Cognitive Distortions—Are You Enough?

Are you good enough? Attractive enough? Smart enough? Fit enough? Nice enough?

Are cognitive distortions messing with your head?

Let’s start with easier questions. Is this dog cute enough?

cute enough
Dog & Wolfe Artwork

Cute enough


How about this baby?



Now let’s move on to harder questions.

Is the dog cute enough—for what?

  • To be saved from the pound?
  • To be featured in a movie?
  • To win a Cute Dog Award?
  • To be loved?

And the baby…cute enough to be loved?
The idea that there is a standard for what or how much you ‘should be,’ is a cognitive distortion. It is a belief based on a distorted understanding of how life works.

Cute, attractive, smart, … enough for what?

Good question! If you struggle with overweight, an eating disorder, depression, or any threat to your self-esteem, chances are you often feel not good enough. Chances are equally good that you never stop to ask yourself, “Good enough for what?” When you leave that question unasked and answered, you give away your power. Rather than define a meaningful standard for yourself, you leave yourself scrambling to live up either to standards that are not defined, or those defined by others.

Chasing undefined goals…

Dooms you before you’ve begun. If you don’t know what the ‘enough’ is for, how do you know how much of it you need, or when you’ve reached it? For that matter, how do you even know what form it is supposed to take? For instance if you feel you need to be ‘more attractive,’ what does that look like—your best friend, favorite film star, comic book character? Plus, how do you know when you are attractive enough?

You cannot know!

This is how people get sucked into endless loops of one more facelift, one more pound, and on and on. In other words, you spend a whole lot of energy and resources chasing a goal that doesn’t exist! Your power seeps away as you chase an imaginary pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

cognitive distortions send you to the non-existent pot of gold

If your ‘enough’ is defined by others …

They hold the power to define your existence. Striving to be as smart as your sister, as slender as your friend, and so on, leaves you at the mercy of others. If your sister achieves yet another intellectual goal or your friend loses weight, your goalpost moves. Similarly, if you strive to be ‘good enough’ to please someone else, your value depends on their approval. They hold the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself.

Dial Down the Toxicity

Dialing down the toxicity of ‘enough’ begins with thinking hard about the answer to ‘enough for what’? Are you worried about being good (or attractive or successful or …) enough to make someone proud of you? Or to live up to a family standard that has stressed you out for years? Perhaps your enough is measured against someone else such that if you do less than them, you are not enough?

Challenge the Cognitive Distortions

Think hard about what defines your ‘enough,’ question its logic, and then rebut it. Here are a few examples of how this might go:

Cognitive DistortionRebuttal
[Person] will only love me if I am attractive enough.First of all, am I really sure that [person] is as obsessed with my appearance as I am? Probably not.
Further, do I really want a relationship with someone whose affection depends on something as transitory as looks? Even if I could make my appearance match [person’s] expectations today, how can I be sure his/her taste won’t change next week or next year?
My energy is better spent cultivating relationships with people who like my personality. I most certainly am enough!
I need to be successful enough to find a spouse.What does it mean to be “successful?” Is it an amount of money or a particular title? And if it is money or titles, how much money, how fancy a title? Is success measured by how many people like me? And how many is enough, and how well do they need to know me?
If my spouse only wants me for my money or status or popularity, that is not the spouse for me! I would rather someone love me for being myself.
I didn’t get promoted at work because I am not smart enough so there’s no chance I will ever get promoted.Work promotions are based on multiple things—what skillset is needed, who might be ahead of me in seniority, how long I’ve been in my current position, and a host of other variables.
This job in this workplace at this time does not define my intelligence.
I am smart enough to know when not to give away my power! As for getting that promotion, my energy is better spent talking to my supervisor about what concrete steps I can take to move up.

If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, of not being enough, figure out what external forces you allow to define your enough. Ruthlessly question the logical basis for allowing that force to hold power over you, and then work on the rebuttal.

For help challenging distorted cognitions related to appearance, see Eating Disorders are Tough! If your struggles fall elsewhere, take a look at the Sensible Books for good helping options. And of course, seeking therapy is a good option as well.

The bottom line is you most certainly are enough! (And—metaphorically—head butt anyone who says you’re not!)

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