Feelings of inadequacy are something that most people will experience at some point in their lives.
It’s the nagging voice that tells us that we’re somehow not good enough, a loser, or not worthy of love and affection.
There is no truth in these thoughts, of course. But it’s difficult to accept that when you’re in the middle of a period of self-doubt or low self-esteem.
The following tips can help you manage your feelings of inadequacy and perhaps even shake them once and for all.
Just remember that this is a process that takes time and effort. So don’t be hard on yourself when you take a backward step or don’t see results straight away.
1. Ease the pressure you put on yourself to be the best.
Aiming high and wanting to achieve big things in life is not a bad approach to take. It helps you to grow, learn, and reap the benefits that success can bring.
But ambition is less healthy when it is driven by a need to be the best at whatever you set out to do.
Invariably, you won’t be able to meet those lofty standards all the time, or even any of the time.
There will always be someone who is better at something or more successful in some regard.
If you find yourself disappointed that you aren’t at the pinnacle of whatever it is you wish to achieve, you’ll start to believe that you aren’t good enough, even if you are statistically better at something than 90% of the population.
Ease up on yourself a bit. Aim for excellence in some things, aim for satisfactory in others, but try not to aim for perfection in anything.
You’ll find yourself meeting your own expectations more often which will reinforce the message in your mind that you are a capable and sometimes talented individual who is ‘enough’ in anyone’s eyes.
And remember that there is a whole range of skills and talents out there, many of which are not going to be relevant to the goals you wish to achieve in life.
So don’t beat yourself up just because you can’t do something and you have to ask for help or pay someone to do it for you.
Sometimes that’s the best decision you can make, rather than using up your precious time struggling through a task when you could be doing something more productive.
2. Stop comparing yourself others.
Part of managing your expectations in terms of what you can achieve or how good you need to be at something is to stop comparing yourself to other people.
The big problem with doing so is that you focus exclusively on what they can do better than you or what they have that you don’t.
You rarely look at areas where you excel that they don’t, or what you have that they are probably envious of.
And because there are endless people to compare yourself to, it’s always possible to find at least one person who does a particular thing to a higher standard than you or who has something you don’t.
It’s impossible to rate every single element of a person’s life or every trait they have and come up with an overall score for them versus you. There are simply too many factors to consider and too much subjectivity involved.
It is far better to accept that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and that everyone’s life has some things but is missing others.
No one has it all. No one is good at everything.
If you compare your flaws and failures with someone else’s talents and successes, you will feel inadequate because you’re comparing apples with oranges.
3. Recognize what you have achieved so far in life.
It’s easy to persuade yourself that you are somehow “less than” other people if all you ever do is look at the things you don’t have or the things you haven’t yet accomplished.
By shifting your focus to your many achievements in life, you can change the overall perspective you have or yourself and your life.
Perhaps your career hasn’t taken off in the way you had hoped (yet!) but you graduated college or university which is a big thing. Okay, so maybe you didn’t always get top grades, but you kept going and got your qualifications.
Or maybe you dropped out of school but started you own business which now provides a reasonable living for you and your family.
Have you bought your own house?
Have you explored various parts of the world?
Have you had a child who you love and care for?
Have you been a part of a sports team that has won a cup or championship (at any level)?
Have you got your finances in order with money going into a pension, a good credit rating, and savings to fall back on?
Have you built something from scratch with your own two hands?
Have you created beautiful art that other people appreciate or even pay you for?
Look at your life over the years and you’ll see that you have achieved many things.
You might not be giving yourself the credit you deserve for them. Start doing that now.
Recognize that those are things of worth and that they reflect the person of worth that you are today.
4. Challenge negative self-talk when it arises.
Those achievements you’ve now got in mind from the previous point will be useful in turning around negative self-talk into something more positive.
Every time you think “I’m such a loser,” you can counter with an example of when you won.
Every time you think “I’m not good at anything,” you can challenge that thought with evidence of the things you excel at.
It’s all a case of examining a thought and asking whether it is true. When it comes to putting yourself down, it won’t be.
It’s easy to find reasons to beat yourself up, but by providing evidence to the contrary, you will start to realize that those negative thoughts are unfounded.
