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Do you know what really bugs me, the thing that eats away at my self-confidence?

The fact that my most successful blog post was written over a year ago.

I used to think jealousy was one of the worst emotions you could experience. I hated myself for wasting time analyzing other’s news clippings or subscriber numbers. It flew in the face of my own teachings about defining success for yourself.

Then I realized one emotion was worse: inadequacy.

Inadequacy is ruthless about detail. It notices how no one talks to you at the PTA meeting or how irritable you’re being with the family you love after a bad night’s sleep. It makes fun of your clumsy bump over the curb (again) while driving in a foreign country. If you’re a blogger, Google Analytics becomes the yardstick of your self-esteem.

On the other hand, inadequacy is blind to your wins, big or small. It discounts, minimizes, and forgets.

You can remember saying to yourself, “If only I could…” and then when you did, it was overshadowed by what you didn’t.

Only a couple of years ago, I fantasized about reaching 1000 subscribers and building a business that brought home an extra $2000 a month for our family. That seemed wildly successful to me at the time.

Now that I have thousands of subscribers and my business cleared nearly $7000 last month (an unusual month and certainly not average, but still), you’d think I’d be euphoric and celebrating non-stop.  Nope.

I’ve struggled to shake the feeling I’m somehow falling behind. It’s not that I don’t recognize that I’ve had some successes. It’s that it often doesn’t feel like enough.

I’m not courted by media as a career expert or connecting with the all the big influentials. I despair I’ll never reach 10,000 subscribers (an order of magnitude above my initial goal).

How in world can I hope to realize my dream of being a writer, the voice in my head whines, if I can’t even compete in the world of blogging?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure successful, “inspirational” bloggers aren’t supposed to admit they feel inadequate … ever.  For someone who claims to be “an optimist at heart,” this only doubles my feeling of failure.

Believe me when I say this admission is highly uncomfortable.

But it’s also real.

And after wallowing in some self-pity for a while, I learned that feeling inadequate isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.  Here’s how to get perspective on the problem and channel the emotion for good.

Two big reasons we feel inadequate

The tyranny of should

Penelope Trunk says “Should is the American way of putting ourselves down in the name of the need to impress other people.”

This is the first source of inadequacy, when we think we should have something we don’t, often (though not only) because we want respect and admiration from others.

I feel like journalists should be coming to me for interviews. I think conference organizers should be inviting me to give talks. I think I should have more comments on my blog posts.

But how important is any of this? Was it actually worth feeling bad over?

I realized most of my should’s weren’t needs, but wants and desires in disguise. They weren’t essential to my personal definition of success.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want or have those things. But to get them, I’m going to have to do something more or differently than I am today. No one owes me anything.

In this way, should becomes the whip that over-achievers use to work harder and drive ever better performance. The truth is that the tactic largely works, but when overdone, it’s a recipe for disappointment. On the other hand, it gives me a list of really concrete things I can start doing to feel better and move me forward on my goals.

It’s important to remember that just because you come up with your own definition of success doesn’t mean you won’t be lured by society’s siren song from time to time. It’s why I recommend printing it out and putting it somewhere prominent, so you can remind yourself what you’re really working towards.

Big goals, big emotional roller-coaster

In a webinar for my No Regrets Career Academy clients last night, Jonathan Fields talked about fear and failure. He reminded us that if we’re not failing at least some of the time, we’re not likely to ever achieve those big goals we dream about.  The other side of risk, he said, is opportunity. You can’t have one without the other.

Big goals mean you’re going to have to learn new things and take on tasks you’re not very good at yet. If you’ve been playing it safe and riding the coattails of your talent all your life, this is going to make you feel pretty lousy.

This means feeling inadequate can actually be a sign that you’re on the right track.

Believe it or not, you can take pride in your feelings of inadequacy if they stem from doing what’s hard. I value learning and challenge, even if the process isn’t always pleasant in the short-term.

Plus, you’ll find you’re in really good company.

How Zach Braff and two ants helped me ditch the self-pity

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Scrubs, you’ll know Zach Braff is famous for his comic and deeply honest insights on life. So perhaps it’s no surprise that his play, All New People, provided the release I needed from inadequacy.

His character, who is going through a rough time after a break-up, watches two ants fight over a crumb of Poptart.  From his perspective, he realizes the struggle is largely meaningless. There are other crumbs. Regardless of who wins the prize, both ants will eventually die and be replaced by other ants.

