Working with Clients Who Feel “Never Good Enough”

People constantly compare themselves against messages they receive from friends, family, media, and our culture.

And those messages often contribute to feelings of “never good enough”:

Not attractive enough. Not intelligent enough. Not thin enough. Not successful enough.

For many of our clients, they’ve encountered these types of messages from a very young age, and often from the people they looked to most for love and encouragement.

In the video below you’ll get seven powerful insights, from some of the top experts in our field, about how they counter feelings of “never good enough” in their work with clients.

Take a look – it’s about 4 1/2 minutes.

How have you worked with clients who felt they were “never good enough?”


Please Leave A Comment



  1. Jenni says:

    Interesting. Thank you.

  2. Ms. Joyce E. Weaver says:

    Helpful input for a common issue with abasic need of feeling secure. Incredibly worthwhile information, thank you all!

  3. jo says:

    I just ask 3 words.
    Q: Is this true?
    A: I don’t know, that’s what I’m told.
    Q: Do you really believe it’s true?
    A. No
    Q: What IS true?
    Then the conversation goes forward from there.

  4. Because this can be an overwhelming feeling, I usually ask questions like how long have you felt this way, when did these feeling start. This allows for a reduction in emotional state and increase cognitive. This questioning can help lay the ground work for the source and power of the negative feelings.

  5. Jenni says:

    Yes, it is a good point.

  6. Dan says:

    Be sure that EMDR is your specialty and will be practiced under supervision. Be EMDR trained before using ALL this with clients! I believe a good training in SE in addition to it will give the most comprehensive care to our clients

  7. Jennifer B. says:

    Usually EMDR is the fastest, most effective method of changing this core belief. Because it’s trauma based, language (i.e. talk therapy) will only facilitate so much. EMDR and/or other somatic therapies are needed to process this belief on a sensational (physiological) level.

  8. Bri says:

    I found that I was in the habit of referring in my mind, or deferring if you will, to the wrong people. I was caught in loops such as “why did my sister say that mean thing?” when she obviously has her own motives and can easily move the goalpost so you never get it right. Or people that can affect you in that fashion may not know why they do it….Then I realized I should be deferring my thoughts to geniuses if I could so now I have been reading Nietszche and other great minds for direction instead of looping stupid criticisms from ordinary or below average minds.

    I feel much better! Try it and see….

  9. Lyn says:

    I have enjoyed reading all the different comments and approaches. I wonder about an evolutionary perspective – humans have evolved an attentional bias towards the negative and potential threats so they can be avoided and increase the likelihood of survival. Some families are more threat focused and the child may somehow develop the habit of identifying all the perceived deficits or ways s/he is not good enough as a misguided motivation to do better, achieve more resources (status, money etc) to ensure more security or safety. From a cognitive approach we can identify the different attentional biases such as narrowing of attention, black and white thinking, forgetting to account for the context, social comparison etc but it seems a somatic approach is also needed to address how it has been internalised into the body over the years as ‘muscle memory’.

  10. I explore with my where they feel these negative imprints came from, and some say parents, some say teachers, etc. If my clients realize that these negative imprints have never benefited them in their lives, they then realize their own opportunity to change those self-deprecating feelings into setting their own standards for themselves. Once this happens, they realize their own choices, and can be more who they are, and look toward possibilities of what is really possible.

  11. Thank you for these great tools and insights. How do I work with “never good enough”? First, I like to find out what that really means and feels like to my client; never assume. I have my own experience with “never good enough”! As therapists, it can be an occupational hazard; modeling being okay with ‘not knowing’ and making mistakes/being human (as opposed to omniscient) is often useful for clients who project these qualities onto others. So sometimes just being curious about its origins and what it means is enough to begin deconstructing it. Alternate narratives can organically bubble up from the client’s stronger or higher Self. There’s also that cognitive technique that can work like magic: “Say it again, ‘I’m never good enough’. How does that feel in your body? Notice your reactions to saying that out loud. Now take a deep breath, and say instead ‘I’m having a thought that I’m not good enough’. How does that feel?” Usually there is quite a dramatic difference, the client feels lighter, realizes somatically that a thought is just a thought and not reality, that this has an impact on the body and the sense of self. And then there’s “Never good enough for what”? So many of life’s challenges and obstacles come out of no fault of our own; they aren’t judgments of our character. How we respond to them can be the making of us. As a therapist, I find the greatest gift I have is my presence. My embodied experience of having been fashioned at the grinding wheel myself; I know this territory. Sometimes the best intervention is the commitment we make to our own healing, and how we convey that non verbally. And then how we demonstrate in so many ways that we value our clients as human beings.

  12. First I unpack what”enough” means to the client. Then we examine the story and what ways the story has been serving them. When we can feel love and compassion toward the parts of us that used the story as a cover, we can begin the shift to a new, more healthy story. Then….this piece gets forgotten….then we future_cast into as many scenarios as possible to anchor the updated belief of “always enough”. Practice, practice, practice!

  13. Beth says:

    Thank you for the remarkable observation – vocational aspiration has to include – great work out. It does have to take away their worries and transport you to new discoveries. Meaning learnings. For some clients , their love of service to their community gives them a greater purpose. I usually encourage them to grow in anyway. It doesn’t have to be accordingly to the social desirability.

  14. Ms. Joyce E. Weaver says:

    As appropriate, a spiritual approach.
    “God sees you through Jesus, the epitome of goodness. So, God does not condemn you. Since God does not condemn you, no one can, not even yourself.

  15. Alexandra says:

    I might have a client with low self-esteem because the person has not accomplished what s/he has wanted to despite her/his education level. The person might say, “I’m just a _____”. I will tell them that this does not define them. I have given them examples of people who might have jobs that pay the bills, but that the person then gets involved in pursuits that they feel connected to after work, whether it is art, music, theatre, whatever inspires the person. I discussed that earning money from something does not determine its significance in terms of identity.

  16. Stijn Leijssen says:

    What I discovered in my trauma work to be an important intervention, is helping the client to discover/remember the moment in which he as a child felt: “what you (the other) say or do, is wrong!”. Or just remember the damage of basic trust, when someone did not (or did) things the child trusted him to do (or not to do). I listen always very carefully if I hear in what the client tells, something that contains this aspect (the realization of being wronged, the feeling of disentchantment in someone you trusted).
    Then I let the client make contact with this feeling/memory in the body, let the sensation grow in the body (by giving it attention, by letting the client lay a hand on that spot of the body, etc…) and consolidate it with EMDR. I explain the client that this moment is very important, because it shows him in a very concrete way (by feeling the memory in the body) that under the feeling of being hurt and damaged there is still that authentic layer, a deep Feeling of what is right and wrong. A very important compass in daily live that clients once lost and nowadays miss to make right decisions.

  17. Dr janis lucky-otello says:

    I often have my client show me evidence of the negative things that they say about themselves with supporting documents. I also make them script self affirmations that they will say every morning as they look in a mirror. Also, if there was a time when I experienced a negative conception of self similar to theirs ill share.

  18. Lori says:

    Finding client strengths is so important. Thank you for sharing

  19. Sam Leong says:

    Good food for my soul on a Saturday morning. I liked what Jack said about the true self narrative that those who feel that they were “never good enough” have forgotten. Working with people who come from a Judea Christian tradition, I remind them that in the beginning and in their personal beginning, God’s reflection about them created in His image was – “you are good” or as the Psalmist writes – “you are fearfully and wonderfully made”. As another writer puts it – “God don’t make junk”. One treatment for shame is the use of guided imagery where clients experience an intimate scene of Christ covering their shame with His white cloak of righteousness. This is also the source of the love that I extend to clients.

  20. Thanks for the different view points

  21. Dee says:

    Very good! I liked hearing everyone’s different perspectives.

  22. billur ugursal says:

    in EMDR, there is an exercise called “Loving Eyes” where clients imagine
    their younger self and send loving, sun filled gazes at their image.

    I receive good feedback about this exercise.
    When it ‘works’, it is rather self empowering.

    • Nancy Gutfreund says:

      Great techniques, thanks everyone. Curious if when u use EMDR Loving Exercise uf u have clt do eye movements while imaging sending sun filled gazes to their younger selves or is that imagery done without having them do eye movements? Thanks much!

      • I also use the “Loving Eyes” exercise which was developed by Jim Knipe. Yes, eye movements are part of the process. Knipe covers it in his book “The EMDR Toolbox”. Clearly, it’s necessary to be EMDR trained before using this with clients. It’s so helpful in making the shift in perspective to being a worthy, valued person!

  23. I use Shame Reduction exercises of giving the Shame back to the person who gave it to them. We often do it from the Adult who is representing the Inner Child. Along with he shame that is given back, I assist the client in telling the shame-giver how they feel about what that person did or said. I find this to be very powerful.

    • Marie says:

      Thank you for your comment. Very often shame is avoided in conversations. It would be easier if clts could be more open to it.

  24. hilary jenkinson says:

    Many thanks Ruth. Always important aspects you discuss.
    Highlighting what is good in people’s lives.. what good came from that challenge, comment or behaviour.
    I find helps to neutralise the emotional attachment to what they thought was not good…

  25. Lisa Schiro says:

    It is a moving target for many (never feeling good enough). The way I work with it is to use Guided Imagery paired with EMDR – if appropriate. Learning to be okay with the shadow self is also helpful for the client with self-deprecating language.

