Not Feeling Good Enough and the Common Personality Trait That Causes It

Not Feeling Good Enough and the Common Personality Trait that Causes It reveals the reasons why you have always believed you just don’t fit.

It begins in the classroom…


It’s March 1978.  Mr Harmer’s English class sit quietly as he reads…

“Why don’t you cry?”

“Because I don’t want to”

“You do” she said

“You have been crying till you are half blind, and you are near crying now.”

She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out and locked the gate upon me.


Mr Harmer closes his copy of ‘Great Expectations’.

Jane, sitting second row from the back, immediately averts her eyes to avoid his gaze.  ‘If I don’t look at him’ she thinks to herself, ‘maybe he won’t notice me’.

‘Why is Estella so cruel to Pip?’ asks Mr Harmer.

All around arms shoot up with hands waving eagerly, demonstrating how much each student wants their teacher to choose them.

‘Ask me!, ask me!’ shout the expressions on their faces while the edge-of-their-seat positions confirm their desire to get themselves seen.

Jane meanwhile has become temporarily transfixed by the words of Dickens on the open page on her desk.  ‘He’ll think I’m reading’, she tells herself…’he won’t pick on me if I’m reading’.



‘What do you think?’  asks Mr Harmer.

These words hit Jane, smack in the head, cutting through her, making her heart pound and sending her thoughts spinning; out of reach.

She begins to look up in the hope that he is talking to someone else but all Jane sees is Mr Harmer’s eyes staring right back at her.


As the protestations of her classmates subside there is only silence between Jane and Mr Harmer. But it is the LOUDEST silence she has ever heard and it goes on and on and on.

In an attempt to elicit a response, Mr Harmer poses the question another way. ‘What reaction do you suppose Estella was trying to get from Pip?’.

Jane wants to answer but she needs time to gather her thoughts and maybe read the passage again. She tries to find the right paragraph but the words are just a blur.

Time runs out and she hears herself say…

’I’m not sure really’.

Such an inoffensive little sentence but each word crushes Jane and confirms her belief that she IS useless!


This scene is played out every day in classrooms across the UK…and most of the rest of the world.

In many ways students like Jane grow used to the daily battle with themselves, so that towards the end of their time at school it is simply part of them.

Jane though had grown weary of it and despite being considered by her teachers to be academic and worthy of further education, she left school in June 1979…6 weeks before her 16th birthday.   She thought that in leaving the place where the torment had begun and where it had been nurtured she would rid herself of it for good; of course, she was wrong.


Just like the in nursery rhyme, this lamb followed Jane everywhere.   It followed her to her first job and her second, her third, her fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.  It took the shine off her successes and deepened the angst of her failures.

It was her constant companion for the whole of her adult life to date…all 37 years!

It has stayed with her even when she realised that it shouldn’t have been her problem.  It shouldn’t have been…but it was.


So what was it that caused Jane to believe that she was, at times, useless?

What was it that eroded her self-belief and prevented Jane from truly fulfilling her potential?

What was it that made Jane feel like she was being unrealistic if she wanted more for her life?

What was it that created feelings of inadequacy and frustration within Jane?

What was it that reminded Jane every day that no one would be interested in what she had to say?

What was it? 

It was being a quiet introvert in a predominantly extrovert environment.

Was Jane…

Useless at times?
Worthy of her low levels of self-belief?
Unrealistic in wanting more from her life?
Deserving of her feelings of inadequacy and frustration?
Not worth listening to?

Of course not! 

Jane was successful in all her jobs.  She married and had two children both of whom went to university.  She retrained and completely changed careers in order to work and be a mum and at the age of 43 she gained a First Class Honours Degree.

And yet, Jane feels that she still isn’t good enough.

Now, you could say that many of us feel this way, and that of course is true, and there are many different reasons for this.  But Jane’s explanation relates solely to the time she spent at school because that was where she learned to feel not good enough.

It was where she became aware of her short-comings, her lack of confidence, her awkwardness, her quietness, her anxiety, her depression, her fear, her lack of self-belief, her lack of confidence.

It’s where the story of Jane was written and acted out on a daily basis.  It’s where, through what others said and did, Jane learned about herself.  It’s where she learned to compare herself to others and measure herself against the expectations of her teachers.

Could DO better!

It’s where, time and time again, she heard…

‘Jane is very quiet’.

‘Jane should engage more in class’.

‘Jane needs to offer her opinion more’.

‘Jane should attempt to answer more questions in class’.

‘Jane should read out loud more confidently’.

‘Jane should have the courage of her convictions’.