And by persistently taking this approach to self-talk, you will build up resilience against your own negativity. It will simply become a habit to fight the negative with the positive.
The more you do it, the more things you’ll have in your mental locker to challenge the negative thoughts when they arise.
You won’t dwell long on your feelings of inadequacy when you can quickly provide counter-evidence that proves you are more than adequate.
5. Avoid negative or judgmental people.
The way we talk about ourselves can be influenced by the way other people not only talk about us, but how they talk about others too.
If you spend time around someone who regularly puts you down, you’ll begin to believe the things they are saying about you.
That might be direct criticisms of you or something you have done, but it could also be indirect comments positioned as jokes or banter.
Even if they don’t talk specifically about you, they may discuss other people with you and say unkind things about them.
If they do, you’ll begin to see the world through this person’s harsh eyes. You’ll believe that everyone is looking at your flaws or shortcomings and start to see them yourself.
It’s difficult to feel like you are enough if the people around you are forever judging others. The underlying message of any judgment is that the person in question is not worthy of respect.
It’s sensible to take a really good look at the people you hang out with, whether that’s friends, family members, or colleagues. You might need to cut some of them out of your life altogether, whilst limiting the time you spend around others.
If you can’t help but see these people, just remind yourself that most people are not as bitter and hateful and that nobody of any importance is judging you so harshly.
The people who truly care about you accept you for who you are. They don’t expect perfection. They love you, warts and all.
6. Seek professional help to identify and address the root cause(s) of your feelings.
If you have felt inadequate for some time and it is affecting how you live your life, it is a good idea to speak to a therapist.
The underlying cause of your feelings may need to be addressed if the other work in this article is to be effective.
Often, the negative views and thoughts we have about ourselves stem from our experiences earlier in life, particularly our childhood years.
Perhaps you were raised in an environment that lacked praise or recognition for the things you did well and where mistakes and flaws were highlighted instead.
Maybe you had to deal with constant rejection from job applications when you first left education and this dented your self-worth.
Whatever the cause (or causes), by examining them with a trained professional, you can learn to undo the limiting beliefs put in place during that time and overcome the feelings you feel now.
7. Shift the value you place on things.
It’s far harder to accept your own worth in this world if you focus too much on external things.
If you equate who you are with the amount of money you have, the type of house or car you can afford, the vacations you go on, or the possessions you own, you’re doing yourself an injustice.
The same goes for things like power or fame or popularity. These things are separate to the person you really are?
If you need convincing, just ask what would happen if all of those things were taken from you? Who would you be if you didn’t have the money or fame or whatever else?
You’d still be you. Your circumstances might be different, but your inner values would remain.
Examine what you truly value in life and compare it to what you think you should value based on what society most often promotes as a good life.
You’ll soon realize that things like inner peace, integrity, gratitude, and joy are what you really want.
In fact, we often chase those external things in the misguided belief that they will somehow give us the internal qualities we desire most.
But they won’t. They can’t. Whilst our internal world can be influenced by the external world, that external world cannot give or take anything away from our internal world.
Perhaps the only exception is the quality personal relationships we have with others. When we share our lives with people who we care about and who care about us in return, our inner worlds will benefit.
By focusing on your inner world and the relationships you have with others, you will see that you are more than adequate, regardless of what your external circumstances are.
8. Set regular, achievable goals.
When you put your mind to something and set about doing that thing, it can be a wonderful boost to your self-belief when you achieve it.
It’s a way of proving to yourself that you are “good enough” to do that thing.
And when you regularly set and achieve goals of all sizes, you reinforce the message that you are not just adequate, but genuinely competent or skilled.
For a lasting reminder, keep a list of all the goals you’ve smashed and other things you have achieved. Whenever you feel inadequate, look at this list to give yourself a little boost.
Don’t simply focus on the end result, either. Make a point of valuing the process you went through, from learning new things to pushing beyond your comfort zone to overcoming obstacles.
The key is to set goals that you believe are realistic. They can be challenging, but they should be things that you are truly invested in and will see through to the end.
9. Be kind to yourself when you fail.
When you set yourself those goals in the previous point, you have to face the stark reality that you will fail to reach some of them.