    • Barbara says:

      Very interesting, could you explain a little bit more about how you pair Emdr and guided imagery? Thank you

  26. I go underneath the story and the experiences, directly to the Belief layer, and clear the original belief from the core of the psyche, whether it was a conclusion or an indoctrinated belief. I use the Clear Beliefs method, which I teach, using a simple guided imagery process that engages ALL aspects of the self – body, emotions, intellect, and the spiritual self. When a belief is cleared in this way (usually in an hour or less), it is gone, and it doesn’t come back. The client has a visceral and experiential knowledge that what was there for decades has disappeared. It’s a method of memory reconsolidation that is efficient and effective. I teach this set of methods to students around the world in the Clear Beliefs Coach Training, accredited by the International Coach Federation.

  27. peter fox says:

    really helpful Thanks Peter Fox

  28. Hayley Bilski says:

    Thanks for the wonderful ideas. I find that what gets an awakened response is talking about how we all came into this world as innocent and primal beings, where we were comfortable to let those around us know if our basic needs were not being met. We then explore the journey that changes that along the way and how we can return to a purer understanding of what we are capable of.

  29. Trish Johnson says:

    All helpful, thank you. I work in a variety of ways, from positive validations of their gifts to cognitive challenging, e.g. – if we were going to Convict you of being not good enough, would we have enough evidence?? Is ther another way to look at this? Agree it is helpful to stress that feelings are not facts.

  30. Lilacs says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  31. Thank you. I take the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy approach.

  32. Bob Cable says:

    As has been pointed out, people who are stuck in the selfview of being not good enough typically don’t see positives in their lives. Clients will describe experiences, highliting the negatives, passing over positives without acknowledging them and then they will say all these experiences were awful, nothing good happened since we last met. That might be how they feel when they are talking to me and at the same time it may not be accurate. I do a rewind and point out positives they described, for example, something they did that was effective/kind, when someone acknowledged something positive/constructive they did, when they saw something heart warming like a cute toddler in the store who grinned at them. Those things are real and frequently they reflect specific client behaviors. It helps them to reshape their selfview.

  33. Elena says:

    I think if you be there with someone who doesn’t feel good enough, listen, find ways to notice and say something pleasant about their qualities, and like Jack Kornfield says…love them, they will begin to feel good enough. People who do not have *someone*, need someone, sometimes.

  34. Mary Curro says:

    I have found that there is a certain category of clients who, from childhood on, have never felt up to par, either by physical traits or, as one of mine, the dyslexia that kept them feelng inadequate in school. One thing that often gets unacknowledged is the talents and skills they actually do have, because the social or educational ones they are lacking in take dominance. The mental/emotional focus becomes what is lacking, rather than what is in supply and is positive. To help them see what skiils or talents they have and see their value can be very helpful in raising their self respect and worthiness.

  35. Jean says:

    I agree with the third speaker who mentioned that sometimes why persons feel not good enough is due to the absence of of people who should have held significant roles in their lives.

  36. When clients realize the first message of “You’re not good enough” came from their parents I let them know that the infant is never wrong for instinctively needing the parents for attention and care. As they grew older their parents were tasked with the responsibility of teaching them to keep them safe and to raise them to be “good” or at least compliant. Some parents aren’t equipped to do this in a healthy way. Other parents lack the knowledge to to do this in a healthy way and don’t realize the negative effects this has on the child. Then I ask the client if they can have compassion for the child within them that still hears those messages and separate the child from the parenting and begin to give themselves what they instinctively know they need. Then we work to rewrite self talk. It’s been powerful in improving self esteem and empowering people.

  37. I feel it is imperative to acknowledge exactly how they feel emotionally and how that feels in their body, first so they feel met and heard where they are so they don’t feel wrong once again.
    Then we work from where the messages might have come and give them back in ways that empower the client and separate them from the pain of the person giving the messages.
    Then they are able to reconnect with themselves and the truth of who they are and build from that new foundation. I give them lots of tools to work with at home such as affirmations, ways to block negative messages/energy, centering and grounding so their body becomes a safe place to reside. And their inner child gets the reparenting it missed.
    Thank you for all the wonderful information you bring and the platform to share.

    • So many times we jump from the wound to forgiveness and the ‘get over it’ without allowing the sadness and anger to be processed ( because it was not safe when young to express those)

  38. Purusha says:

    I say “of course you’re not good enough” no one is Go(o)d enough on this planet,,,,,so do not take it personally,, it is a collective issue. We are all her to Learn about Truth and to navigate toward more Truth fullness. “not good enough” is a sign of mental health!

    • Helen says:

      I like this thought! Thank you.

  39. Nicole Jung says:

    Hi all,
    Thank you for sharing your approaches.
    I work as a Naturopath and Sexological Bodyworker. My experience is that people react positive on LOVING TOUCH and ACCEPTING the way they are right now. This builds confidence that they are indeed ok. From there, it is possible to work towards self acceptance, worshipping their life and the way they coped with difficulties. This opens for new approaches if the old strategies are not of use any longer. No necessity of hard feelings about the past (however go with the grief if it comes), because they have the presence to alter behaviour into a better future. To go there, I offer various small steps they can chose from for a start, then find their own way to stabilize mood, strengthen self esteem and worshipping little and bigger successes. Touching (eg in a massage) while communicating is setting kind of an anchor, makes it easier to stick to the new, more positive way of looking at them selves and at life, or others. Body experience makes a positive feeling more real.
    Best regards, Nicole

    • Yes! The allowing of all emotions they have and loving them where they are

  40. Carol Khan Nicholls says:

    I think that I like best to work like Jack has outlined. This is what comes naturally to me and seems to work in a way that is mysteriously motivating for the client and they blossom.

  41. nancy gutfreund says:

    In art therapy we do “collage” for children at school age who have lost or a lack of presence of a significant person (parent, sibling, friends ) due to accident or abandonment. The collage represents a de/re-construction of an image or a scene that is giving them n a new narrative to their tragic loss. The result is the person will carry on his experience within herself and bring back the good memories of its meaning .

  42. Mike says:

    thank you. Repeating positive affirmation sentences can sensibly help in many ways.

    • Tim O’brien says:

      Thank you, I agree.

      • Lolita says:

        Great approaches and information! I also focus on helping clients to separate feelings from facts, while engaging in a lot of normalization and validation. This video gave me confirmation on approaches I currently use, and insight on other approaches to incorporate. Thanks!!

  43. Geri says:

    I ask for specifics, start with one thing that they think they aren’t good enough at, and plan something to do that they can do, that will prove to them that they are good enough. It is a building process, one step at a time. “I ate a healthy meal today, therefore I can eat healthy. Therefore I am a good person.”
    Each time a small specific thing is accomplished, the person has taken action in spite of their feelings of fear, lack, doubt and shame, and their world did not fall apart. Nobody berated them for failing even if they didn’t succeed. This experience provides evidence that it is ok to try again, maybe bigger. And confidence builds.
    The basis is fear, false evidence appearing real. I start with the evidence part and chisel away at the fear through disproving the story that the client believes is real.

    • Carol Khan Nicholls says:

      I think equating what they do, with who they are is perpetuating the problem. What the client can imagine, they can achieve.

  44. nancy gutfreund says:

    I often have clients visualize their inner child. The ones who are able to do this sometimes see the beauty and innocence of their child and come to see that child objectively with a lot of compassion. Them I” have them say positive sentences to their child ie “I love listening to you”, “I love being here for you”, It’s not yur fault”

  45. Angela says:

    I am a Reverend and oftentimes I work with people who have developmental trauma. I share from the Bible how God formed us before the foundations of the Earth and called us by name. He knit us together in our mothers womb and the Bible says WE are wonderfully made. I help many understand God loves us all without exception. We never have to be perfect and God loves us even in moments when we cannot love ourselves. I also tell people that even if our parents were abusive or someone caused us horrible pain, God’s heart also breaks for us. He doesn’t shame or blame us. I share that He is powerful and is always on our side cheering us on and caring for us. He will be with us even to the end of time. That helps people who have abandonment issues and gives them hope and strength to know they are not alone. I am so grateful I am able to help people this way.

    • Steve E. says:

      Great message. I also use the Bible when it is OK with guests. It can, however, produce a lot of ‘not good enough’ on its own. What resonates with the people I work with in a detox unit is the story of Jesus and the woman who the crowd is about to stone for adultery. It seems to perfectly illustrate that we are all sinners and that no one sin is any worse than another. Once that point comes across, Jesus does not condemn the woman; He tells her to go and not do it again. Forgiveness of self is critical to overcoming feelings of ‘not good enough’. Thanks for bringing the Bible into the discussion. Even though I am a believer and a disciple, religion was a major source of my shame and ‘not good enough. ‘ the key for me and that I try to pass on to others is to just get to ‘enough’. Blessings.