The message isn’t that life is pointless.

It’s that fighting yourself is pointless.

And that’s what self-pity is: a big punch in the face by your own hand.

You need a fight? Fight the system. Fight injustice. Fight for your ideas.

And know that if you’re doing it right, sometimes you’re going to feel completely and utterly inadequate.

Maybe that’s what inspiration is all about.

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72 Responses to Help, I’m Feeling Inadequate

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 10:10 am
    • Glori
    • Said...

    I’m just starting out and feeling my way around being a freelance writer. To be honest, I’m still unsure if this is what I want to do, and perhaps, this is why I always hesitate and feel inadequate about taking on projects.
    I tend to accept those that are comfortable for me.
    I think conquering inadequacy for me in this case means really figuring out first what to do with my life. :)

    • Glori,
      I think figuring out what you want to do is THE most important thing to do. Without out that, everything makes you feel inadequate. It’s like that proverbial dark cloud that follows you wherever you go. Let me know how I can help!

  1. Jennifer – Thank you for this very honest blog post (as all of yours are). I think we all struggle with feelings of inadequacy, especially when we put ourselves out there publicly, get some attention, and then realize that there is never “enough” (it’s a very slippery slope!).

    I was just reading a book the other day that explained that’s OK to have goals, but to make sure that what you are really living/striving for are your values: what is important to you (e.g., family time, health & wellness, helping others, cultivating relationships, etc.).

    I know I have learned a lot from your posts, so thank you.

    • Carol,
      I totally agree. My values drive everyday decisions. And it’s often the case that when I’m feeling unhappy or discouraged, it’s because something is out of alignment there (or I’m tired, which is the other big thing that leads to these emotional roller coasters). BUT…I will also say that one of my values is courage, of being willing to put myself out there and walk into my fears. And my big a-ha was that when I’m living up to that core value, it actually generates those feelings of inadequacy, because I’m often in murky and unfamiliar territory without my usual set of skills to fall back on. It’s hard! And what I realized is that it’s also right where I want to be. :)

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 11:38 am
    • Megumi
    • Said...

    First, I want to say how much this one really resonated with me. I’m an engineering student at a tough school, and I feel inadequate every day. It’s a constant back and forth between ‘look how far you’ve come compared to last year’ vs. ‘look how terrible you are in comparison to others’. And I see this so much in my friends too. The distance from being ‘finished’ with whatever goal shouldn’t discount how much you’ve gotten done so far. They can almost be viewed as two separate things.

    Secondly, this reminded me of a book I read called ‘The Practicing Mind’. If you haven’t read it already, I’d recommend it. The main takeaway I got from it is that there’s something calming and empowering about not judging your progress toward a goal, and simply focusing on one thing at a time: what you’re doing right now, not where you ‘need to’ or ‘should’ be.

    • Thanks for the book recommendation, Megumi. I like that idea.

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm
    • Eugene
    • Said...

    Thanks for another deeply honest and inspirational post!
    I think this is what I love about your blog. Some others tell us just to do it, transformation is in the now. You remind us that it’s a process, and we are all fighting in the trenches.

    • Thank you, Eugene. It’s absolutely true–we’re all in the trenches. I wish more people talked about it. Super glad I can share these ideas with such a supportive and understanding community.

  2. You need a mantra. Right now, mine is, “I love my life” and I say that every single night before I go to sleep. It makes me smile, and it makes me happy for what I have.

    • You may be right about that mantra idea. I’ll have to think about what mine might be. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 11:36 am
    • Veeh Cirra
    • Said...

    Wow, this is such an honest read Jen. I love it! Sometimes we do have expectations of how things should turn out. And when this does not happen.It becomes very disappointing and we even feel inadequate.Those “downs” in life at times can be very hard to walk through.

    I like that you have mentioned the NEED to be validated by other people. I have shocked myself at times by changing my stand at something because I wanted to be accepted. Granted sometimes I maybe utterly wrong, but it’s still my mistake to make. Why is that validation so hard to turn off?

    The wisest man who ever lived said that “the majority is always wrong.” Yet, even with this knowledge it’s easy to be lured by society’s siren song from time to time..as you have said. It’s like a vicious cycle.

    I need to remind myself that as long as what am doing is right. And does not impose on others. Then it’s fine..being accepting and kind of oneself is assuring.

