It has been over a year and a half since I started a short course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This was immeasurably useful in taking a step back to examine my thought processes and how I come to terms with things around me. It enabled me to begin to understand why things affected me in a certain way, and especially why certain things had more of a detrimental impact than others. One of the things I did as part of this course was note down thoughts immediately after an event or incident, and then reflect on it later to see if these had changed.
During this process I began to identify a pattern. I had one recurring thought which seemed to be the major trigger of any downward spiral: I am not enough. I am not smart enough, I am not capable enough, I am not good enough. It came in many forms, but this feeling of inadequacy kept clawing its way back to haunt me. One of my symptoms of BPD is unstable self image, where I can’t see myself how others percieve me. This also feeds into another of my symptoms- my intense fear of abandonment, for which I believe not being enough is why this does, and will inevitablely. happen.
When joking around with my friends, I’ll often use the phrase ‘I’m a perfectionist who is not good at anything’. I don’t really see myself as a talented individual; I was never good at music or sport, and there’s not a creative bone in my body. I often can’t identify any aspect of my life which I feel I shine or excel in. Yet I want things to be done well. I witness the achievements of others around me, and can see perfection, as opposed to my outputs which seem flawed and weak in comparison. Rationally, I can understand why this may be, as I have an insight into what I envisage, and each stage of what I do to achieve this and can easily identify areas for improvement, whereas I can’t see that process in others.
Although still just a thought, how an outcome fares against what was originally desired is a more measurable way of quantifying how capable I am. The real struggle is when I get trapped in my thoughts of simply not being good enough, or even more dangerously: not being enough. When I’m struggling with my self-worth it’s almost like my brain forgets anything good I have done, and focused on the things I’ve fallen short on. Things such as friendships, relationships, big milestones in life, feeling like I belong, knowing my place. I have a huge problem with comparing my life and progress to that of others, and due to various situations and changes of circumstances, I seem to keep resetting this strange internal progress monitor and start again. New beginnings are scary (I may write about my relationship with change at a later date. Hint: it’s not fab) and each time I have to begin again I’m constantly berating myself for not being enough to sustain my previous progress, as opposed to rationalising it all as progress. Each thing that didn’t work wasn’t meant to be, and it is all progress as I learn from my experiences and I hope this becomes more believable in the future.
It’s not even a thought which occurs as a reaction anymore. It becomes a constant, so even when things are going right you begin to prepare yourself for it going wrong, for the very reason that you aren’t enough. As I think it so frequently I almost expect things to go wrong, feeling like I should pre-warn people to lower their expectations as that’s the only chance I’ll have to exceed them.
I don’t always want to be like this. I don’t always want to be consumed with this automatic thought of not being enough at every available opportunity. I’d one day like to consider myself as enough. I’d like to think I did everything I possibly could in a given situation- whether a simple task, my job, a relationship (whether that be a friendship, work relationship or romantically) and the outcome is not necessarily a result of my own shortcomings, but at the moment that is difficult.
The best lesson I took from CBT is simply that thoughts are just thoughts. It sounds scarily simple, but for me it has been life-saving. Thoughts aren’t necessarily true, and just because you create the thought doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Yes, my automatic thought of not being enough is entangled in a lot of issues, which therapy is helping me to slowly untangle, and I know I can’t just banish this thought by simply not acknowledging it as a truth. But one day I hope that this thought won’t be the first thing that enters my mind when things go wrong. I’m looking forward to when I can firmly say that ‘I am enough’ and I wholly believe it.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) isn’t for everyone. However it proved very useful for me. If you are curious to find out more, Mind has some good information on their website on what cognitive behavioural therapy is, what it is for, what happens during therapy and how to find a therapist (click here).