How to Overcome the Fear of Not Being Good Enough

Have you ever walked into a room and thought “I shouldn’t be here”?

That’s one of the most common symptoms of a fear of not being good enough.

It’s a fear that’s shown up countless times throughout my life. From acting like I was supposed to (and not how I wanted to). To endless people-pleasing and disregarding my own value, the fear of not being good enough has a lot to answer for.

But I don’t want that for you. You deserve better.

Whether fear’s showing up amongst your employees, in your own life, or both, it’s a tough hurdle to break through. But overcoming fear can move your company forward, help your career grow and support you in shaping a life that feels like your own.

Here’s how.

What does a fear of not being good enough look like?

A fear of not being good enough can show up in countless forms. The most important thing to remember is that they’re not always obvious. What might appear to be an excuse or a frustration could actually be fear in disguise.

So let’s pull the mask off and look fear in the face. Whether it’s finding the fear in yourself or spotting the warning signs in your employees, you need to know what to look out for.

The most common symptoms of a fear of not being good enough that I see in my clients are:

  • Not asking for help when you need it
  • Not feeling able to ask for a healthy boundary e.g. no work calls at night
  • Not putting your hand up to do a presentation
  • Not putting yourself forward for a promotion
  • Overworking to the point of burnout, with a need to prove yourself
  • Always saying “yes” to every request that comes your way
  • Passive aggression, when you’re questioned about something and don’t know the answer
  • Giving excuses and coming up with poor reasons not to complete a task

In short, a fear of not being good enough can mean a life lived for others, rather than being true to yourself.

The impact of fear on your company

If there’s anything scarier than fear itself, it’s the impact it can have on your organisation’s potential. We all want team members that are happy, engaged and fulfilled. But employee output and productivity are also essential for long-term business success.

The fear of not being good enough impacts both of those.

The wellbeing impact

When your employees are struggling with their fears, their engagement is going to drop. They experience insecurities and anxieties on a near-daily basis, impacting their wellbeing.

The productivity impact

This can then manifest as employee tension, due to aggressive deflection creating friction across your teams. Teams may be mismanaged, as employees shirk responsibilities due to a lack of confidence. Fewer creative ideas are developed, as employees feel too scared to share anything that’s “outside the box”.

The end result

The result? Productivity starts to drop. Output declines. And in extreme cases, employees leave the company in search of an environment where they feel safe.

What might seem like a small anxiety in a few staff members can soon escalate into a more serious organisational problem. So it goes without saying that these fears are worth paying attention to. Quite literally. Your business depends on it.

The impact of fear on you

Right now, your fear is holding you back. But it doesn’t have to. Before we explore the different ways to conquer your fear, let’s look at what could happen if you leave it be.

When you’re scared of not being enough, you automatically restrict yourself. One of my favourite sayings is “your world is as big or small as you choose to make it”. When you’re experiencing an ongoing fear, you automatically shrink that world and the opportunities that come with it.

Your career

One of the most measurable impacts of your fear is how it can stunt your career growth. If you felt good enough, you might well put yourself forward for that promotion, volunteer to gain extra experience and stretch your limits to learn new skills.

But when fear holds you back, it holds your career back too. Those opportunities feel closed off. And that frustration can then manifest itself as tension, frustration and even aggression.

Your wellbeing

Whilst your wellbeing is harder to measure, it’s no less important. Your wellbeing has knock on effects across your entire life, so it’s essential not to neglect it.

As your fears at work sap all your energy into your work-life, your home-life suffers. Your life-work balance (because life should aways come before work) falls out of kilter. Your energy levels start to decline. And you’re pulled into a life where you’re living for others and not yourself.

Your happiness begins to suffer.

What’s holding you back? Is it really fear, or is it something else?

Finding the root cause of your fear of not being good enough

Cause #1 – A lack of confidence

A lack of confidence and feelings of inadequacy holding you back from your goals is often referred to as “imposter syndrome”. But that’s not a term you’ll hear me use, and here’s why.

It’s too loaded. When you’re told you have imposter syndrome, it can feel like you’re being told you have a medical condition that can’t be cured. And that’s before we even get into the complexities of its history as a phrase used mostly to describe women.

For example, when a high-powered female CEO is experiencing some self-doubt in her abilities when thrown into an impromptu situation, society is all too keen to tell her that she has imposter syndrome.

But that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Instead, let’s ask her what feelings she’s experiencing around that self-doubt. Let’s uncover what sits behind that lack of confidence. And then we can delve deeper into the underlying fear.

Cause #2 – A lack of skills

Most business and executive coaches would be quick to tell you to just “feel the fear and do it anyway”. And they’re right, to a degree. When a lack of confidence is holding you back and causing you to think that you need to be overqualified just to begin, then embracing the fear can be a good first step.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand what lies behind the fear. Because (unpopular opinion alert) sometimes you’re scared of not being good enough because you’re not!

Maybe you’re not ready. And that’s okay.

Instead, use your fear as an opportunity to learn.

What is it trying to teach you? We can’t all walk into any job and pick up the tools to start work right away. Sometimes, we need to develop new skills to bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to be.

And there’s nothing shameful about that.

How to conquer the fear of not being good enough

What companies can do

  • Create a safe space in employee reviews – your employees need to feel safe if they’re going to share their fears. Ensure that you’re creating that space for them to bring that fear forward and create a plan with you to break through it
  • Spot the signs of fear – remember those symptoms of fear? Most of them aren’t obvious. Make sure that you and your managers are aware of the true symptoms of fear so that you can provide the right support
  • Build the right environment – your company culture needs to welcome all your employees. If it’s intimidating or exclusionary, you’re going to have a bunch of employees who are left fearing that they aren’t enough and that they don’t belong
  • Support your employees with coaching – by now you know, the reason for “the fear” is often nuanced. It’s unique to each individual, so give them the unique tools they need to understand and overcome that fear!
  • Empower your teams with tailored training – when you’re noticing a common pattern across your team, get them together to work through it (psst… my Signature workshops were designed to do just that)

What individuals can do

  • Ask yourself the right questions – you need to identify the root cause of your fear to overcome it. What are you feeling? What emotions are you noticing? How are they affecting you?
  • Turn your fear into a growth mindset opportunity – rather than saying “I’m not good enough”, reframe that message as “I’m not good enough yet”. By turning this into a learning opportunity, you can then discover what needs to happen for you to get better at it
  • Use your fear as a learning tool – what would make you feel good enough? Do you need to take a certain course or develop a new set of skills? Would doing so actually level up your skillset, or are you just looking for validation?
  • Create a mantra for yourself – remind yourself daily that you are enough. “I am enough” is a powerful mantra that I often use. Or, for the longer version, try “I am enough, I do enough, I have enough”
  • Request coaching through your employers – a business and executive coach can act as your guide through this journey whilst empowering you with a practical approach to your fear work

Through it all, remember that this is a process. Whether you’re working on your fear yourself or guiding your employees as they overcome their own fears, it takes time. But the rewards are worth the effort.

What’s holding you back? Is it really fear, or is it something else?

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.