      • Angela says:

        Often, religion has been used for shame and abuse. Because people come to me for Biblical counsel, I am always free to use the Bible but I try to be as careful as I possibly can. And I agree that forgiveness is key. If God says when we confess our sons he is faithful and just to forgive us when people have trouble forgiving themselves for anything, I share that with them. I also work to help them cultivate their own personal relationship with God. Everything I say comes from a place of no shame. I was abused from a very young age until my early 40s. I can usually sense what will trigger a shame and blame cycle for someone and steer clear. I attempt to cultivate the same sentiments when I preach. There are quite a few people in the congregation that have developmental trauma issues and the family systems in our church are generationally dysfunctional. It will take a lot of time for the church I am serving in to heal. I try at all times to remain the non anxious presence in the room.

        • Angela says:

          Blessings to all from me as well.

      • Wendy Tuck says:

        I’ve always wondered what was the woman’s response to “don’t do it again”. Was it freeing not to be stoned, but for those who are addicted or obsessed or compulsive about doing things that are harmful, does this directive create despair?

        • Angela says:

          Yes. But that’s usually when I teach on the power of the Spirit of God who dwells within us when we believe. We have power to overcome but God understands when we fall short and does not want us to shame ourselves. That is a text I wrestle with also because as human beings we have a general “sin problem”. No one will ever be perfect this side of heaven. Often, I tell people who struggle with addictions to ask God to remove the desire to drink, use, self harm etc. I have seen quite a few miracles where people lose their desire for the particular substance they had previously abused.

          • Angela says:

            You’re welcome Karen. I too struggle with very old issues of feeling unworthy. But I have been trying to turn bitter lemons into sweet lemonade. I would never have chosen my upbringing but I can now completely empathize with others who suffer. So, at least I can help. It’s given me a purpose. Blessings.

          • Karen J says:

            Thank you for all that, Angela.
            I’m working through my own “Not good enough” issues – old, deep convictions.

            Blessings to you too!
            Karen J

  46. Emma Chase says:

    I try to remind people that sometimes we can be raised by parents or caregivers who were ‘telling us their story’ with regard to feelings of worthlessness or shame. Like robots or parrots repeating negative messages. Sometimes such a parent or caregiver’s negative words can be coloured by their own unresolved trauma, or undetected depression/dysthymia that cause them to see the world thru a blue lens. Becoming aware of this can help a client get perspective about where the messages came from. As the saying goes: people don’t tell us their opinions how WE are, they tell us [‘leak’] about how THEY are. #mindfulness #perspectivetaking #theoryofmind

  47. Mary Jane Kruse says:

    I feel like a cheerleader in most of my groups at the hospital. I work with Not Guilty Reason of Insanity patients many of whom are on the Psychotic Disorder Continuum. I do believe my patients can feel the positive energy (Love) I feel for them in their brave and resilient lives. Some are so confused and stuck that just feeling that one person believes in them and talks about their potential in the here and now can have a healing effect. Thank you Jack Kornfield, “Love is the answer, What is the question.” Mary Jane Kruse, Psy.D.

    • dennis duPont says:

      I am a chaplain at a psych hospital (mostly foresnsic), and I fully believe the basics of pleasant eye contact, mirroring emotion, pleasant well modulated voice and encouragement for the talents that I notice, communicate “good enought” for these people.

  48. Rebecca says:

    This is great! I work with sexual assault survivors at a small non-profit. Once a year I offer a work group on self worth as I have found worthiness, or the lack there of, is foundational work for all that comes after in the healing process. Thank you!

  49. Working with diverse groups of people and playing Drama Therapy warm up games, help people assess their strengths and what the favorite things to do. I do some strength-based assessment games and then ask people to from a team with members all four diverse dominate “Operating Systems” and give the room a common project to come up with a creative proposal to make the solution project happen.

    People realize that in their diversity, it made the team and the solution better and safer.

    Fun improves function. Timed fun helps people energy and expand their possibilities as it reverses the drain of negative thinking andcworry.

  50. Sam says:

    Thank you for this video- when someone I am working with states they are comparing themselves to others- I emphasize compare yourself to yourself- like a successful Olympic swimmer or runner- trying to beat their own time not looking at others- as it becomes a distraction- also incorporating much of what has been said -also try and think with the person as though they are a country- with their own norms and what do you have to offer that others don’t’ and what do get from others that he need- i.e. The differences of being an island vs. a peninsular- ot – a country bordering on others-

    • Emma Chase says:

      In sports, that is called a Personal Best. Great idea, BTW!

      • Nancy S says:

        Sounds great!

  51. I definitely love and accept, validate, and help clients identify the root of the negative beliefs keeping them stuck. Then once I hey increase their understanding of what’s happened to get them to this point , we work on reframing and rewriting their story, as well as attaching to themselves and self care. I highlight the strengths I see and hear and affirm their value as human beings vs human doings. Thanks for your work.
    Laurie Orlando, JD,MA,LPC,NCC

    • Marcel DuPont, MS says:

      I feel very humble about the work behind this process to build a well-being true to her value as who she really is. My fear is the dependency that result from the process in term of lots of responsibilities. But the self-care would take care itself. Great idea. Thanks!

  52. Sandra Figueroa-Sosa says:

    Dear all of you. Thanks for sharing your stories. I’ll share a little of mines with family constellations.
    What I have done with people who seems to be never good enough for themselves, is trying to get to the point in their family history where the phrase does make sense. In some cases, I have found that the destiny they were taking as theirs in the family constellations was that of someone with the precise feeling of unworthiness and shame for what they inj fact did. And so, beggining with the consideration of clients’ huge love for their family systems, as seen in their sacrifice (entanglement), they can look for a way to mantain that love without the negativity that was nor theirs. From there on, the work to grow in auto appreciation is much easier, and guilt and shame can go away faster (return to whom they belong, when that’s the case).

  53. Barbara Caspy says:

    I explore with clients where their “not good enough feelings” come from. I emphasize that we’re all born innocent and beautiful, but we don’t have a choice about what kind of family we’re born into, and the effect that family will have upon our sense of self. I also make sure they understand the difference between their behavior and who they are.

  54. Rebecca says:

    I work with a narrative approach. I try to find a time where they sure feel worthwhile and I help them enlarge that story so they can look at themselves in a different light.

    • Angela says:

      That’s an awesome approach!

  55. Judy hanazawa says:

    Thanks for this. If a person has grown up with such a message from a parent I have focused on the person’s own spirit being present and capable of supporting positive healthy growth and that past messages of inadequacy were about the messenger and not about truth.

  56. I sometimes just take the client’s side against a critical individual or voice and argue for the client’s side with the client, but I’ve found I have to be careful with this, especially if I’m “arguing” against a parental voice or a spouse’s voice.

  57. Leslie Shah says:

    Not good enough speaks to desire and control. If I make myself somehow better I will get what I want. For many there is the Pavlov experiment of a behavior or affect triggering a response. There is in this the wounded child and the physically mature adult. I bring the adult back to him or herself.

    • D Preston says:

      I don’t think this has to be a negative thing. Does it mean being less competitive and enjoying the ride? ACT may be the best approach here.

      • Bob says:

        ACT is not easily sold out! And I have reason to believe that people don’t talk much about it

      • Brian says:

        Yes!!! Good suggestion for some relief-

  58. Agnes carbrey says:

    “Not being good enough” is perhaps the result of being raised by depression-era parents. Do the millenials share this problem?

    • Brian says:

      Definitely- that explains a lot because my father had to leave school in grade 8 and go to work on the farm- this made him resentful and left him feeling like a failure as he had a very keen mind. He should have continued his education but raising a family took precedent- It led him to drink a lot and become very abusive verbally and emotionally-on an ongoing basis- not a pleasant situation while growing up- but oh well- I sometimes pretend my father was a brilliant doctor and that changes my perspective!

      • Pink says:

        I have found that tapping helps greatly to work on this. But it looks like you’ve done your work and passed the most difficult inner struggle. Validating the feelings and acknowledging that this isn’t the end of everything else is necessary. I use tapping a lot to bring out the worst of me to let in the best into my life. Thank you for sharing with such authenticity that we can easily relate to in so many ways.

  59. Sophie Hammersley says:

    Working with clients as a professional organiser requires a level of trust that needs to be established rather quickly , they have reached out for help and their courage to do this is immense in some cases.

    Slowing right down , listening to their perspective on what it is they are trying to achieve by contacting an organiser.
    Overwhelm and not knowing where to begin.

    Asking :How do you want this space (a room, a closet, a garage) to work for you & how do you want to feel when you come into this space? This allows them to clarify , perhaps even visualise what it is they want to achieve.

    This gives them some mental clarity and focus , helping them to experience some relief from overwhelm.
    They know I will be working with them to then achieve that goal.

    It is gratifying work.

  60. claire says:

    Somebody earlier in these pages mentioned our time in the womb as important for the view we develop of ourselves. I want to second that. Although I’ve noticed quite a few self-help writers talking about babies being born with no doubts about themselves and then losing that glorious state through early experiences of life, actually most people have already formed limiting beliefs about themselves before they are even born. It’s enough to be an unplanned baby, the second girl when parents were hoping for a boy this time, to have a mother who herself feels that she is inadequate and so on, for the baby to be deeply affected and to form limiting beliefs which are then acted out during life:’ I’m not wanted’, ‘it’s not ok to be female’, ‘I’m not good enough’ and so on. In this context I wanted to mention a technique called ‘Matrix Birth Reimprinting’, which delicately and creatively helps people to put these things right in the womb or during the birth process itself, with many documented results of great interest’ that describe resolution of the client’s own physical or emotional issues, their children’s ( especially if still small) or positive changes in other members of their family. Indeed it can be very like an inner ‘Family Constellation’ sometimes. This approach was developed by Sharon King in the UK, from Karl Dawson’s ‘Matrix Reimprinting with EFT’. She published a book in 2015 called ‘Heal Your Birth, Heal you Life’, which i would recommend to anyone interested in this area.