    Thanks Jen for sharing this wonderful message.


    • Yes, Veeh. It’s sad but true–we’re ego driven creatures. I try not to feel badly about it, since I think it’s part of human nature. I think the challenge is always learning how to channel these seeming vices into powers of good. At least now I feel I have a way of doing that with inadequacy. :)

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm
    • Atif Agha
    • Said...

    Jen, Thank you for the nice post. I have always fought with that inner voice that keeps bogging one down. In the last part of the blog where you advised to direct that energy stuck in inward loop, outward. Towards other things that need to be fixed and the inner self will automatically come at peace. so true..
    I did however want to add that the feeling of inadequacy also come from people around us, who may have become more successful or atleast appear that way and who are also childish, immature and egoistic majority that don’t mind beating their drums and constantly pulling others down, discouraging them and making them feel small. Those kinds of people are everywhere, those extrovert, loud people who perhaps thrive on making other miserable. You may be pretty adequate in your own standard and you might actually feel sufficient, but then there are always those people that don’t let you settle for a minute.. what do you think?

    • That’s true, Atif, in a sense. Others do bring us down, though I tend to think much of it is unintentional (one of my faults is always seeing the good in people, so take that with a grain of salt!). But like anything, people only have the power to make us feel a certain way if we let them. That’s why I think that definition of success for YOU is so important. I need to reference mine often.

  3. Jen, you are speaking right to me. Having been sick these past weeks, I’ve been struggling even more against that feeling of ‘falling behind’.

    It’s really helpful to hear that another writer and entrepreneur (one I view as an amazing and successful one! 😉 ) also struggles with those feelings. It’s also helpful to know that they’re not dependent on circumstance; the change of perspective has to come from within.

    I, too, am tempted to consider success based on moneys earned or subscribers added. When I get down, I will remember that a) If I don’t occasionally feel like a failure, I’m not aiming high enough, and b) It’s not all about me! 😉

    • We’ve talked about this, but what you’ve done with your business in such a short period of time is absolutely amazing. So of course I see absolutely no reason why YOU should feel inadequate. LOL

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm
    • Sara
    • Said...

    I read a line in a book once that resonated with me: “…she felt no pride in the award as she’d just done what she’d expected of herself.” Those of us who are driven often have such high expectations of ourselves that we have a hard time taking pride in our very real accomplishments. Sometimes we need to step outside of our heads and see ourselves the way others see us. Not easy, but helpful.

    • That’s a good point, Sara. High expectations are a double edged sword.

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm
    • Barbara
    • Said...

    Wow Jen… you really can be hard on yourself. I’m sending you a big (((hug))) and at the same time screaming SNAP OUT OF IT! Followed by a very important question… Are you having fun? Do you love what you do? ok, two questions.

    My advice would be to stop measuring your stats and start measuring your satisfaction level. You are clearly not inadequate by any measure, except perhaps your own yard stick. You’ve reached a subscriber and financial level most of us would kill for (not literally of course).

    I’ll leave you with my new favorite quote which I’ve plastered just about everywhere lately…

    “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm!” Winston Churchill

    I can’t find any failure with anything you’ve done but if you can, think about this and take a moment to bask in the glow of the people you’ve helped.

    • Well of course I’m hard on myself, Barbara. I’m an over-achieving INTJ!

      No seriously, the good news is that a) I always come around, usually with more sleep, and b) I really did find the silver lining in inadequacy. It helped me realize that much of my feelings are coming from the fact that I’m pushing my boundaries and constantly learning. I like that.

      I do LOVE that Churchill quote. Thank you!

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm
    • Aaron
    • Said...

    Yes, Jennifer, I believe the occasional crisis of faith is part of the process. I just had one recently. It certainly wasn’t as bad as the flu.

    I have questioned the invulnerability, especially my own, of inspirational bloggers for a while. I have no remaining doubt that this honest admission of yours is many times more inspiring than the typical power of positive thinking. Kudos to you.

    • “It certainly wasn’t as bad as the flu.” LOL. Thanks for that laugh!

      Thanks too for the kind words. You honestly never know how these things are going to go over, but my blogging mentor told me once that if you aren’t a little afraid to hit the publish button, you should probably rewrite the post. Ding! Mission accomplished. :)

    • On
    • April 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    • Clara
    • Said...

