "you are not good enough as you are." Also, some parents not only compare their child to others but also divide the world into two categories; the smarter/ successful and stupid/failure. That set up this basic worldview that this child got to be in one camp or the other. Putting a child in these unnecessarily competitive environments, it's a sense of collapse and embarrassment and particularly a sense of being small in all meanings of the term. These children grow up feeling insecure, flawed, distrustful, and not good enough. They get trapped in a strong need to constantly compare themselves to others and, as a result, feel inferior or superior to others.
What You Have To Do Is To Accomplish And Bring Them Trophy
These parents expect their children to perform at the highest possible level. Their focus is on what you achieve, not on who you are. They will be proud of you if you get good grades, win a tournament, or get into a prestigious college. They enjoy bragging about their child's achievements and success. If their child doesn't achieve what they want their child to achieve, they become profoundly embarrassed and may even lash out in wrath.
When my daughter was younger, she had a friend whose mother was the same. Her schedule after school was two hours of practicing piano, two hours reading a book, an hour practicing math and the rest doing her school homework. She had to be Aced in everything. Her mother was always ready to take her to all the competitions, piano, public speech, math, etc. And she was always there to take pictures of her daughter's trophies and post them on Instagram. She never took her to any fun activities. The kid cried many times and said, "I'm not good enough for my mom," "she pushes me too hard." This kid became extremely insecure inside. She became a person who wanted to stand out at any price, even friendship. She couldn't tolerate seeing someone else to be good. She started putting down and bullying others to make herself feel better. And that was the end of her friendship with my daughter.
Your Parents Treated You As A Subordinate and Worthless
Some parents, sadly, treat their children as their possession and subordinate. It seems that these children came to this world to be their parents' servants. They have to be in their service and meet their parents' needs, and if they fail, they get punished, shamed, and guilt-tripped to become obedient. These parents keep the right to abuse their children physically, sexually, and verbally. When the children of these parents see that other children in other families are being treated differently, they ask these questions from themselves "why did you brought me to this world to treat me like this." They could feel that they are not treated like a human. These children grow up with a distorted sense of self and a shattered sense of self-esteem. Later they will struggle with all sorts of psychological, emotional, and behavioural problems in their adulthood.
You Are Responsible To Take Care Of Emotionally Needy And Psychosomatic Parents
If your parents were emotionally needy and psychosomatically ill and in pain, you might constantly hear these comments "Don't tell your mother. It will upset her or make her sick," or "see what you did to your mom. You know that she can't handle stress. Now she is going to be in pain for days/ hours." These children have to take care of their needy parents, calm them down, listen to their adult problems, and solve them. A client once said, "I was five when my mom came to me after her fight with my dad and asked me if they have to get divorced. I was confused and scared. What was she thinking about asking that question from a child?" These children feel responsible for their parent's happiness. If these children fail to do their duty, they will be ashamed, blamed, and guilt-tripped. They feel that they are a "bad person" who can't be nice and caring about their parents.
You Were Sick For Some Time Or Being Hospitalized
Some children may have temporarily or permanently struggled with physical or medical issues. The way that their parents treated them during that time has a great impact on the child's self-worth and self-esteem. Even if the parent cared about their child but showed their frustration and because of that lash out on others, the child will feel, "I'm nothing but a headache," "I'm bad."
Your Parents Didn't raise You To Become Independent
Some parents are extremely involved in their child's life. They want to have full control of everything and micromanage their children. They don't let their child make decisions, make mistakes, explore and experiment. These children grow up believing that they are incompetent and have no control over their life. The underlying mechanism here is the parents' internal insecurities, fear of failing, fear of losing control or even fear of losing their child and being abandoned. They want to keep their child close and dependent, then they can keep their child with them forever.
Feeling "not good enough" is almost universal. All of us experience "I'm not good enough" in one way or the other. Maybe I'm not smart enough. Maybe I'm not pretty enough. Maybe I'm not good enough. Maybe I'm not strong enough. Maybe, whatever the thing might be. Due to our cognitive and emotional development as a child, it is easy to pick up this belief of not being good enough. But the chronicity and severity of our experiences as a child, what we can call traumatic experiences as mentioned above, determine how this belief is embedded in our bodies and ingrained in our minds and emotions.
Healing from this deep injury requires the acceptance of this fact that all of us suffer from this belief more or less and working emotionally, psychologically and somatically to change this belief. In my next article, I will go through some techniques that can be helpful to change this belief.
Did you recognize any of this in your own upbringing? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.