    • Sailor Shay says:

      This is just what I needed to find out. Thank you for sharing!

  61. Explore when this believe started and where it came from. Then identify how it was reinforced. From there the client can explore the quality of the evidence. From that vantage point perspective can shift. Sometimes it is an inter generational family belief they can be released. Here is where faulty thinking can be identified, self-compassion can be taught, and meditation and connection with trusted people can be used to help replace this belief system that causes suffering.

  62. JF says:

    Good insights again.
    I may ask different questions to the person I help.
    Where does those standards come from ?
    When was the very first time you’ve heard about those standards ? (stories)
    Could that be a message (repeated over and over ?) that you bought into and kept (listening to it) since ?
    Who’s this voice ?
    What ‘s your take (vision) about those standards ?
    What do you think about those standards ?
    How does those standards make you feel ?
    What are you judgments around those standards ?
    The aim is to trigger emotions and work from there.
    And then what do you want to do about those standards ?
    Voilà !

  63. Iiris Bjornberg, Life Coach, Helsinki, Finland says:

    Love is half of the work we do, as Jack pointed out. It represents acceptance in a beautiful way – the client may have those negative thoughts about him/herself at the same time as he/she knows that the truth (or my truth) can be different. Judging yourself is a terrible dilemma for so many. I often suggest some physical exercises in the beginning of a session. For example: chin up, shoulders back, walk straight forward. Also writing down the opposite of a negative thought is effective and makes people sometimes laugh.
    Thanks for taking up an important issue! – And thanks for sharing, Leah.

  64. Thanks for info. So helpful.

  65. Leah Stein says:

    I help the client uncouple the story from their physical sensations. Then we track the sensation in the body , and become aware that the client is tolerating the discomfort. Then we notice where in the body it’s more pleasant and we pendulate between the opposite sensations until the uncomfortable has disipatated. When they’re in the zone of optimal arousal ill have the client says ,I MATTER. This gives unbelievable amount of relief and strength and builds neural pathways of I CAN I MATTER in the brain body.

    • Shahina says:

      Wonderful Leah, thank you

    • Thanks for sharing Leah. Your method sounds great and I look forward to helping people in this way.

  66. JANE LESSMAN says:

    This was very helpful in identifying the deep roots of validation by understanding: What is true? Where does it come from? Pursuing potential for the “anything is possible”. Thank you for the inspiration in helping others who have felt they were not or are not “good enough”.

  67. Debbie Davis says:

    Wow, so many thoughtful responses! Feeling inadequate or “not good enough” resonates with numerous people in part because society pressures us to be accomplished. When working with clients, I find that part of them subscribes to negative images given to them in their childhood. When a client holds a current specific negative cognition, I encourage the client to try to recall when they first felt that way about themselves and explore with the client what was happening for them at that specific point in their lives.

    Treating clients with respect and being able to enjoy them in the present often helps clients to re-evaluate feelings of inadequacy because they have a comparison point about how they ought to be treated by friends or co-workers. Thank you so much for this valuable discourse.

  68. In working with clients that hold beliefs that they are not enough I typically start with normalizing, embracing, and loving what is in the present moment. Then I typically move into a practice of forgiveness where clients are invited to forgive the part of themselves that are holding on to such a belief. We explore the power of the unconscious, the manifestation of the expression of not enough into one’s life and body, and learning practices to help reprogram such beliefs. I also find it very important to address how this feeling of not enough serve an individual. At times it may be beneficial to look into the part for understand it’s source but this is not necessary based on my experience. The feeling of not enough may vey well be part of a natural process of the growth of the soul where one is longing for significance or sensing an inner urge to grow as a person. All dimensions should be explored with loving kindness and compassion.

    • Nancy S says:

      This is very helpful for a person looking for inner growth and self- acceptAnce. Thanks.

  69. Stacey says:

    This was a very helpful broad spectrum of viewpoints so that was really lovely.

    One experience that I had was inviting the client to look at a newborn child and then themselves as a newborn and really take the time to reflect (if they don’t have a “people are born evil” worldview) on that wonder of birth and soul that they recognize in that infant. Then we explore their life as they grew up how events happened to them, and keep bringing back the focus to the core of the individual and how it took time or a specific event or events to shift this. And how instead of discovering all the wonderful ways that they can be in the world, they learned all the ways other people did NOT want them to be. We visualize and feel this and begin the process of regrowing who this lovely person is on the inside. Of course they feel bad and they are in touch with those feelings and now it is time to get in touch with feelings that are also present because there is still that core amazing human being present. We can focus outside of themselves and inside pendulating awareness and getting them in touch with those more illusive “facts and feelings” that help them know that they are worthy inherently.

    • Amy M says:

      Thank you for sharing this approach. It resonates deeply with me.

  70. Charlie says:

    I’ve found with my own children, they come up with stories that I do not care about their feelings, and no matter what I say I cannot convince my oldest daughter. It gets to the point that I just walk away because the discussion has deteriorated too much. While I am aware she’s hurt, I tell her I love her but am unable to convince her of my love for her or her feelings. Maybe I’m not seeing my insensitivity although I do not carry the feelings of guilt or burden of her comments. I wished the best knowing I have no control.

    • SM says:

      Hi Charlie, I volunteer for a scholarship program in my area. And found that your situation is very common. The candidates have some growing issue around being independent. They feel misunderstood and rarely consider other options. Seeing self as “ I am enough” is a challenge. Usually parents are pushing. And children make wrong decision. Their confidence and inner strength develop only as they earn their independence and being able to explore without being completely told what to do.

  71. Anne M. Gorman says:

    Thank you for these tidbits. I have become aware more and more that teachers are having this thought and they encounter more students who express negativity about who they are. This is unsetting to me because as an educator for over four decades I see change. We used to be able to talk with our students and listen to them more and give a hug once in a while but now it’s only about the agenda ~ if it’s not in the lesson then you can’t engage! Teachers are constantly being fed negative evaluations and almost never given positive feedback. I am retired now but before I retired I worked with the teachers and found that more and more they harbor that feeling of never being good enough! How sad is that? My role today is to continue to encourage those very special educators who dare to find a place in their heart to encourage their students. They are good enough and need to be told so. I pass your information on to those who can make a difference today.

    • Caryl says:

      Thank you for voicing my plight as an educator. I have healed bring retired.
      “ the agenda” test scores can be harmful and add smother layer of “I am not enough”
      Thinking. We have moved beyond, in many situations, having basic standards to now making demands which aren’t always in sync with children’s needs, abilities, thoughts, feelings.

  72. Karin-Elisabeth says:

    In my work the approach to increasing awareness about how the person relates to the body and find ways to inhabit the body in a more conscious way seems to give the best results. – Once that has been accomplished more some of my clients feel like opening up to the idea of the 3 dimensions of our being: body, soul and spirit…

  73. The idea I often work with (something I’ve absorbed but not quite sure where it comes from now) is that where a person has, as a child, had a parent who was unavailable and impaired in their parenting abilities in some way, e.g. through depression, anxiety, alcoholism etc that child may have developed a core belief that if they could only be a “better child” for their parent they could somehow “fix” them, make them feel better and thus get the parenting they need. This can lead to a feeling of responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of the parent, which of course can’t be fulfilled, this being an impossible task for the child, and thus can lead to a sense of themselves as failing, never being good enough. Added together with the failure of “mirroring” of their own states and needs by the unavailable parent, a sense that they are not effective or worthy of recognition, pride, validation, affection etc. The child may also absorb the parents feelings of helplessness, despair, futility. What the child is getting is not good enough but, having assumed the responsibility for the parent, it must be their fault, hence they themselves can never be good enough. They can be left with the sense of having a “basic fault” at their core. I think that sometimes for the person to be able to get in touch with their anger over their own unmet needs and the burden that was placed on them, and to be able to re-evaluate the position of the “child” they were as “only a child”, not responsible, this can begin to be the route out. However, often where there is this sense of responsibility for the parent, there is also “protectiveness” towards them so that anger can make them feel guilty. Things can sometimes get quite stuck here… Such ideas as those in the video can support the movement forwards.

    • Emma Chase says:

      Hav you heard terms like “parentified child”? I’d categorize it as a type of codependency that a child must engage in for survival. Common in ACOA families.

      • SM says:

        What a horrible term…

    • Rachel says:

      Spot on! Eloquently put. What’s helped some clients in my experience to cut out the guilt is to take it back another layer and think about what happened to their parent, and their parents and so on. How unfair and sad it is that trauma and hurt can be passed unconsciously through generations. I’ve found clients can get express anger towards that. The concept of this toxic hurt and pain being passed along. I may even get them to recreate it somehow through Art and then interact with it to make it more concrete. What’s hopeful is that when this self awareness and forgiveness comes we can break the cycle.