‘Jane needs to come out of her shell’


These attempts from Jane’s teachers to change her were futile at best and at worst damaging to her self-esteem and future personal growth.

The only positive thing that can be said for Jane’s experience at school is that it took place in the 1960s and 70s; a time when teachers thought this was the correct approach.


Another practice at this time was making left-handed students write with their right hand; the thought process being that it would make life easier for them because they live in a right-handed world.  That was true, of course, until manufacturers realised that money could be made from selling left-handed scissors, power-tools, sport equipment and the like.

Nowadays left-handers are accepted, albeit with a little amusement at times from those of us still fascinated by the way they hold their pens!


So why is it different for quiet introverts?  Why do schools and workplaces across most of the world still follow the extrovert model of doing things?


Below is a recent example of what could be one reason that we do not look for alternative ways to do things.  It demonstrates that if a belief is ingrained it is very difficult to shake off.

This example is a conversation in a Facebook Group I belong to and it centres around the issue of making course calls.  The course participants are required to pick up the phone and ask people questions to find out if their idea for a course they are creating is viable.  I have used the initials of the participants to preserve their anonimity…

HIN: Any tips or encouragement for us introverts to get started with course calls or survey questions? I am noticing that I keep stalling. I know I need to work out my course call and survey questions and get some calls scheduled, but I’d rather do just about anything else. Help

So already a demonstration of the dreaded course-call being the ONLY way to communicate in this instance.

KS: I don’t have any tips, but I can tell you that I can completely relate!  I have actually put a small post up in a related private FB group, which to my surprise is getting some responses. I’m very mindful of not just joining groups and asking for something before I’ve participated or shared anything of value.

Like · Reply · 1 · May 24 at 4:03am

KS has made a start by doing things differently.  She may continue this way or it may give her the confidence to do the course calls.  Either way she is gaining traction!

HIN:  I’m very active in a group of my target avatar, and am seen as one of the experienced voices helping out the newbies, so that is great, I just need to figure out how to put myself out there in the group.

Like · Reply · 1 · May 24 at 4:16am

So HIN understands that she can communicate confidently in one way but feels she needs a different method in addition.  Absolutely nothing wrong in that unless her momentum and confidence is being eroded by believing she needs a method that doesn’t feel right for her.

KS:  That’s a good starting point!

Like · Reply · May 24 at 4:17am

KS is correct…HIN has a great starting point which she should use as a spring-board.

HIN:  Well, I at least got a survey made and posted a quick request with a link to it in my most relevant fb group. I think I will see how the survey goes for a few days and then decide on my next step. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

Like · Reply · 2 · May 24 at 7:29am

A survey is a GREAT way to get honest opinions, ones that aren’t muddied by people saying what they think you want to hear…but HIN isn’t sounding enthused.  Her ‘well, I at least got a survey made…’ gives an indication that she feels like this is a cop-out.

NB:  Breathe deeply and focus on the feeling you will have after your CTC is created and helping people. Practice strengthening that feeling connection. Confidence to do something that feels fearful arises from having a new perspective that there is nothing worth focusing on that is more important than your success…

Like · Reply · 2 · May 24 at 2:16pm

This is great advice, we all need to focus less on ourselves and more on the people we serve but it is still giving out a message that the course-call is the way to go.

KS: How have you gone so far, Heidi? Any calls yet? I have done 2, with 2 more booked. The calls have been really enjoyable to do…the hardest part has been putting myself and asking for people to do them. But that’s been getting easier the more I do it.

Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 3:35am

Fantastic, I am really pleased for KS.  However, it doesn’t mean that course-calls will from now on be a breeze…KS may feel a resistance every time she comes to do them…so why not find another more sustainable way?  

HIN:  No calls yet. I have had 7 responses to my survey, which is good, but need to step it up.

Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 3:53am

And there we have it…’but need to step it up’…as if somehow HIN has been ‘less than’ by not making the course-calls.  It’s good that HIN wants to progress but it concerns me that the feeling of needing to step it up will make her feel less pleasure about what she has already achieved.



It was a popular thread with 26 replies, most of which were about different ways to summon up the courage to get on and do the calls.

The course creator herself offered advice where she acknowledge that she too is an introvert and completely understands how uncomfortable it feels to call someone and ask them for their opinion.  She gave some very sound advice on how to be fully prepared in order to give yourself the best chance of just getting on and doing it.

I joined the conversation by saying…

Hello HIN what would your preferred method of communication be? As a fellow introvert my advice would be to just get started with a method you are comfortable with and see where that takes you.

