How Being Plagued by ‘Not Doing Enough’ can be a Trap

I have a very healthy dose of self-loathing. But I think we all have a past of being whatever our story was, of feeling not good enough. It can propel you to work harder and do more, but it can also be a tremendous trap, and you can’t see beyond it. – Kim Cattarall 

Last month, working up and down the country, I heard a question voiced by several women. Their concern was, “Am I doing enough?” 

Very  rarely have I  heard this expressed by any of my male clients! But this is not to say that men don’t ever have such concerns.

So – how about you?

Is this a question you ask yourself?  This might be in your work, family or community life.

Is there a nagging doubt that what you are doing isn’t quite enough and perhaps carrying some guilt that you could be doing more?  This is despite the juggling of multiple tasks, activities and demands with all the available hours in the day.

And what’s more – what you are doing is probably more than adequate.

Yet the gnawing doubt often  remains.

“Am I doing enough?” or some variant is an underlying question that pops up no matter how much you are doing.

Many of us have been plagued by this question and the unrelenting pursuit for more, quicker or better.

If you can relate to this blog just check that the root cause of this is not something much deeper. Being human, having underlying doubts and anxiety about our core self – our identity goes with the territory.

We try  to  fill this gap in  many ways– pursuing the next big shiny object, buying expensive items, zoning out, trying to be a super man or super woman –  the list goes on.

Deep down we don’t feel complete, adequate and whole in ourselves. In other words, we don’t feel like WE ARE ENOUGH!  We may even feel like imposters – waiting to be found out for who we really are which is not very much at all.

Along with our own existential make up, we are also bombarded with images, messages, expectations that we can look, feel, do and be a lot more.

This can be a motivating force in a healthy dosage but the need to do and be more can also be a reactive “fix” to a bottomless need.

Our perspective also changes as we transition through the various stages of our lives.

As we age, we can feel more relaxed and have greater acceptance of ourselves and our life circumstances. The desire to do and achieve things can also come from a stronger place of what our core values are such as helping others, greater community mindedness, more gratitude and so on.

We are even more motivated and driven by these intrinsic drivers along with the emerging consciousness that life is limited and our days are numbered.

Sheryl Sandberg in her very readable book, “Lean In”, puts this well especially in relation to working mums that “Guilt management can be just as important as time management.”

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves when these thoughts arise, that not only are we already “whole”,  but we are doing the best we can and that perfection doesn’t exist.

Instead of the relentless pursuit of filling the “not enough” gap, we need to remind ourselves to come from a place of greater wholeness and self-acceptance.

This is a much calmer and resourceful place without the constant negative and self-berating chatter of not being  – and doing enough.

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Jasbindar Singh

Jasbindar is a business psychologist, leadership excellence coach and author of 'Get your Groove Back'. www.jasbindarsingh.com