  74. Judith Alexander says:

    I have been offering group work for many of my clients for years that use the Radical Acceptance and True Refuge books by Tara Brach and The Artist’s Way book by Julia Cameron as a sort of “curriculum” or structural understanding for “the work”. MY only structure is asking group members to “check in” with each other each week as to how they relate personally to the material in that week’s chapter. I help create the safe space to self disclose and every week trust grows, open sharing deepens, and through their own stories and admissions about shame, people offload the heavy sense of lifetimes of unworthiness. Sometimes a client will go through a book/group more than once, but invariably, people leave lighter and freer from the previously unconscious shackles of shame and low self worth. I am truly amazed, ever time, at the emotional distances covered in very short time periods once people, THROUGH GROUP WORK, realize the universality of the ways people struggle to embrace self-love or self-acceptance. The healing comes from/through their PEERS more than through a professional 1-1 exchange, which, while still useful, can still be constrained by a perceived power imbalance in the relationship that is difficult to shift, or equalize. I tend to stress with my clients that it is the nature of their relationship WITH THEMSELVES that is needing fundamental shift – from one of shame, to one of self love and appreciation. I will also self-disclose on occasion to further level the playing field, when apropos. The tools of The Artist’s Way groups (and book) assist with this shift very powerfully, as well. I also like the affordability of group work for access reasons. I SO APPRECIATE the contributions of both Tara Brach and Julia Cameron to assist in our healing field! Thanks to them both!!

  75. Most of my clients are survivors of inter-generational trauma. I assess what symptoms they are living with and introduce basic psycho-educational aspects of trauma and then add some coping mechanisms the client can can utilize when not in session to elieviate the intensity. We discuss that although the clients self-deprecating thoughts and feelings appear as reality to them, they are actually trigger responses to past harms that imprison their stuck-ness. However, even their negative thoughts and feelings are purposeful , trying to call the clients attention to self-examination and change; the helpers who hold the keys to a way out of their pain. I remind the client of their resilience and strength because they exist and are still desiring a better tomorrow. We examine their 24 hour clock over a weeks cycle, to improve anything that is creating more obstacles; lack of sleep, poor eating, lack of exercise or poor social outlets. We spend a lot of time normalizing but differentiating heavy and light emotions, how we communicate our emotions and how to challenge harmful thoughts emotions, and how to reprocess and let go of unhelpful emotions. We discuss self-nurturance, self respect, being good enough, and self love. Thank you, thank you for the important work your organization does, I have learned a great deal!

  76. Rich Buckley says:

    Maybe my current and past life regression hypnosis protocols contribute useful insights. I fully understand the silence on the subject. I often find a karmic road block over several lives lived where traumatic experiences build to a peak in the current life. The eternal Subconscious identifies those experiences most accurately, reaching back to the starting point, which is often discovered not in a past life but in a “between life state,” where the soul voice of the Subconscious seems to hold an eternal view of all experiences from all lives ever lived. The soul voice of the Subconscious is incorruptible and I would say also, Godly, and most able to command its own healing. Surprisingly most feelings of inadequacy actually start with between life karmic agreement to participate in a specific learning/teaching/sharing experience that is just more than one can handle. All of these between life agreement points however are forgotten when incarnating in third level density of Earth. Within 60 months after birth 99% of all pre-birth knowledge has been suppressed and no longer consciously retrievable, beyond a normal sense of intuition. As the client listens to a recording of their session, they begin to understand and forgive themselves. There is often a period of disbelief and incredulity drawn from listening to their session. Then followed by an acceptance. The end result seems to be peace and acceptance of who they are and why coupled with a positive notion they are doing their part after all. Inadequacy is replaced with love, acceptance of self, and even a respect for their role in life moving from service to self over to service to others and without fear.

    • I work in similar ways. Where are you as having referral options for out of state clients is useful. I’m in AZ not far from Flagstaff.
      I’m nurse practitioner /psychologist certified in transpersonal hypnotx as well as past life and life between life regression. Also do Shamanic work. BTW, soul retrieval is often essential to the healing of these clients. I refer out for that but teach clients about and prepare for. Thx for your post, Rich.

  77. Alfred Heath says:

    Whenever clients express the belief they are white “never good enough” I address this with them from three perspectivess: first, by looking for the subconscious emotional and cognitive placeholders that can be experienced in the body and displayed in gestures, postures, and facial expressions and voice pitch and tone. I take note of all of these so that I can track changes toward and away from the desired direction during the interventions; second, I dig a little deeperj: “Not good enough for who?” This answer can be multilayered, but should ld be addressed in the order that comes to mind when the client enquires this of their subconscious mind and waits on the answer instead of trying to “think” of the answer, or alternatively do a sentence completion exercise quickly so they don’t get a chance to 2nd-guess themselves. Then we intervene to remove the implicit emotional memory around those relationships/interactions. The second part is to educate them about the developmental aspect of self-worth and self-efficacy in their early upbringing and socialization, and to frame the task of perceiving self worthiness as a critical developmental milestone they missed out and will need to build up in themselves with support, by learning how to erase the imprints of low or no self-worth and replacing them with goal-and-growth-oriented, beneficent and fact-based reevaluation and appropriate actions; most importantly I coach clients to increase their comfort with acts of self-love and self-respect which are simultaneously respectful toward others while being authentic about their emotions, even during difficult interactions

    • Wendy Tuck says:

      Per Dr Dan Siegel, I don’t think you can erase implicit memory. It often forms early before language or when an event overwhelms normal coping strategies- abuse, neglect, abandonment, trauma, etc.. The hippocampus is not able to lay down (not sure that’s the right word) the memories as a unified event, with emotion, perception,sensations, sense of self during the event, and that it happened in the past and can be recalled. It is stored in fragments and does not go into explicit memory. Siegel suggests integrating implicit and explicit memory rather than erasing the implicit memories. His book Mindsight goes into more detail.

  78. Lisa says:

    By Incorporating redeeming visualization and leading the client into encounters with a loving God at the heart level.

    • Beth says:

      Thank you for sharing.

  79. I work with clients to find out when they first felt that way and then to challenge the reality of that assessment in that moment. Then I help them to normalize the “not good enough…” message that challenges most all people. Then go on to moments and experiences where they were good enough and give themselves “at-a-boys”. I also help them to understand that “that feeling” causes us to strive to do better.Thank you for the video. I’m going to watch it again, but not post a comment. :*)

  80. Thank you. I resonate with an approach of accessing both conscious and non-conscious beliefs to get at the source (energy psychology very helpful), then ultimately mirroring love and positive regard. I’ve seen this work well.

  81. Anita says:

    By continually reflecting areas in which they have shown, or proven to themselves, that they were good enough client’s can begin to recognize these things in themselves. Once they can recognize things they’ve done well, in the moment or later, they can begin to overcome the “never” good enough complex.

  82. JJ Rogers, LMFT says:

    As a first year intern I was introduced to Integrative Body Psychotherapy. For the last ten years it has been the basis of the work I do with the majority of my clients. This modality utilizes of an understanding of the client’s negative self perspective as a ‘basic fault’; a lie they told themselves to compensate for the loving attunement their parents, through no fault of their own, could not provide. These almost always are revealed as “I’m not good enough,” “I’ve done something wrong,” or “I’m bad”. Helping the client recognize the physical sensations and thoughts that go with the basic fault, and then interrupting these provides a profound healing experience.

    • Nancy S says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am going to look into the Sensorimotor psychotherapy techniques to learn to reduce my conditioned responses to external aggressions that can be the cause of so much stimulations. I find your adds-on very helpful to see the family dynamics here.

    • Mikki says:

      Thank you .

  83. Siri discussing the points that what you shared by the experts is useful and in the end it seems necessary for many people to address both the cognitive and often associated issues which are stored as as Dr. Vanderkolk has often said. So I find outside cognitive work plus inside emotional pain relief at the dissociated level works well together to resolve these kinds of issues. Only working at the cognitive level simply doesn’t provide the curative possibilities that deep relaxation work with specific recipes does in relieving pain, emotional pain from the system and thus providing for the release of symptoms such as anxiety and depression and not good enough. I actually found the experts to be very limited in their scope and expression and had hoped for more clear pathways to reading the not enough voice inside.

    • Sam says:

      Thank you. Very helpful.

  84. Mary says:

    All the comments are so helpful and they will be great help for my clients. Thank you.

  85. Chloe nahshon says:

    In my experience as a creative therapist, The never good enough tends to go back to childhood experiences usually insecure attachment.On a bigger scale this is reinforced by societal standards but it seems to start with the lack of nurturing in early experiences. Not having their early emotional needs met. The inner wounded child. Working with the inner persecutor and the neglected child. Impicit memory Creating visuals of these parts of self and creating dialogue. Having the grown up part of self give their inner child love and nurturing. Its a working canvas.

  86. Patricia Musselwhite-Weaver, LMHC says:

    Re: Negative Self Talk/Evaluation of self I ask them if they would ever say to someone else what they just said to themselves and they vehemently deny they would.

    • Sherry Belman, MA, LMHC says:

      This is often worthless–in fact, only cements their initial observation as a child that for some reason, they were being treated quite worse than others. Hmm, must be because they deserved it.

