When we feel inadequate

Sometimes we see the world with the belief that everybody else is better than we are: they succeed; they have better relationships, they are more healthy and fit, they have better jobs, their children are better behaved and they are better parents than we are. We see their homes as immaculate and we believe that everything in them works perfectly and is shiny and new. We try to measure ourselves against our perception of those around us and we seem to find ourselves lacking. We feel that somehow we have failed to be good enough.

Is this reality? What gives us the impression that we are failing?

Are we seeing the world around us as it is or is something else happening?

Reasons for feeling inadequate

There are, of course, times when things do go wrong. Relationships break down, jobs are lost, homes are lost. There are illness and bereavement and any number of other events that can have a negative effect on our emotions and our state of mind. At these times seeing others as being in a better position than us is possibly appropriate; we really are suffering.

Maybe something else is happening. At these times, no matter how good things are, no matter how much potential there is or how much others value us, we still feel somehow inadequate. In our relationships with others, it doesn't matter how many times people tell us that we are good enough and show us that this is true through their actions and behaviours, we may still feel that we are not. It is as if our internal feelings of inadequacy are more powerful than any confirmation of our worth given to us by the world around us and the people in our lives, and so the confirmation may go unnoticed. Sometimes we do notice it and yet we disbelieve it and maybe we reject it as other people simply trying to make us feel better.

Moving into a better place

In situations like this, the feeling is often from the past. It's something that we experienced at some point in our life which had a lasting effect on our self-esteem. Maybe it's telling us that we are not good enough or that we don't deserve to be happy and satisfied. It may be something that we are already aware that we carry with us and yet find difficult to put down. Or it may be something that we have no idea that we carry, and which influences our view of ourselves and the world around us without us knowing. The source of the negative feelings may relate to the family dynamics of our childhood; to parental divorce; to our relationships with of our siblings; to illness or loss in the family; to historical abuse and violence towards us. There is any number of life experiences that may affect our sense of worth and self-esteem.

The thing that we picked up in the past could influence our view to the extent that we may find it difficult to move forward and to strive to achieve our ambitions. Indeed, it may prevent us from having ambitions in the first place; why have ambitions when we can imagine nothing but guaranteed failure and yet another confirmation of our inadequacy? Or maybe we feel that we don't deserve to achieve anything anyway; our experience misinforms us that we deserve to suffer and therefore we don't attempt to lift ourselves up and to strive for anything. Often we can even turn the feeling outwards and attack the world around us for demanding us to be more than we feel we are or should be, and yet the source of this demand may not always be external.

Finding support 

Working with a therapist we can explore all of this and more. We can work towards an understanding of how much our feelings are a reaction to our current situation and to what extent they are outdated feelings from the past. Whatever we discover with our counsellor we will be supported as we move towards developing a sense of self within which feelings of inadequacy can subside, can be overcome or understood as being from another place or time, so that our knowledge that we are indeed good enough can begin to grow.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, SE9
Written by Steve Hughes, Registered MBACP
London, SE9

Steve Hughes is an integrative counsellor working in Welling in South East London/Kent. His experience is working in the third sector as well as in private practice, working with a diverse clientele with a complex mix of presenting issues.

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