    OK, Jen, so now I KNOW that we were separated at birth (except that my mother spoke Spanish…). Inadequacy and low self-esteem seem to be exacerbated in the West–a number of years ago, in a meeting with Buddhist meditation teachers from the U.S., the Dalai Lama was asked for advice on how to address the self-hatred from which many of the teachers’ students seemed to suffer. The Dalai Lama, it’s reported, was puzzled by the phrase and had to keep having it explained to him. For one thing, there’s no equivalent phrase in Tibetan, but the concept itself was foreign to him. That’s a powerful message about this unnecessary yoke that we lug around. Undoubtedly there are better ways to encourage achievement and good performance, yet many of us seem stuck in the same unhealthy reactive patterns.

    I’m a big fan of starting with awareness. Over time, learning to stay with our uncomfortable feelings and investigating them, in much the way you describe in your post, can make a huge difference. I’m learning to see that while the feelings may keep returning, I neither have to believe them nor react to them in the standard ways. Instead, I can learn to respond. That’s one of my mantras these days: “response, not reaction.”

    Am I there? Sometimes. Sometimes not. But, hey, there’s another mantra for that: “progress, not perfection” 😉 Thanks for the post.

    • Ah, Clara, if only we WERE sisters separated at birth. Then my Spanish might be better!

      It’s a great insight into how the Western culture exacerbates feelings of inadequacy. Unnecessary yoke indeed! But you know me, I’m all about the reframe. Now I see it almost as something positive to experience now and again. It tells me I’m growing.

  4. Or maybe don’t fight at all! It’s encouraging to know that feelings of inadequacy pop up for all of us even those who are successful. Thanks for showing us how to breath through it.

    • Thanks, Sandra! The idea of not fighting at all is an interesting one, but difficult for my personality type I think. I like fighting (concepts and behaviors, not people). For me, change is about fight. But I hear you, there’s another way to look at change that might be equally or more effective.

  5. Jen,

    I so appreciated this post. It describes a lot of how I have been feeling over the past year as I have been stretching the way I think about my work and my identity as a person who kind of stumbled into being self-employed, but now has to embrace marketing and growth if I want to survive. I appreciate therapists who share some of their own struggles, and inspirational leaders who aren’t afraid to talk about the hard stuff. Thank you.


    • On
    • April 18, 2012 at 2:56 am
    • G Angela
    • Said...

    Thanks for your post, I do feel inadequate sometimes, when I look at the other bloggers and notice, how well they write, and how they express themselves so well – then I think that every person responds to their own situation, and works hard to reach where they are at.. that gives me motivation, and I am inspired to look at what can I offer, so feeling of inadequacy makes me think, explore and find out what else can i do to bring meaning to my life ! thanks for inspiring !

    • Exactly! Channel that feeling of inadequacy into future growth.

    • On
    • April 18, 2012 at 5:53 am
    • Michela
    • Said...

    Thank you, Jen. Another honest post. I follow several bloggers but I feel you’re the only person who’s not afraid to show the person who’s behind the computer. Many people speak about the problems they experienced with their careers, jobs, family etc. but they don’t show their feelings, looks like they are immune from bad thoughts and feelings. Of course I know they are not but IMHO being 100% honest and open, to other people and possibilities, means showing who you are, not just the bright side.


    • Awww, you just made me feel really good. Thank you!

  6. Jen,
    Love how you cut to the core on this one. The curse of the Internet and social media is that it gives us an endless supply of ammo with which to beat ourselves up. We have easy access to constant comparison. I am contemplating a mini sabbatical (even just a few days!) to pull my head out of this space and shake it clear so I can hear my own thoughts. I am eager to switch gears from consuming to creating – have tea with my own ideas and then bring them back to the online party with me. 😉

    Thanks for another great post. Keep it comin’!

    • That’s so true about the internet giving us an endless supply on inadequacy ammo. Ooo, I’m gonna remember that concept for a future book. If only I were more organized…. lol

      Seriously recommend the digital sabbatical. As you know, I just took one and LOVED it. Never wanted to come back (which means my email is a total disaster, but I’m ok with it)

    • On
    • April 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm
    • Kat
    • Said...

    I’ll stop punching myself now. This is excellent. Thank you.