  87. Leanne McWaters, MfT says:

    I have my clients actually feel what it is like to make the harsh judgment against themselves that they are not enough–where in the body do you feel it (so somatic) and what is the visceral experience. Most of the time they have gone into defense or shame or some other emotion and not stayed with the self-harming they are doing. When they go into their own heart, they have a different experience then going into their head (where is this from/true, etc.) When they experience the level of self-hatred hidden below the “not good enough” story, they are often willing to treat themselves better and let that old story go. And I ask them to experience their own self-love at that point which is palpable when they have truly felt their own self-despise and released it. I might use some NLP to cement in that new experience at that point. I ask them to notice this new feeling during the week as homework.

  88. I have used a “combo platter” of the above–what’s the evidence/how did you develop that belief/feelings aren’t evidence, how do you feel/hold this in your body, do you ever feel differently in your body; re-look at whether your religious beliefs reinforce “not good enough, gotta be better”

  89. Susan Smith says:

    It is painful to watch clients struggle. I, myself, have struggled with eating disorders. Love. Acceptance. Allowing one to feel safe. Find ways to express those feelings.

    • Beth says:

      It is so true especially when the pain is deep and embedded that has raised from the developmental perspective and social as well. Thanks to writing.

  90. Larisa Kompelmakher says:

    I love all comments a lot…. I did found the the joy and peace in faith of salvation from shading blood of Christ… Bible is my book of TRUTH…and it is come from deep level of TRUST and FAITH of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE of OUR FATHER GOD! To change and find my new identity as a child of GOD was crucial for my restoration and t transformation…..Spirit of of GOD always waiting and wanting to find HIS KIDS, just keep searching and knocking….

  91. Jo-Anne Sutherland says:

    Helping clients to gain an understanding of how their core beliefs contribute to their feelings of low self-worth. Looking at where these core beliefs originate and working on developing new beliefs about themselves. I used to help them with being aware of their thought processes, being mindful of the messages they give themselves on a daily basis and to work on replacing negative thoughts with more realistic, positive ones. Positive affirmations can be helpful and this is something I have used myself.

  92. Lu Lasson says:

    People hold onto beliefs because they serve(d) them. Somehow, it is safer to believe “I’m not good enough”, than another belief. So if you can access that part of them that holds that belief (for me, IFS does this beautifully) and WHY that belief was/is so important, and show that it’s no longer necessary to hold onto that belief, then it can shift. This is not insight-based, but experiential and deep.

    • Jemima says:

      How do I access the part of me that believes that I am not good enough? I think it comes from high expectations that my father had for education. Achieving was everything though little clue was given on how to get there I struggle with knowing how to take small steps my low self esteem and negative self talk and AVOIDANCE run riot. My mother was always self depreciating and now my self depreciation is automatic when I speak to people it annoys people including myself. I would get the stick and cold baths if I was ‘naughty’ and was reduced to a quivering wreck often. Now I shake and over react at conflict and have been diagnosed with adhd as a 50 year old. I am a mature student and despite initial good grades I convinced myself I would fail and avoided work until I did fail year 2 at uni from non submission of work. I am going back but want to access the part that believes I am not good enough.I struggle with relationships and find people competitive. I feel very trapped.

  93. Joe Schwartaz Phd says:

    thank you…the therapy for me was a solid 12 step program….steady repetition that I am OK
    plus I push “feelings aren’t facts”…..feelings are based on the moment and moments change

  94. Marta Luzim says:

    In my experience as a practitioner “telling” clients or questioning clients about the lie of not good enough, or to find evidence that it is true, helps to bring awareness, but not necessarily heal it in the emotional, cellular body.

    Somatic work, creative expression, movement, mindfulness and digging deeply into the emotional branding/beliefs/stories and thoughts” and emotional energetics and eipgentics of generational shame and trauma are a process of feeling, expressing and receiving ….it is a layered, peeling and practice

    The damage to trust around love and the heartbreak of being betrayed is a slow, fierce and compassionate journey into the heart and soul. There is a grief process involved in this shame and not good enough healing.

    Yes, starting off with the cognitive fact, fiction, and teaching the difference is a beginning, but there is so much more to the healing of not good enough In addition as a client as well as a therapist of trauma, I know this process in a deeply personal way. My personal journey I discovered the non verbal and non verbal practices that take me into my body: writing, painting any type of creative process and having a huge amount of love and compassion that I have found in my life along with my continuous recovery and helping others is never endling.. Learning to love oneself and forgive oneself and learn the difference between the victim child and the victim adult is a very subtle and mandatory understanding of the patterning and feelings around trauma. I am not good enough is a symptom of trauma. There are so a myriad of symptoms. Trauma is an octopus . The isn’t one answer or theory or approach that works. It is very individual process. And healing does not mean curing. Trauma and the symptoms of trauma is a life time recovery process Thank you Anne for you sharing. I agree

    • J. Dragon says:

      I so agree with you. I use ThetaHealing to help connect the body and beliefs through this lifetime, genetics, group consciousness and even the soul.

  95. Ruth Greenthal, Ph.D. says:

    I explore and surface negative stories my clients tell themselves,
    and find inaccuracies or state my disagreements – and explain
    their humanity and innocence – like Jack Kornfield talked about.
    Also talk about how I see feelings fitting into the world, as an
    important part of life but not to be confused with objective facts.
    Basically doing reality testing. And looking at small positive changes
    in our work since often their depressive lens is overtaking. Plus tune
    into their body and how they think and feel and cope – and intercede
    using my rapport and relationship. Sometimes I use art or drawings
    to summarize parts of our work as we go.

  96. Vanessa Chant says:

    The times you did feel good enough, what was different?
    Exceptions: Tell me at least one time you did feel good enough?
    What would be different if you did feel good enough?
    Lets imagine someone waved a wand and you felt you were good enough, just for one day, what would be different?

    • Marya Burke says:

      Thanks for this! Reminder to come at the issue from other direction is very helpful to me.

  97. Woody says:

    Responding to the never feeling good enough. I think there are subtle differences that may be attributed to geographical location. I generally start this process with active listening skills. This simple step allows the client to to be an active participant in explaining how it affects them and what their thoughts are. I’m validating their importance in this world and I’m by using reflective listening and paraphrasing they know I understand or I don’t and they will correct me. After this initial time I attempt to universalize the concept with most if not all people have felt or still feel that if others really knew them they wouldn’t like them. Each person comes with their own matrix as to how this belief was planted and nourished. This is all mostly client centered approach. Then its moving into solution focused or RET where we break down old thought and feelings, those old tapes and where the client remembers how they come into play and how these beliefs or attitudes affects them today. Sometimes we do RSA’s to look at what’s rational or in their own best interest and what’s not. This I’m not good enough in most cases was years in the making and effective and lasting change is also generally a process that takes a little time. This belief is so destructive and entrenched in our core essence that giving a person hope that life can be different is critical.

  98. Anne Brinkley says:

    Although I do have a BA in psychology and at one time wanted to be a therapist, I am not a therapist but a client. I have a long history of childhood developmental trauma and complex adult trauma. I began seeking help as a freshman in college after a very disturbing incident involving my bipolar mother and my alcoholic stepfather. I have been in many forms of therapy over the years, not only because of my bipolar mother and therapies associated with her, and for both adopted sons, but most of all for myself. I cannot count the number of mental health practitioners – psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, licensed marriage and family counselors, et al. – that I have been to over a 50-year period, nor can I count the types of therapies I have experienced. “Never good enough” was deeply ingrained in me at an early age, and has often plagued me ever since. No amount of understanding, logic or reasoning has dissipated this feeling. The only professional therapies that have helped me have been ones applied with true love and acceptance on the part of the therapist, and therapies which work with my body and my emotions. These include breath work, heart-centered hypnotherapy, EMDR, and Brain-spotting. They include, also, practices which I instinctively sought – theater, yoga, and massages, long before I discovered “The Body Keeps the Score”. I am a big fan of Bessel Van der Kolk! I have not tried it yet, but I suspect Somatic Experiencing would be very beneficial. I am also intrigued by and drawn to by Internal Family Systems.

    • Marta says:

      Yes, thanks for going out of your comfort zone. i have seen Bessel Van de Kohl at a presentation and like him too. My fourteen years of training before having an MS in counseling has taught me that our brain change from childhood to adulthood as our life experiences enriched it or damage it, depending how much care we give to it. What i love the mist about this work is being “there for” the person. I have an only child but have been an “helicopters” parent because i work and go to school. So i see the role of caregivers as very important.

    • carole says:

      Your story will help me to not give up on healing. Thank you. I too have had years of different therapies by many different professionals. Psychiatry, EMDR, CBT, talk therapy… I have a very high ACE score, The thing is- I feel not good enough, because I have had years of therapy and still live with the negative critic in my head daily. I feel bad for not healing with the help of all these people and the time, money, and effort I have given it. Anyhow, good words and the comments, also.

    • Abbie says:

      I’m also a client, with a similar background and experience in various types of treatment and therapy. Much Love on your journey!

      • Anne Brinkley says:

        Thank you. Same to you!

