The Grammar of Emotion: Not Feeling...

The Grammar of Emotion: Not Feeling Good Enough

by Anthony Teles
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“I’m not good enough.” Those are words everyone has told themselves at some point. For some of us, these 15 letters weigh us down on a regular basis. They inevitably lead to other thoughts: My grades are not high enough. I do not have enough friends. I am not preparing enough for my future. My parents must be so disappointed. It feels like an inescapable trap!

As weird as it sounds, part of the solution relates to grammar and language. Notice how those other thoughts are specific, relating to direct issues in your life. Now take a look at these daunting words again: “I’m not good enough.” The sentence is vague. We use the word “enough” as an adjective or adverb for nouns (enough friends) and attributes (prepared enough). “Enough” is used as a measurement, but measuring complicated ideas like acquaintances and preparation is vastly different from measuring length and width. This leads to the big question: When you say “I’m not good enough,” what exactly are you measuring?

The statement is one coming from emotion, as opposed to rational thought. “I’m not good enough” is a powerful sounding statement, and therefore easy to believe without evidence. Yet just like you always measure distances in math class, you have to treat this statement the same way. Your thoughts can be deceptive. It is important to take time to sit down and write them out. Analyze them like you would a math problem, and figure out what is not adding up.

Remember that everyone else is doing the same thing to themselves to some extent. We all question what we need to have enough and if we are living up to expectations. This is especially important to remember when you find yourself looking down at someone while wishing you were more like someone else. The more envy and derision you direct to others, the more likely you are to direct negative emotions towards yourself. We are all human beings, filled with virtues and flaws.

We are also creatures of habit. Just like you learn math by practicing every day, your thoughts and emotions are learned very much the same way. Repeating the same negative thoughts is like answering a math question repeatedly with the wrong answer. You will not get anywhere. This change starts with small and simple steps. Take a moment to select a positive memory, one that makes you feel good about yourself and others. Use that memory as your response to the habitual phrase “I’m not good enough.” When you have free time, train yourself to ask, “Not good enough for what?” Find something quantifiable, such as not enough friends or not enough high marks. If it is an actual problem, prepare steps to fix the issue. You can join clubs to meet new friends or devote more time to studying. If it is still vague, the sentence is grammatically incorrect! It is a negative emotion that can be beat.


Reynolds, Marcia. How to Feel Good Enough. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wander-woman/201312/how-feel-good-enough

Sonnier, Madison. 7 Things to Remember When You Think You’re Not Good Enough. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/7-things-to-remember-when-you-think-youre-not-good-enough/

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