Not Good Enough

Dan Harris is a well-known ABC news reporter who recently talked about a panic attack he had on-air. The clip was shown on ABC World News this week. He has written a book about his search for solutions. His book (10% Happier) relates stories of high visibility people who talk about their immobilizing or troubling self-doubt.

Dr. Oz speaks of his own wasted time spent on crippling “negative thinking.” Harris says his self-talk wraps around “I’m not good enough.” Dan Harris doesn’t think he is good enough? This tells you that your self-talk can’t be trusted.

A panic attack is fear on steroids—fear that we cannot perform or that our weakness will demand attention. Harris says he “bailed” in the middle of his report as millions watched him hyperventilate on live national TV.  

Self-rejection is one of the most pervasive causes for a second-rate relationship with God and a primary cause of settling for second best. We fear that we are going to be “found out” as frauds—we don’t belong in the place we are and we will soon prove it.

Malcom Gladwell in his latest book called David and Goliath (2013 Little, Brown and Company) describes being a big fish in a little pond versus being a little fish in a big pond. The statistics are impressive as he describes the agony of excellent science students failing in big name schools when they probably would have succeeded big-time in other schools. Those he interviewed speak a recurring statement: “My perception was that I wasn’t good at it or I was not good enough at it.”

One of Gladwell’s conclusions is the cause of failure is comparison. “What matters, in determining the likelihood of getting a science degree is not just how smart you are. It’s how smart you feel relative to the other people in your classroom.” (page 84)

The rebuttal to the statement, “I’m not good enough,” is “In comparison to whom? In comparison to what?” Granted, I am not good enough to play in the NBA or even on Notre Dame’s high school girl’s team. Such things never disqualify us in our minds because we never give it a second thought.

Healthy people learn how to question self-talk and to argue with it. “Who told you that you are not good enough? What happened that suggested or convinced you that you are not good enough?” A moral failure may convince you that you are not “good” enough for some things. But that is not usually what we are saying to ourselves. What torments us is the feeling (the operative word—feeling) that there is a flaw in us or a deficiency that keeps us from being good enough in general.

Andy Stanley preached a series recently on being “er” or “est.” We want to be wealthier or thinner or happier and we wish that we were the happiest or classiest. Most of us lose in a comparison contest. I’m not good enough. It is a feeling that does not always surrender to rational thinking. “Come on Dan Harris. Not good enough? How can you say that—you are on the A-Team, you have been a network news anchor.” To which he responds, “Excuse me while I try to breathe.”

The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempted journey to the South pole is called the greatest adventure ever taken. Shackleton was called by his colleagues, “the greatest leader who ever came on God’s earth, bar none.”

Leonard Sweet writes about Shackleton in his book Summoned To Lead, (Zondervan, 2004).

“Shackleton had confidence in himself. He had a sense that he wasn’t the only stick in God’s matchbox, but it was his stick God had chosen to light the fire.”

I would not tell Dan Harris this, but I keep telling myself. Of course I’m not good enough. Being good enough is not even part of the equation-unless I’m being considered as a candidate to be an astronaut. The most important part of ability is availability.

  • Selection—do I feel called to do it? Then I will prepare!
  • Opportunity—have I been given favor or position to do this?
  • Default—if I don’t do it, who will? I must!
  • Love—I can’t allow the need to go unanswered!

Antidote to the doubt:  Calling, Passion, Commitment.

You would add to this list…?

©2014 D. Dean Benton

The Benton Quest House

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