      • Paula says:

        “I can not count how many….””The only I have …” could show that Anne may feeldiscouraged.But yes, you have been very persistent. Keep it up.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          I have gone through times of depression and discouragement, but I have continued to grow, and have been very helped and encouraged by more recent forms of therapy which involve the body. Usually, I am a happy person who enjoys life. I have many friends and good relationships, and many activities which bring me joy. I do, however, get triggered by some core issues, One of these is needing to be perfect, or another way of saying this, is that I am not good enough. Actually, it is usually that my actions are not good enough, even when I have put forth a superhuman effort and have gone above and beyond expectations. My mind knows that I have done my best, but if I have failed in my purpose, the rest of me often does not listen to that. It feels like I have failed. I have made progress, thankfully, and I’m still moving forward .Thank you.

    • Mitski says:

      Sometimes less is more, one of my Weight Watcher said. Have you tried Art therapy as something to use other than CBT or the classics? Or some form of self-help? A rational portion that our coach present in a plate has been a good help for me to quantify my eating compulsion habits or sometimes starving for else. The least I would get into is th 12steps for this problem that you have.

      • debbie says:

        Hi Anne, well done to you for your commitment to healing. Also wonderful that you know which have helped you. You obviously have awareness so i am surprised by Mitski and Paulas replys. Didnt read anywhere where you were asking for advise.
        All the best for the rest of your journey.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          Thank you for your affirmations and. My intention in posting was to share my outlook and experience as one who had participated in many many forms of therapy as a client, and could comment from that point of view. I could have all of the insight in the world, but talking did not help me change my patterns or feelings. In fact, analyzing and intellectualizing have been one of my defense mechanisms! The analytical part of the brain, for me anyway, plays a very small part in healing.

      • Paula Peireira says:

        I haven’t dived into the twelve steps program. But because your dad struggles with addiction this could be helpful though.

        • Anne Brinkley says:

          Thanks, but my stepdad was not in my life much, and he has been dead for 24 years…There have been other alcoholics in my family, though, and both sons had alcohol/drug issues which led my husband and I to begin going to AlAnon16 years ago. I have gotten much support and benefit from AlAnon, and would recommend it or other 12-step programs. They do not, however, replace good therapy and therapists.

  99. Leslie says:

    One of the ways “never good enough” manifests is in the constant desire to win, or avoid loss. When loss becomes inevitable as part of the course of a person’s life, the experience of defeat is terrifying. The recognition of the layered patterns of striving for achievements, fame and power at the cost of engaging in unethical actions, often comes first. Underneath this is this feeling of defeat which is very unpleasant. The shoulders up is the defensive striving. The physical, mental and emotional collapse of defeat can be met in it’s many layers and held with awareness and deep compassion. This process takes many years in some cases where there were many experiences in early life of the experience of defeat of our healthy and normal need for positive attachment expereiences.
    Often people who have this pattern, despite many achievements, will be attracted to situations where they are not winning and put a lot of attention into trying to avoid the experience of loss or defeat. One way to imagine getting out of this cycle is to allow oneself to surrender to defeat. The beautiful states of the mind that arise when one surrenders, will support further healing of the pattern that has been driving decades of behaviors.

  100. Marianne, psychotherapist and trauma therapist says:

    Yes, so true what Pat Odgen is saying that if the body and the body posture isn`t changing we can work our heads off and nothing changes. I myself experienced that as I was finishing my first training in trauma therapy. then I had a car accident and all the triggers were back and nothing seemed to help me – but then I got to know Somatic Experiencing!

  101. Thank you.

  102. srisht says:

    sadly with Trauma of ACE or boundary violations including rape or incest , particularly,there is Self Loathing and not just feeling of ‘never good enough’ . Idea of
    Radical acceptance and practice of self compassion ( repeated briefly and often during the day) are essential for healing that deep wounding.
    Group therapy works better under such circumstances .

  103. Being a Career Counselor, I have clients write “stories” about things they’ve done that they feel good about. (Some clients need coaching to come up with the stories) Then we tease out the skills, qualities they have that allowed them to accomplish these things. This often helps to validate that they are good enough.

  104. Gina Orlando says:

    I use EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques, guided imagery/hypnosis, talking about spirituality and help to support them in this vital area of their life, helping to heal trauma through a variety of means including Belleruth Naparstek’s “Healing Trauma” brilliant guided imagery work with, referring them to “Radical Self-Acceptance” by Tara Brach, PhD to bring in a Buddhist perspective (along with some Kornfield articles), old-fashioned recovery work with a resource like “Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie, and a good dose of humor. What is ENOUGH??!!

  105. Gwen Pasin says:

    I normally challenge unhelpful thinking patterns. I loved the way Marsha Linehan said move away from feelings and focus on the facts – do a reality check.

  106. P. Lyndon says:

    My clients are in their twenties and usually have cognitive conditions that really make it tough for them to come to clarity about what is going on until doing and talking about it all. Some have a very distasteful idea about being seeing a therapist. So this discussion about identity and being stuck in space and time is definitely helpful. Thank you,

  107. Melissa Epple says:

    I listen for and address with my clients feelings, judgements as belief based which leads to resistance of who you are. Once the story of that identity is faced, the client either decides to continue which changes nothing or acknowledge, accept and welcome their decision to end their relationship to that story/ identity, and then can decide they create who they are, not some imprint that was tied to their false identity. I agree with Pat Ogden the body is a valuable resource as are the emotional and mental.

  108. Patricia Kapphahn, Atlanta says:

    Thank you, Ruth, for sharing these helpful perspectives. So much of the work I do is helping clients find that acceptance and self love within themselves and to let go the old self limiting beliefs that so many still carry .

    • Patricia Kapphahn, Atlanta says:

      Thank you, Ruth, for sharing these helpful perspectives. So much of the work I do with clients is helping them find that acceptable and self love within themselves and let go the old self limiting beliefs.

  109. Steve E. says:

    In my work at The Addiction Recovery Center, a boutique medical detox unit in Oklahoma City, the guests are at a very low pint and are dealing with a lot of Shame from what they have done and the choices they have made. What I do, is start at the beginning when they were born and ask them to describe how they were then. Usually pure. Blameless. Beautiful. Then we review the Adverse Childhood experiences. The average number is 7. To add perspective, I use the adverse outcomes of having a high ACE score. When I show them the ACA Red Book and read a little about the common traits, tears usually follow with comments like “You mean I am not alone? There are others like me out here?” Yes, there are millions of people but most don’t understand why they can’t find contentment. Now you know, it’s not you. You are still that pure beautiful baby but you have picked up a lot of dust along the way. Many think they came from a worthy house. Others know their house was really unhealthy. But few make the link that they developed the 14 Laundry List traits because of where and how they were raised.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Very helpful, thank you.

  110. Margaret says:

    I believe that shame is a factor in not feeling good enough. I find that clients appreciate and long for the safe validation of the origin of their shame and the idea of sharing their experience and emotions around it. Often it’s the first time they have done this and feel vulnerable and are afraid of being hurt and abandoned now that they have exposed themselves. After the revelation, knowing that the therapist can help them hold their emotions, feeling safe, many clients like to simply stay with their feelings, which are profound. Not giving them up entirely, to love and appreciate them as signals, guardians, and protectors, spirit guides, a beautiful aspect of who the client is. So we spend time in considering what the emotions hold in mind, body and spirit until the shame has softened. Often it’s a matter of the client understanding that they are not their emotions so we spend time in broadening out to the other beautiful aspects of themselves.

    • Paula says:

      It is a lengthy process for the client to be able to trust and to open to being vulnerable is the contrary to this belief of “not good enough”. Being resistant to change means to the client the fear to let go and to feel “less than” . But in fact the strength appears to the client only when she/he becomes aware that there is light at the end. This may repeat what you say but thank you for sharing.

      • Paula says:

        I think I am a little bit upset when a person say or make another person “not good enough” I don’t know the reason for doing so when validating goes much more a long way. It must be in the making throughout many years of wrong purpose. It is hard to believe this is also happening in my own family. So when I see it happening it does stir some emotions in me. What I found good when helping a client is to see what their goals are. It has helped me a lot.

  111. As a psychodramatist, I ask “What is your earliest ,memory of feeling this way ?” (If they cannot recall a specific memory, I ask,”How old do you feel when you feel ‘not good enough’?) Then using the Therapeutic Spiral Model of psychodrama to create safety and bring in strengths, I go back with them to that scene and create a scene of developmental repair to replace the “not good enough scene” . This includes a scene where the current adult self affirms the innate worth and unconditionally loved “inner child” . I have done this many times – always moving and transformative because in role the protagonist gets to both say and hear ( and feel) thru role reversals the reparative messages.

    • Thanks Linda. I am a psychodramatist in New Zealand and I have directed a lot of psychodramas where social atom repair takes place in which the group member gets to feel the feelings of the little child and using role reversal they can nurture themselves the way they wished it had been. Psychodrama enables both feelings to be expressed and cognitive insights from the adult self to be had.

