How To Overcome An Inner Script That Tells You ‘I Am Not Enough’.

7 min read              Written by: René Luisman


René Luisman
Professional Trainer & Coach

I haven't eaten tomatoes for thirty-five years. But when I tasted that taste again today, I suddenly saw myself as a ten-year-old boy in my uncle and aunt's vegetable stall. After a long day at work, we always went to a local pizzeria. And thinking back to this experience, I felt unsafe again.


How you sometimes get caught up in old emotions

You've probably experienced it. The smell of freshly cut grass that takes you back to your childhood. Or an authoritarian colleague who says something that makes you suddenly react defiantly out of nowhere. Early memories that are stored in your brain and body without you being aware of this.


A single smell, image, or thought is enough to bring you back into a maze of feelings and emotions. The tomatoes brought Alex back to the weekends when he worked at his aunt and uncle's vegetable stall. When his uncle ordered pizza after a long day at work, Alex tried in vain to indicate his preference. His parents had taught him not to go against adults. So, when his uncle ignored the question, Alex didn’t speak up and swallowed his frustration.


Triggers from your past

Some memories are so entrenched in your system that you don't even realize how they affect your everyday thoughts and behavior. They unconsciously determine how you approach new experiences.


Alex is now in his forties. But when he doesn't feel seen or heard, an ancient survival mechanism kicks in. For a moment, he feels like the ten-year-old boy who is being ignored. And to protect himself, he is shutting himself off. At these moments, he tells himself he's worth it and makes his own plan.


And so early memories form a script with which you maneuver through life, even as an adult.


How is a script created?

Canadian psychiatrist Eric Berne developed the script theory. In doing so, he built on the work of Freud. A script can be positive or negative and consists of connections that we make as children to understand internal and external experiences. For example, you can conclude that it is better not to show your emotions when a parent figure reacts angrily when you cry after you have fallen. Or that your opinion does not matter if you are not listened to time and again.



"The script has helped you survive for a long time. At the same time, your script also unconsciously influences the choices you make nowadays. The script thus limits your spontaneity and flexibility. When you become aware of your script, it gives you opportunities to make different choices and increase your autonomy."


How a script can hinder your growth

Alex is one of the gay men in my coaching practice. It is striking that many of the men I supervise have the idea that they are not enough. Not as a son, as a partner, as a friend, or as a colleague. This deep-seated belief has unconsciously led to a decision. The decision that you don't matter. Or that you can't rely on others, and when it comes down to it, you're always on your own. And with that, this conviction works through in every new contact you enter into.


Often my clients approach me when they realize that old patterns no longer work. The script used to help you understand the world around you now hinders you in your relationship with yourself and others. Because sometimes, there are thinking errors in your script that stand in the way of your growth and choice as an adult. This is because the script was formed at a time when your brain was not yet fully developed.


How do you recognize your own script?

A characteristic of a script is that it repeats itself over and over. When you have the conviction that you are not good enough, you are unconsciously always looking for signals that confirm this conviction. And sometimes, a belief is so strong that it is passed down from generation to generation. Another characteristic is that you have reached a conclusion that doesn't necessarily make sense. For example, that you are only okay if you do something perfectly. Or that the interests of the other come first, even if that means that this is at the expense of yourself.


To expose the script, you start looking for patterns. What do you regularly encounter? For example, a conflict that often arises in personal or business relationships. The challenge is to observe from a meta-position what you think, feel or do at such a moment. Without judging yourself. Next, reflect on where you have learned to do it this way. Who or what have you remained loyal to by doing it this way?


What if you want to change this script?

When you recognize your script and its impact on your behavior, you can determine whether you want to change this script. In Alex's example, he tends to disconnect. To keep his mouth shut and not go against the other. But in doing so, he excludes the other from what he thinks and feels, and he actually reacts as ten-year-old Alex reacted at the time.


Alex is now an adult, and he does have the choice and the skills to react in a different way. To name what touches the behavior of the other in him, with which he breaks the old pattern of silence. By taking responsibility for his own feelings and needs, he takes care of himself. And by including others in this, there may be more understanding and connection.


Allow yourself to make different choices

If your current script hinders you, you can make a re-decision. This is a conscious choice on a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral level. You look for alternative choices that you may not have seen as a child. As a child, you adapted because it was not desirable to contradict an adult. Now that you are an adult, it is necessary to express your feelings and needs. And because you decide to speak up and show yourself from now on, there will most likely be a different reaction in yourself and the other.


Such a re-decision is often a fundamental and challenging step. You are entering new, unknown territory. Experimenting with new behaviors may make you feel vulnerable, without knowing whether it will produce the desired result. But you know one thing for sure. Your old script no longer works, so it's time to explore new paths.