But failure is a normal thing to experience. Everyone sets targets or goals or things they’d like to do. And everyone fails from time to time.
If you see those failures as terrible things and beat yourself up because of them, you’ll feed the feelings you have that you are somehow not good enough.
Instead, you need to be kind to yourself. You should remind yourself that failure is not always the end – sometimes it takes a few failed attempts before you finally succeed at something.
Failure teaches us lessons about what doesn’t work. It encourages us to look for different solutions or ways of achieving the things we set out to achieve.
A helpful way to approach your own failures is to consider what you would say to your best friend if they had failed at this exact same thing.
Would you tell them that they are useless or weak? Would you laugh at them or tell them that you were right to doubt them?
Of course you wouldn’t.
So why would you say those things to yourself?
Why wouldn’t you treat yourself with the same compassion and care that you would your friend when they fail?
Well, you can. It just takes a little switch in mentality. You have to catch yourself in the act of being unkind to yourself and remember that you are your own friend, and friend’s don’t say or think those things.
10. Learn to be a satisficer, not a maximizer.
When people make decisions, they typically fall into one of two categories.
The first is that of a satisficer. This is a person who looks for a choice that satisfies their bare minimum requirements and then makes this choice without much further thought.
The second is that of a maximizer. This is a person who looks for the choice that will maximize what they get out of the thing they are choosing. They often spend long periods of time researching the choices and weighing up which is the best one.
So how does this relate to feelings of inadequacy?
Well, our lives are full of choices. We make them each and every day.
And every time we do, there is a chance that we will regret the choice we made.
Who do you think is going to doubt their choices the most? Probably a maximizer.
They want to make the best possible choice, which is hard to do all of the time. Sometimes what seems like the best choice at the time will turn out to be a less than optimal choice later on.
And when a choice turns out not to be the best one that could have been made, it’s easy to blame yourself and call yourself an idiot or some other unkind term.
But since a satisficer is happy to just have their minimum requirements met, they aren’t going to punish themselves if another option turns out to be better.
Stop worrying about making the perfect choice each and every time. If it’s not life or death, it’s probably not worth getting work up about.
11. Take note of the nice things people say about you.
It’s nice to receive a compliment or a thank you or any other kind words.
But are you really paying attention to these things? Because you should be.
When another person takes the time to say something nice about you or imply that you did something good, you should listen to them.
People don’t tend to say these things unless they are true. If other people see you as a good person who does good things, why would you doubt them?
It’s difficult to feel that you are not good enough when you have people telling you otherwise.
So take note of these nice comments – physically write them down or keep a digital note of them.
Whenever you are feeling a bit down on yourself, look back at your list for a quick pick-me-up.
12. Do things that you enjoy and are good at.
Demonstrating that you are, in fact, good at things is another great way to deal with the sense of personal inadequacy.
So if there is a hobby that you enjoy doing where you are at the same or higher level than many of your peers, do that thing often.
Perhaps you let it slide because you had other things on your plate, or maybe you don’t do it as often as you’d like.
Whatever the case, if you can carve out more time to dedicate to this thing, it will give your self-belief and self-worth a natural boost.
13. Address any self-destructive behavior.
Whether it’s drug or alcohol abuse, self-sabotage, social isolation, self-neglect, or something else, when you engage in self-destructive behavior, it will inevitably impact how you feel about yourself.
Taking steps to manage and overcome this behavior will not only alleviate its negative effects on you, it will give yourself something to be proud of.
If the challenge is a big one and you don’t feel able to tackle it alone, consult with a mental health professional or other expert to get help with it.
14. Address any mental health issues.
A sense of inadequacy can be the result of an underlying mental health issue – either one you are aware of or one that is undiagnosed.
If you believe this may be the case, your first stop should be a mental health professional who will be able to diagnose the issue and help you address it.
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- 10 Things To Do When You Feel Like You Just Can’t Do Anything Right
- To Grow Your Self-Esteem Over Time, Do These 10 Small Things Regularly
- What To Do If You Feel Like You’re A Bad Person
- If You Feel Like A Disappointment To Yourself Or Others, Read This
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