  112. Tiffany Kernutt says:

    Thank you this was very helpful. I too tend to utilize a little of most of what was mentioned individualized to the clients.
    I start where ever the not good message was reported from (body,thought, feeling) I ask fro evidence that their thought or feeling is fact and break that down with them. Always love love love, and for motivation I find out what might be an item they could successfully safely complete to feel good bout themselves. Lots of encouraging kind words and pointing out all the strengths they have!!
    Always breaking down defeating thoughts by shining truth onto them. Again I really appreciate this discussion! Refreshes my work and love
    Tiffany K

  113. Patricia says:

    Yes, thank you for sharing these beautiful approaches as I agree with and use all of them. Because I am a Christ-centered counsellor I also often enquire about how my clients’ allow their faith to inform their image of self. I like to inquire if their faith is based on a relationship with Christ or if its more dutiful amd mechanical. I do this to determine if they see God as judgemental and condemning with a long list of do’s and don’ts or as loving and merciful God who is in their corner and wants them to see themselves as he sees them: ‘my precious and beloved son or daughter’
    These two realities can be so opposing for people who strive to live their Christian faith. So much so that the opposing forces can prevent healing and growth to take place and it can cause them to try to control and use God as a way to manitupute and control others. I believe the deeper the shame the more distorted their image of self and God becomes. Their attempts to reconcile these differences often prevent an authentic relationship with God, self and others, I have witnessed so many people whose thoughts are so tortured as they wrestle with their desire to be seen as ‘good enough’ in God’s eyes and those around them that they live in fear of being ‘exposed’ for who (at a deep level) they believe they are. I call on the grace of God to enter into this distored image and I create opportunities for directed imagery meditation as a way to create a path for them to journey out of the darkness and into the light. All this may sound corny to unbelievers but the power of the grace of God has helped me help others in profound and exciting ways. Thank you for allowing me to share.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Very helpful, thank you.

      • Gay says:

        Thanks Patricia. I agree! Our identity isn’t so much about what WE have done/not done, but what HE did for us out of a heart of compassionate love and grace for every one of His children.

  114. I so appreciate what your leading experts say about “not good enough”. For me it is applying a combination of all the strengths of these modalities mentioned depending on the client and their experience…noticing body experiences, compassion, being vs. doing, the need for attachment, and so on. As a counsellor utilizing the best of many different counselling approaches and inclusive of the whole person, I find my clients respond well with the neuroscience/psych metacognition of what their brain is doing when responding to experiences (triggers) in a negative way. From this place, they can learn to apply compassion, reduce self-blame and judgement, and with rational (CBT type) approaches better understand what is going on for them (and others) with a kind heart. I have this mapped on a diagram created from CBT, neuroscience, and Satir. The visuals are very effective…they are encouraged to put a copy on their fridge at home as a reminder.

    Thank you for asking.

    • ronda hain says:

      can you share the diagram you referenced as it sounds interesting…

  115. Sandy Lillie says:

    In my experience, countering negative feelings about the self with contrary “facts” or arguments only softens the very top of the top layer of these deeply held experiences. The most powerful intervention is love…seeing the beauty in them, connecting with that beauty so that they can begin to notice and feel it too, and being gentle/forgiving with the part of them that is stuck in self rejection. And of course, facilitating them finding loving connection with people in their regular lives, outside of therapy, is what’s really wanted to sustain these positive feelings.

    • I so agree…the most powerful intervention is love…deep presence, listening. Seeing their undiluted wholeness & reflecting that back to them. Healing is a matter of undoing what was never us. I believe wholeness waits… unaltered, pristine, indivisible.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      I agree! Thanks.

  116. I call the inner critic the “protector” or the “body guard.” We look at what happenend in childhood and how their bodyguard came to help them to survive. And that the problem in preswnt time is that the body senses a threat and the bodyguard comes and does her job of protecting. But in present time, this method of protecting is mo longer needed. So we thank the bodyguard, possibly give her something else to guard, and then consciously choose how they want to respond to the present say “yhreat.”
    Inalao do inner child work. I have a lovely photo of a mama deer licking a newborn deer. I encourage clients to be the mama deer tending to their internal baby deer. We look at how the baby deer gets scared and fears for its life, and that they can be the mama deer and have compassion for the baby deer but not let its panic determine their behaviors.
    In this way, we gently and compassionately hold bothe the scared part and the defensive part and choose the wise present day part to “drive the car”. My use of imagery and metaphor and sumbol are very effective in addressing the traumatic responses without shame.

    • Satya says:

      With sight I see that most people have three inner criticss. It pays to address each for a lasting outcome.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      I really like the Internal Family Systems model, or variation of it, that you apparently use. Just knowing about protectors, has already helped me personally. I also love the deer imagery and metaphor. Thank you.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Great reframe, thank you.

    • Sukie says:

      those descriptive practices and images are very helpful — I will use them. Thank you so much.
      Sukie Stanley

  117. Wendy Tuck says:

    Very interesting book, The Obsidian Mirror, an incest survivors story of healing that gives a fascinatingly different view of the inner critic- as valued. Also Dr. Ruth Lanius presentation at the Annual Trauma Conference in Boston this year spoke of listening to, appreciating, and valuing the role of the inner critic and bringing its strengths online in the present. I find that when clients are already defensive, shamed based, and feel they are doing everything wrong, the more we can see how they are doing things that make sense, and appreciate whatever pretzels they had to squeeze into to survive, the more they warm up, open up, and can get more freedom from things that restrict them.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      Amen!… and I have gone to two Boston Trauma Center summer institutes, and find them inspiring, exhilarating, amazing, and fun, even!

  118. Wendy Tuck says:

    I have gained much insight from Dr. Keith Ablow about facing the truth of what happened to us as kids- the messages we got from how we were treated and seen. The necessity of facing that truth and the authentic strength that comes from that- also Dr.Gabor Mate’s research and experience that so many things- obesity, addictions, shame, etc are the result of coping mechanisms children develop to maintain attachment to the important/vital caregiver/parent. These coping mechanisms- suppressing anger, becoming invisible, quiet suffering, defiance, being super nice or super good- become ways we live as adults. He too says it’s essential to see what underlies the symptoms- I have found once people see they didn’t “just become” like that for no reason, but they had to be that way to survive, and are still living life that way, then the body-based relief and cognitive changing of beliefs can be helpful. I have found that when I’ve been critical of beliefs or even feelings that clients have, or that they should do it differently, it inadvertently reinforces their feelings of “I’m not doing it right, I’m not good enough”. When I validate whatever feeling or belief system the person has and holds on to for dear life, and get curious in a very non-judgmental way, the door opens for the client to be curious too- and they may ask themselves, I wonder why I do that?” Then I see exploration and growth.

    • Lisa Travis Galliano says:

      Yes! It’s not what’s wrong with us, it’s what happened to us and how we learned to survive as a result. I have also learned a lot from Dr. Ablow and Dr. Mate’s work and so appreciate their contributions.

    • Anne Brinkley says:

      Spot on!

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Love this… “I wonder why I do that?” Helpful thank you.

    • Martha says:

      For me, it seems like social comparison is in cause. Thanks so much.

  119. Lin Peyton says:

    Hello Ruth,

    I find your posts very helpful. And I have taken Tara Brach’s course on Mindfulness earlier this year which was fabulous and hope to take some more courses in the future as my schedule allows.

    I was wondering though, if you and your team at Nicabm have ever done a program or a talk on loneliness.
    I am an Episcopal priest (for 37 yrs) and see many people from all walks of life; and loneliness comes up a lot as something with which people are struggling. (Certainly are tech age contributes to this immensely as we no longer communicate by phone with our own voices or pen letters with our own hand writing, etc etc)

    In Gratitude,
    Lin Peyton

  120. Kit McDermott says:

    I also use the “what’s your evidence?” approach to help folks put into perspective that what they’ve learned and internalized from the wounds they’ve received from relationship which distorted the profound truth they are far more than they imagine. People who grasp and gradually internalize their uniqueness and potential gradually re-interpret emotional and psychological wounds come home to peace with themselves and with others.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      So good, thank you.

  121. I ask my client to name 3 people he/she regards highly and care most about, to name the things s/he likes about them. And then I ask my client to tell me what these people would say about him/her, if I had to ask them what they like about my client.

    • Lisa T Galliano says:

      I love this idea! Thanks for sharing.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      I’m going to try your technique, thank you.

  122. Olivia Wilson says:

    I believe it is through the experience of being attuned to, resonated with, mirrored and compassionately responded to in a way that our experiences are made sense of in the context of our relational pasts, that self compassion grows. Depending on the degree of self disorder, the time it will take to build scaffolding around dysregulated and often disavowed affect states of shame will vary. I often work with parts to help to understand how the inner tyrant or inner critic does it’s job and how it came to exist out of family, social and cultural contexts. We look at how the inner critic may have a job that it’s doing that has really helped us to survive. This way we build detachment and distance from the inner critic. We get to identify when it’s operating so we can remove ourselves slowly from its clutches. We look at where it is held in the body and find new ways of being both through therapeutic touch and postural exploration (depending on client characteristics). We explore how shame and self loathing live in the body, what experiences they stem from. All this work is done in the loving and holding presence and interest of the therapist. I believe the therapist’s attunement and intention not to unwittingly re-shame or humiliate the client in the name of “fixing” the client is the potent corrective experience that slowly transforms shame into self love and acceptance. We can’t feel self love if we haven’t received it in an experiential way from an Other. The integration of the affects of shame and self loathing (underlying the belief of “not good enoughness”) into a well rounded personality can only occur in an affirming and attuned relationship. My framework is Setf Psychology, a contemporary Psychoanalytic framework with which I integrate a body oriented somatic approach.

    • Tia Dobi says:

      Thank you for the clarity.

  123. Dr Ali Bates says:

    continuum work, perfectionist pitfalls, thoughts not being our friend

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