12/09/2014 01:52 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

Emotional Eating, Perfectionism and Not Feeling Good Enough

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Food and emotional eating can fill a lot of gaps, holes, and crevices in our psyche. At least temporarily. Sometimes you can slather the extra helpings on so well and so consistently that you hardly have to think about the painful spots they cover up (or push down). Until you decide to make some changes. When you do, those uncomfortable places pop right back up.

One of the biggest reasons for emotional eating is perfectionism.

And you know what's at the heart of perfectionism? The fear or belief of not being good enough.

The fear of not being good enough is a big shame magnet and most of us carry at least some version of this fear -- even when, on the outside, we appear smart, successful, and on top of things. In fact, high-achievers can be particularly vulnerable to perfectionism and related emotional overeating.

Here are some ways that the fear of not being enough shows up:

"I haven't done enough..."
"I don't deserve to..."
"I'm not smart enough to..."
"I'm not thin enough to..."
"I'm not confident/successful/pretty/talented/graceful/you-fill-in-your-own-blank enough to..."

While sometimes the fear of not being enough is realistic (I'm definitely not skilled enough to figure skate in the Olympics), usually the fear of not being good enough is a story that keeps us living lives that are smaller than they need to be. And this story is a very common recipe for emotional eating.

When we are afraid we aren't good enough emotional eating comes into play as a way to:

  • Push down feelings
  • Distract yourself from your feelings
  • Comfort yourself
  • Procrastinate or avoid tasks you're afraid of not doing well enough
  • Calm the anxiety or fear of not being enough.

The fear of not being enough is a story that doesn't serve you. You were born enough.

How do you stop emotional eating and worries about not being enough?

  1. Let go of the belief that you have to DO something to be enough. If you're trying to fill holes in your sense of self with accomplishments or food, it won't work. No thing, nothing that you do, will ever convince you that you are enough.
  2. Rewrite the story you tell yourself. We don't earn "enoughness." We're born with it. Smarts, goodness, thinness, beauty and talent don't make anyone deserving. I bet you know this when you think about how others deserve to be treated. Give yourself the grace of applying this same simple truth to yourself.
  3. If perfectionism (the belief that you have to be perfect to be "enough") or a fear of not being enough trigger overeating, serve up some compassion. Practice learning to be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that enoughness isn't earned. You are enough because you ARE. Take things one step at a time and expect to remind yourself with every one of those steps and remind yourself that each of those steps counts. You don't have to be perfect to quit perfectionism. Remember that, and you're making progress.

You can learn more about why you might be overeating and what to do about it by taking the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and getting your customized Hidden Hungers profile and next steps.