  7. Well, my first thought was wow, in comparison to my blog, you are wildly successful–now I feel inadequate! Ha! Well, there you go. None of us will ever win the comparison game. Like Rockefeller famously replied when asked how much more money he needed to feel satisfied, “Just a little more.” So glad I stopped in today to read this post. It’s perfect.

    • LOL. Now that wasn’t the intended effect, Galen. Like the Rockefeller quote. So true! (unless we get that personal definition of success and live it, of course!)

  8. I hear ya! In fact, I wrote this same post myself six times the other day. (Why six times? The first five weren’t good enough, of course! The sixth may not be either–I haven’t reread it yet.)

    I think it’s really important that we all talk about this kind of thing–otherwise, it’s so easy to stay in your own little box thinking you’re the only one. Keep fighting the good fight, and be gentle with yourself!

    • Yes, yes, I totally agree. We think we’re setting the right example by not talking about the struggles. But in fact, it just makes those who might follow in our footsteps feel even worse.

  9. Hi Jen – Thanks so much for this honest post. Not glad you are feeling unsure sometimes, but glad that I am in such esteemed company! Your biz rocks! You rock!
    Have fun!

    • No, no, Kathy. As I said in the post, it’s all good! LOL

      Thanks for the kind words!

    • On
    • April 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm
    • Ayngelina
    • Said...

    Completely agree about “should” it has always held me back and it’s a constant battle today.

    • Thanks for speaking up. I wish more people were talking about this. I think particularly among over-achievers, it’s just something we have to learn to deal with. The idea that it can actually be a good thing, rather than something to be ashamed of, helped me a lot.

    • On
    • April 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm
    • Ralph
    • Said...

    Me and Eugene, the only guys on this thread. Huh?

    Jennifer, that was brilliant.

    I have said this a couple of times on other blogs but I am just finishing Carol Dweck’s book called Mindset. It talks about people who are learners and people who feel their abilities are fixed.

    Inadequacy in this perspective pushes you to learn. It is OK to be inadequate because if you never are then you have stopped learning. It’s hard to admit and it’s even harder to recognize when you are in it.

    Thanks for putting the idea of growth in simple terms.

    • I know, Ralph, what IS up with that? Are the men here afraid to fess up? :)

      You’re now the second (or is it third?) to mention Carol’s book. I’ve had it on my to-read list a while, but will have to move it up! Thanks!

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    • On
    • April 24, 2012 at 9:33 am
    • Andi-Roo
    • Said...

    My favorite line: *should* becomes the whip that over-achievers use to work harder and drive ever better performance.

    I relate to this all too well. Glad & equal parts sad that I’m not alone! Thank you for sharing so the rest of us can feel better with you. Let us all collectively STOP feeling inadequate!

    Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz

    • Andi-Roo,
      Definitely not alone. But my hope is that this post would also help you see that feeling inadequate isn’t all bad. Learn to channel the feeling for good. Reframing situations is my favorite solution when you can’t just make something go away.

    • On
    • April 25, 2012 at 8:27 am
    • Jen Norris
    • Said...

    Hi Jen – Love this post. It caught my eye after what felt like a particularly rough ‘wrestling with inadequacy’ evening. Would be curious if this applies to others, too – what I’ve noticed is that when I’m feeling inadequate it simply means I’m not taking good care of myself. So I’ve learned – wait, change that – AM LEARNING – to stop what I’m doing, and do something for myself. Put the work down, change the gears. A bath, a walk, some fresh juice, read a book.

    This sudden act of compassion fills up the space formerly taken by inadequacy with hope and love.

    Thanks for always wearing the badge of authenticity and inspiration. JZN

    • Well, I can tell you that a lot of my feelings of inadequacy can be solved with a good night’s sleep. BUT–if I don’t get to the root of the problem, the thing that’s gnawing at me, the feelings come back. But I completely agree that all my advice will work better the more personal compassion and kindness you add to it.

      Thanks as always for the great insight and comment!

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  12. Nice one Jen.
    The terrible thing is when you feel inadequate and at the same time you are unable to spur yourself to action.

    • Yes, you’re right. I think the cure is to remember that the feelings of inadequacy can either help you or hurt you. You have the ability to determine which one wins.

    • On
    • May 7, 2012 at 7:51 am
    • Chris Lappin
    • Said...

    Thanks for your fabulous, insightful post Jen! It really strikes a chord with me as does your personality type!!

