Sometimes it feels like even when we try our best, it’s still not good enough. We try to get things right, but they’re still wrong. We try to “behave,” but we still get in trouble. It can start to feel like there’s something wrong with us. Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and others can make this feeling worse. Acknowledging this feeling, understanding your thoughts, and changing them can help you figure out what’s wrong so you can feel better.
Where does this belief come from?
Believing that we can’t do anything right may feel like a fact—but it’s not. Though this belief came from somewhere. Our experiences, trauma, other people, and even our own mind can affect how we feel about ourselves.
A relative, a friend, a teacher, or someone else may have told you that you can’t do anything right! It’s a hurtful thing to say and the more times you hear it, the more you’re likely to believe it’s true. Statements like this start to change the way that we think about ourselves. But remember just because someone says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Your worth is not defined by what others say. It can only be defined by you.
Our past experiences and trauma
Our past experiences and trauma can affect how we feel about ourselves. Experiencing difficult situations like bullying, abuse, or neglect may make us believe that we’re broken. But there’s nothing wrong with us. You are more than your experiences. While our past experiences can shape us, they do not make us who we are.
Our unmet expectations
Setting high expectations for ourselves isn’t a bad thing. But it can become a bad thing if we feel like failures for not meeting those expectations. Some examples of setting expectations that ultimately make us feel bad are:
- Giving ourselves tight deadlines
- Setting unrealistic goals
- Expecting things from ourselves that we wouldn’t ask of others
- Pushing ourselves beyond our limits
Not meeting the expectations above doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable. But it does mean that you may be too hard on yourself. Take time to reflect on all the things in your life that show what you are capable of accomplishing.
Living with a mental health condition
Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or others may add to this belief. You may find it hard to focus, think clearly, or control your emotions. You may wonder, “why can’t I just be normal?” or “why can’t I be like everybody else?” Living with a mental health condition is difficult. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything right. It takes time to understand your experiences and what can help you feel better.
Acknowledge your feelings
The only way to start changing unwanted negative thoughts is to catch yourself falling into the trap of beating yourself up. And working on thinking of kinder and more true thoughts.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) this is called “reframing.” When the thought, “I can’t do anything right!” comes up in your mind, tell yourself to stop. Ask where this thought and feeling comes from. Then take a breath and work on finding a better thought. A better thought is more compassionate and not rooted in past hurt. The thought might sound something like, “I’m doing the best I can” or “I do a lot of things right, I just need more time on this.”
Because we believe in our thoughts so strongly, they may feel hard to reframe. It’s OK. Thinking negatively is a habit. But we have the power to change it. Take a pause and try to step away from the situation if you can and come back later. Or ask someone you trust for advice to help you gain a different perspective on what’s making you feel this way. Do your best to not compare yourself to others. And consider all the things you’ve done that make you proud.
Life can be frustrating. If you’re having trouble with negative thoughts and feelings about yourself, try this activity for overcoming negative thoughts. If you think your negative thoughts may be part of a mental health condition, consider taking one of our mental health tests.