Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

Enough with not being enough

Good morning Nick. Where have you been? It’s taken me two months to sit back with my thoughts to let my heart fill the paper. Not from fear, but rather, a lack of inspiration. Perhaps this is writer’s block, but I don’t feel like a writer. I guess it’s closer to not having any thoughts worthy of dedicating six hours of my time to express them. If it’s not worthy of my time then it’s certainly not worthy of yours to read. I needed some space, some inspiration, something to scratch the itch of my curiosity. A few nights ago it came to me. My heaviest burden that I carry around, oozing in the darkness of my conscious and subconscious. Better to have my shadows in front of me where they can’t scare me from behind.

The question I’ve been pondering — does the heaviness of not feeling good enough have some upside? For instance it helped me move to America.

What am I talking about? Not feeling good enough. Let me try to explain the deepest parts of my insecurities. For reasons I am still exploring, the earliest memory I can remember is making up a story that I am not enough. Various reasons that are completely no one else’s fault have nurtured this deep, self-limiting belief. Is it true? Depends on who’s asking.

I’m going to attempt to unpack this today to help ease my curious mind because perhaps this has served me in some positive instances.

What does a feeling of not being good enough look like? For me it was very subtle. I never really knew why, around certain groups of men, typically alpha males, I would keep quiet and not be the best version of myself. Other times I would put my walls up and not let friends or loved one close to me. At other times, perhaps in the positive, it looked like drive, ambition, motivation, achievement, ticking boxes. These things sound great right? Every modern magazine is filled with tricks and tips for optimizing your life to achieve success. Why is this a bad thing? This is what I am trying to wrap my head around. Does success through drive & grit justify the deep-seated feelings of inadequacy? Most of today’s culture seems to suggest yes. “Results, results, results”, no matter what inner sacrifice we make. Perhaps there is a sacrifice we make, a deeper one that has an ugly way of creeping up on us later in life.

All of us have insecurities. Some have done the work to identify them, some have done the work and can actually love them but most of us remain unaware. From what I can tell there seem to be few common beliefs that live within us;

  • I am not love-able
  • I am not enough
  • Lack of self love
  • Self loathing

I have countless examples of where my fear of not being enough has had a negative impact on my life and those around me. One of the best ways to counter my fear is to seek validation. Validation has many forms but the one that has hampered my life is needing validation from women. In the darkest of days this looked like using women’s attention, affection and sometimes intimacy for validation. That in some way by being with these women it proved to my ego that I was enough. This unhealthy need for validation fed my insecurities for the better part of my twenties. I use the word potentially because I can’t be sure I caused pain to everyone, but I know my actions were unbecoming at times. I touched on this in my last post from the perspective of my sexuality, but in this context it served to cover the shame I felt inside.

In blunt review of my actions it was rarely about the intercourse. It was more knowing that I had access, which would be the hit of dopamine that my insecure ego needed. Honestly the faster the intimacy was over, the faster I could move on and get that next hit. This cycle was certainly destructive to myself and others and even today I notice those thoughts creeping back in. That said, I am more vigilant and can spot my fears building and choose a different path.

My analytical brain switches into gear when I type as I cast my mind back to the ambition that lead me to booking a one way ticket to the United States of America. Wow what a dream, so much of a dream that “One Night in Hollywood” was the theme of my 21st birthday. The scene was set. I was going abroad to start a new life. At the time I was blissfully unaware of internal drivers that were behind the scenes making choices. I knew I wasn’t running away from bad relationships and there were no debts I had to flee. I was bored and wanted something new. There wasn’t a fear of failing because I don’t really have that in me. Did the fear of not being enough drive me to make a bold decision in an attempt to prove to others that I was enough? Is there anything wrong with that?

At this moment I DON’T KNOW.

I think for now I want to say it’s ok. It led to me creating a business, traveling the world, building teams. I met a woman with whom I experienced true love for the first time, which ultimately led to us having a magnificent daughter. Perhaps I get to thank my insecurities for all of that.

On our fridge at home we have a magnet that says “Don’t be pushed by your fears, be lead by your dreams” which makes total sense to me. The question is, can there be room for both?

Instead of shying away from the shame that these bring, there must be a path forward where we can learn to accept these and still live a life of excellence and joy. I am not sure if I will ever be able to quiet the little ego voice inside that reminds me from time to time that I’m not enough. But I am certain that over the past five years I hear that voice less and less. I’m forming a new relationship with it. When I hear the soft voice in my ear I can acknowledge it, smile, thank it and move on with equanimity. How very Buddhist of me, (smirk across my face). On my stronger days this is possible, but it’s on the weaker days that I stumble.

Iconic poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I wonder if that can be applied internally also. Let me reword it; “I will forget what I said, I will forget what I did, but I will never forget how I made myself feel.” If that’s the case, we must be more intentional with our internal monologue.

In a fascinating podcast by author, podcaster and deep thinker Tim Ferris and the masterful TED Speaker and researcher Brene Brown around Striving Versus Self Acceptance, they had a free flowing conversation posing some great questions:

Where’s the line between being our best selves or striving for excellence, and embracing who we are? Self-acceptance and complacency?
Can you change in a lasting, meaningful way without self-acceptance?
Can there be such a thing as self-aware complacency?
What if you’re delusional (or narcissistic) enough to believe you’re self-aware and self-accepting while being neither?

The line of being our best selves and embracing who we are is a line that can only be drawn by the beholder. We get to decide where that line is, and for me it’s ever evolving. At times I will settle and take stock of where I’m at, another way of saying find peace within for that day. Then other times I want to push, go deep and flush out some negative sh*t. In fact I have a tune up scheduled for my 35th birthday next month. A gift to myself in the quest for excellence. I plan to attend the Hoffman Institute for seven days of intense transformational training, leadership and personal development.

In quick review of my life there are countless examples of seemingly both positive and negative experiences that were fueled by my fear of not being enough. If I remove the label of positive and negative it’s simply called living life right? This brings me back to the original thesis — Does carrying around the heaviness of not feeling good enough have some upside? I am not sure that’s the right question. Tim Ferris posed a better question:

“What are you unwilling to feel?” Why we don pathological armor for protection and how we might take the first steps in shedding it once we find the courage to do so — hopefully before we’re “halfway to dead.”

This quote spoke to me because for the longest time, feeling nothing was a strength I thought I valued. Instead it kept me small. Years ago I began to identify my fears. Today I am willing to feel my fear and let the feeling wash away just as gently as it arrived. I am deeply committed to removing my armor, my walls. My walls and my insecurities have already scalped my first true love and I am writing today with the courage to not let it take another.

Thanks for reading.

Nicholas G K Ingate

Discomfort rating for pushing through the writers block and sharing 6 out of 10

P.S. JJ much love for prodding me on this one.

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Nicholas Ingate

I spend the energy crafting these pieces as it allows me to explore ideas and share