    What I’ve found with myself, & with others I’ve worked with, is that we can spend a lot of time berating ourselves & wallowing in what didn’t go well which is really negative yet very little time celebrating the successes.

    I do wonder whether a strong tendency to feel inadequate is linked to having high expectations of ourselves so a goal achieved is just normal – we simply tick it off the list & move on to our next goal. Anything less is simply inadequate & a failure.

    Maybe we can change some of the ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’?

    What I try to do is to set small, necessary stepping-stone goals which lead to the bigger goal. Each goal has a reward attached to it to celebrate each achievement. This serves 2 purposes: it breaks down the big, & often intimidating, goal & gives reason to take stock of the success.

    Do I always do it?: NO. I’m often too busy moving on to the next goal…..

    • Yes, I absolutely agree that those high expectations are both a positive and a negative, and undermines goal achievement. But I also think some of this is personality dependent, so I try to focus on coping with the situation (reframing it) rather than getting people to change. But I agree too that small changes like you are suggesting can make a big difference. Thanks for sharing your great insights!

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  14. Yes, the word “should” is one that I removed from my vocab years ago & replaced it with “could”. That way I sense choice.
    One of my favorite quotes is…
    “One must also accept that one has ‘uncreative’ moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass.” -Etty Hillesum
    It reminds me that the days I’m feeling a bit “stopped” are OK to just “be with”.

    • Nice, Thea. I like the idea of simply replacing should with could. Simple is often best!

    • On
    • August 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm
    • Michael Grochowski
    • Said...

    Thank you that was well said, I ve been feeling inadequate towards women lately, just to try and set up dates or hang out,maybe even see a movie, I ve been rejected so many times it just feels like I’m the only one out there.

    • On
    • August 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm
    • hannah
    • Said...

    hi I am struggling in my new job now feeling like I’m not good enough and that they made a mistake hiring me but reading this gave me comfort that I’m not alone and that things can get better. Good luck in your writing career and remember NEVER give up!

    • On
    • November 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm
    • Patricia
    • Said...

    As founder President of Marathon of Life, I have made mistakes. One of the associates is our accountant, he´s very intelligent and a perfectionist who is constantly to marking errors. We had our first discussion and ended feeling depressed and inadequate.

    Thank you so much for your words of inspiration.

    “This means feeling inadequate can actually be a sign that you’re on the right track.
    Believe it or not, you can take pride in your feelings of inadequacy if they stem from doing what’s hard. I value learning and challenge, even if the process isn’t always pleasant in the short-term.”

    I will keep this in mind

    • Pat,
      Glad the post was helpful. Remember that perfectionism is as much a failure (and a curse) as any mistake you’ll find or make. Let compassion drive your mind when you think back on that discussion, for both of you. I guarantee that accountant is harder on himself than you can imagine.

    • On
    • March 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm
    • Christopher
    • Said...

    Now I’m not a dedicated reader of your blog, heck I didn’t even know it existed 10 minutes ago, but I searched through google “I feel inadequate” and your blog entry was the second result, and I thought, why not, let’s have a look.
    First of all, I want to say thank you, thank you for writing this blog post, because its amazing to see people talk about such sensitive issues.
    Secondly, I know it’s strange, but the excerpt from scrubs really helped me. There’s no point in fighting myself, cause that will get me nowhere, If I wanna fight, I gotta fight the things that make me feel like this. I know you’ll probably never read this, as I’m sure you get hundreds of comments a day, but thank you :)

    • On
    • May 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    • Teea
    • Said...

    In your case, coming from a well respected professional career in the sciences and transitioning into something more artistic and freelance based such as writing it is easy to get lost inside your mind comparing one with the other. It is our inadequacies that have us believe that others may think what we are doing is less important or less relevant, and when you enter the field of writing you find people from all walks of life, some who have no formal education, just a natural talent. As much as you may think that people may judge you or look down on you, the real truth is that a lot of people are envious that you had the courage to make this change, to have the flexibility in your work, to have made something out of nothing. The internet is still relatively new and some may not view blogging and such as a real profession in many ways, but its more a matter that deep inside that’s what YOU think and not a real reflection of what others think. They say that shyness has roots in narcisism and i believe this to be true. We have this sense that everyone is watching and judging and are out to get us when really they may be indifferent. If you are not getting as many responses to blog posts it is not because the article was not enjoyed it may just be that the reader had nothing to add, or perhaps that the reader has their own inadequacies about posting something they’ve written. You are a writer after all, and could judge my writing. I was reading your blog a few years back and like Christopher above, i also googled “feeling inadequate” and you also came in at number 2, so that is a wonderful accomplishment. Congratulations on your success.