Like · Reply · 1 · May 24 at 9:49pm



This received 1 like so it didn’t exactly resonate with people.

From the way the thread evolved it seems that the majority of participants believe that the course calls are a vital component for creating our courses, they just had to be done, no matter how uncomfortable they made some people feel.


I am not in conflict with the fact we need to find out what our potential audience think and I am not in conflict with connecting with our audience, of course not,  but I am questioning the fact that picking up the phone is the only way to do it.


I am also concerned that as introverts we are all too ready to believe that this extrovert-centric approach is the only one available to us.  I did not feel inclined to rock the boat within another person’s Facebook Group and within the course that she has so expertly created for us but I am going to rock it here.


If the boat were sailing on a quiet and secluded river and the world valued introvert characteristics more than extrovert this would create a whole lot of stress for people with extrovert tendencies; particularly if this change was introduced by stealth and the extroverts were unaware of it until they attempted to interact with others.


It would mean they would suddenly be on the receiving end of ‘helpful’ advice on how to be reflective, thoughtful, quiet and mindful of others.  People with extrovert tendencies can be all of these things but not for most of the time and they would no doubt find this stressful.

No wonder then that people with introvert tendencies are stressed out in many of our schools and workplaces where the extrovert-centric model of engagement is the accepted norm.


I am challenging this norm because I believe it is no longer acceptable to make one third to one half of the population feel uneasy in their own skin.


What makes one form of communication better than another, anyway?

It’s the ability of the communicator to use that form of communication to connect effectively with their audience.  If you feel uncomfortable because the communication you are using does not play to your strengths then the fluency of the conversation will be stilted and its meaning reduced.

Of course you could…



I understand and agree that if you do something often enough you will get more proficient at it.  But, if we persist in following this model then it will continue to be the accepted norm and introverts will continue to feel uncomfortable until such time as they make a monumental effort to push themselves out of their comfort zone and for a brief time engage like an extrovert.

Unless you do something on a regular basis, the chances are you will go back to feeling uncomfortable again.  This is what happens when we are forced to do something that is not in alignment with who we truly are.


So, if we go back to the story of Jane.  How much better would her school experience have been if she could have confidently relied on her teachers’ understanding and appreciation of her introvert tendencies?

The lesson I described earlier would have been played out like this…

‘Why is Estella so cruel to Pip?’ asks Mr Harmer.


‘Ask me!, ask me!’ shout the expressions on their faces while the edge-of-their-seat positions confirm their desire to get themselves seen.


Jane meanwhile is re-reading the paragraph and writing down some ideas.

Mr Harmer looks at Jane and realises that she is working on an answer.

‘Jane’ he says, ‘I can see you are working on this so I’m going to come back to this question later once you’ve had  more time’.

Mr Harmer asks the class a new question and all the usual hands shoot up.

Ten minutes later Jane has an answer.  The class listens and Mr Harmer thanks Jane for her thorough understanding of the emotions at work in Dickens’s writing.


Mr Harmer also points out to the rest of the class that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for some time to answer a question if you need it.  He assures Jane and the other students with introvert tendencies that they can raise their hands to ask for some extra time.


Mr Harmer, being an excellent teacher, also started to give his students with introvert tendencies some questions the day before a lesson in order to give them the time they needed.  This built confidence in their ability and enabled them to enjoy the lesson without fretting that they would be asked to do something that their brains are not wired to do.


There is now research to show that the brains of introverts and extroverts are different.

Lesley Sword of Gifted and Creative Services Australia states that…

‘Introverts need time to reflect on a question before answering and, in an analysis of taped classroom discussion, it was found that teachers tend to wait less than one second for students to reply to their questions’. (Rowe, 1974 cited in VanTassel – Baska, 1998)

Having worked in schools for many years I fully understand the pressure on teachers which lead them to want to move on quickly after each question is asked.  The paragraph above states findings from research in 1998 and while I have not yet found a more recent study I know from my own experiences that many of the teachers I have worked with up to 2014 would admit to doing the same.

So the purpose of this blog post is as easy as 1-2-3


To alert you to the whole concept of being an introvert.

You can find out if you are an introvert HERE and if your child is an introvert HERE.


To empower you by giving you…

 ‘Happy in Your Own Skin: An Introverts’ Guide to Being Yourself’.



To inform through collaboration.  So I’d love to know if…

You were affected in a negative way by the extrovert-centric approach of your schooling.

You’re concerned about a child at school today who has introvert tendencies.

You an introvert struggling in the workplace.


Please leave your comments 


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