Even After Cancer, Are you Still Not Good Enough?


This breast cancer and melanoma cancer survivor is done playing the "I'm not good enough" tape.

This breast cancer and melanoma cancer survivor is done playing the “I’m not good enough” tape, especially during the holiday season.

Have you ever told yourself “I’m not good enough”? I have said those damaging words to myself for much of my life. I have told myself I was not a good enough student, daughter, wife, mother and boss, to name a few. By the way, I also am not pretty enough, thin enough or smart enough. The list and the harsh words went on and on depending on the circumstances. Then I got breast cancer. Then I got a melanoma.

Before cancer, I had seen a psychotherapist. Intellectually, I had learned that I was good enough. The emotional transformation, however, became more complete after I went to an oncology psychotherapist. As a newly diagnosed cancer patient at the time, I better learned to let go of “not good enough.” In part, I simply didn’t have the energy to beat myself up during active treatment. Cancer was already doing a good job of that.

So I started listening to myself. I started to catch myself when I told myself hurtful things about myself. I became more aware of when I was saying harsh mean things to myself. In those tiny seconds of self-awareness, I learned I could make different choices than the regular self-beatings and negative self-talk. I learned I could comfort myself instead of berate myself. A world of possibility began to open up to me.

I could be kinder and gentler to myself. That was new. A friend had been suggesting that for years, but with cancer, it finally sunk into my heart and soul. I could improve my self-care and do it without the guilt. I could curl up with a book or take a nap or get my nails done. I could pause when the self-beating reared its ugly head and ask myself what I really needed instead. In a tough moment, I could use that pause in time to ask myself how I would help or advise a friend experiencing what I was experiencing, and then I could follow that advice for me.

Externally, I think I learned to be kinder to the people around me, too. In the pause, I could say a kind word instead of a harsh word or simply keep my mouth zipped. Better behavior helped me reduce the regret and self-beatings, too. Better late than never. Change was and is always possible. Embracing that opened up possibilities.

I learned, on an emotional level, what a waste of my time that the self-beating was—especially for a cancer survivor. Self-beating wasn’t productive. It certainly wasn’t making me “good enough.” It wasn’t even making me better. If I wouldn’t beat up a friend who made a poor choice, why was I beating up myself?

Finally, I now go to: I am good enough, and if I can get there, so can you. You are good enough. Listen to yourself when you say it. Pick yourself up wherever you are in the cancer experience, and give yourself a hug and some kind words of reassurance. Yes, you deserve to love yourself, and yes, you definitely are good enough.

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