  15. After seeing someone a few years older than me, attending the university I will be going to, sending their art to magazines to be featured and being accepted, I suddenly felt as though I was lagging behind and that everyone else was automatically better than me (my mind may be a little oversensitive).
    Anyway, I knew I was probably overreacting, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of inadequacy and so I did a Google search for some advice that could help me deal with these feelings.
    It was then that I stumbled across this wonderful post which was truly a breath of fresh air and instantly made me think more positively. Thank you so much for sharing your honest experiences and good luck in the future!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Abigail. Those feelings of inadequacy are tricky–they can pull you down or be used to lift you up. I don’t get it right all the time, but I’m very happy to hear my approach helped someone else. Now go get your art out there in the world! :)

  16. Wow! Fantastic post. I found you doing research about the relationship between guilt and anxiety disorder. The struggle to define work-related success on one’s own terms has strong parallels to defining oneself as a worthwhile human being in general.

    People with chronic anxiety disorders usually struggle with the same feelings of inadequacy you describe here but in a more generalized way. The chronically anxious tend to believe, deep down, that they are failed human beings who have no right to exist, let alone be successful. Deep-seated anxiety is often fear that we ARE mistakes rather than that we simply make mistakes.

    Given that our “value” as people in this culture is defined almost entirely by our “success” in the workplace, it makes sense that those who buck the system and dare to determine their own career destiny would face similar feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy.

    Thanks for a very interesting, thought-provoking post. Great job!

    • On
    • January 16, 2014 at 6:18 pm
    • liz
    • Said...


    • On
    • March 14, 2014 at 10:04 am
    • Steve
    • Said...

    Thanks for this excellent post. I was feeling inadequate this morning and googled “quotes on inadequacy” and very quickly found myself here. Your point about taking pride in feeling inadequate when it comes from doing what’s hard was exactly what I need to be reminded of. I’ve been pushing my boundaries and stretching myself lately, leading the those feelings. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could take that as a sign I’m on the right track.

    Thanks a bunch!

    • On
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:29 am
    • Mary beth
    • Said...

    Thank u for opening up and being honest about inadequacy. I am a hairdresser and have been working in a salon for almost a year. I feel as if all the women I work with are better than me. And I was okay with that as they had all been doing it years longer than I. However, 6 months ago a girl I went to school with who had taken a semester off to be with her new baby started working here. Fresh out of school, I should be better than her.. Right!? I should be more accepted and liked by my coworkers than her, we should be closer than they are to her.. Right!? Well it seems she is the Golden Child. Everyone just loves her. They always ask her to perform services on them but no one ever asks me to.. Not even a simple shampoo. Since she’s started here I have felt so insignificant. As if they wouldn’t even care if I quit today. I don’t know how to shake all these feelings and I don’t like being the person who feels this way and resents her for it…

    • Hey Mary beth,
      I’m sorry you’re feeling insecure about your place in the salon due to the arrival of the “Golden Child.” We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt unloved and underappreciated. I know I went through much of my school years convinced that no one liked me. So convinced that I cried more often than it rain in Florida in the summer. Fifteen years later, I decided to go to my high school reunion. I had only kept in touch with an old boyfriend, and even then, barely. Why did I go? I can’t tell you that, but it was the surprise of my life. So many people asked me, “What happened to you? Why didn’t you keep in touch? I tried to find you forever, and finally decided, if you wanted to be friends, you could find me.” Really, there aren’t words to describe my shock. I thought a lot about how I could’ve gotten it all so wrong. And I finally realized that it was my fear of rejection that was preventing me from forming closer relationships. I don’t know if this is the case for you. But how about this: why don’t you offer to perform a service for someone? Maybe that’s just how Golden Girl started. Maybe she confided to someone she felt insecure and could she just practice on them? You can’t know. But I do know that the path to intimacy starts with a willingness to be vulnerable. It’s hard. But you’re so right, you don’t want to become the person who resents other people’s good fortune. So try putting yourself out there and see what happens. Even if you don’t get the response you want, you’ll be better (and proud of yourself) for trying.

      Hope that helps!!