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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Inadequate: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Jan 26th, 2023

You have a beautiful life, a roof over your head, people who love you, and successes that you should be proud of. And yet, there is a nasty little voice that keeps telling you that even though you have all of these wonderful things, you aren’t good enough. Super rude, right?! Maybe you feel like your life should look a certain way, or that you should be making a specific amount of money. Maybe you just feel like your situation at this moment isn’t what it should be. And that emotion right there, when you’re feeling inadequate, SUCKS.

Your mind is full of these “shoulds,” and there could be a MILLION little reasons why you feel this way. Maybe you had a super successful parent or sibling that you can’t stop comparing yourself to. Maybe social media makes you feel like shit. It totally depends on your own life and your unique experiences! But whatever these experiences are, they’ve clearly stuck with you. They’ve impacted you so much that what you have, what you’ve done, and who you are still isn’t enough.

We’re really sorry that you feel this way! We totally know what it feels like to always want to do more and be better, and at the end of the day still feel like it isn’t enough or worthy of celebration. So, take a deep breath, tell yourself “I love you,” and let’s get to talking about inadequacy!

A Deeper Look at Feeling Inadequate

Feeling inadequate can often come from childhood experiences. They shape us and impact how we view ourselves as we step into adulthood. Like we mentioned, this might come from having someone influential in your life who seemed to achieve literally anything they set their mind to. Or maybe you had someone in your life telling you that what you had done, no matter how hard you worked, wasn’t enough. For example, if you got a 96% on a test and you brought it home to show your parents, you might have been met with a “Where’s the other 4%? 

As we get older, we become exposed to things in our lives that make this feeling of inadequacy pop up over and over again. We criticize our bodies and compare them to models, bodybuilders, and people with millions of dollars who can afford to pay doctors to help them look this way — not to mention Facetune and Photoshop, making these images look even more perfect. 

We are also exposed to other people’s opinions of us more and more. One of the culprits is social media, where it’s easy to receive unwelcome, unprompted, and unhelpful opinions. Maybe you’re part of a parenting group on Facebook and you post a picture of your kid opening a present for their birthday. You posted this picture because you thought it was cute and that the other parents would enjoy it, but instead, you’re met with ridicule and criticism for your parenting choices. You get obnoxious comments like “You know Barbies aren’t for boys, right?” and “Wow, should’ve gotten him a football instead so he can learn early.” Even though you know you did the right thing, these comments still eat away at you.

Feeling inadequate makes us think that an ideal version of ourselves exists that we have to reach in order to feel accomplished and satisfied. Is this version realistic? Yes and no. 

Yes because you could potentially get to a place where everyyyything in your life is perfect — you have all the fame, fortune, and accomplishments that you imagined! And no, because there is still a chance that you will feel unhappy. Why? Because of this internalized emotional factor you may be carrying that is popping up as a feeling of  inadequacy.

How Feeling Inadequate Shows Up Mentally

When we feel inadequate, it can bring up a lot of different emotions and mental habits with it. We start to doubt our abilities, our identity, and so much more. Unhelpful (and let’s be honest, RUDE) thoughts just seem to never want to leave us alone long enough for us to become confident in ourselves and our abilities. 

But you aren’t alone in feeling this way. So many of us struggle with being nice to ourselves! It seems like such a simple concept, but it’s a hard thing to master. Here are some of the ways feelings of inadequacy pop up in our minds: 

– Imposter syndrome

– Negative self talk

– Feelings of shame

– Self-criticism

Comparing yourself to others

Ok, ya comparing yourself to others is an absolutely natural thing for us to do, but we don’t want you to do it so much that it impacts your mental health. That’s why we’re here to help you! You’re a smart, incredible, and talented person who we know is capable of great things. 

How Feeling Inadequate Shows Up Physically

You might not think that feeling inadequate can show up physically, but YUP! It can! Your body is more perceptive to these types of things than you might think. It goes through A LOT that you don’t know about. 

Like we said, your body is sensitive, so help it out once in a while and be nice to yourself! It can be hard living in your mind with these feelings of inadequacy and negative self thoughts and it eventually takes a toll on your physical health. See if any of these symptoms pop up for you: 

– Striving to be the best

– Overworking yourself

– Burnout

Being a perfectionist 

All of these things can hurt your body sooooo much and we want you to feel confident, healthy, and happy! Why? Because you deserve it. We don’t need you burning out like a little candle in a windstorm. Noooo thank you!

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Inadequate

It’s totally possible to overcome these feelings of inadequacy. It takes a lot of work, but it’s definitely doable! SO, DON’T DESPAIR! We’ve got you! With enough time, you will be able to feel fulfilled, accomplished, and loved like you deserve!

1.  Journaling

Take a moment to yourself and journal what you’re feeling and thinking. If you write down negative thoughts, try to reframe and counter them! Take that mean inner voice! 

2.  Give yourself a pep talk

Encourage yourself like you would the girl you just met in the bathroom at the bar! Hype yourself up in the mirror or write down a script that you can recite to yourself every day. 

3. Practice meditation

Sometimes, we just need a quiet moment to ourselves. If you have a meditation practice, that’s amazing! Keep it going! But if you’re just starting out, there are plenty of great guided meditations that you can access for free. You can also find ones that focus specifically on feeling inadequate.

4.  Comfort yourself as you would want a parent or friend to do

BE NICE TO YOURSELF! You deserve to feel loved, especially by you! You’re an amazing person who has done incredible things in your life. Give yourself a biiiiiiiig hug and say “I love you.” Say all the nice things to yourself that you would say to a loved one and give yourself some self-compassion. 

5. Find a positive distraction

Distract yourself from this feeling with something positive that you enjoy. Maybe this means reading a book, watching something funny, taking a shower, or looking at relaxing images. Sometimes, cleaning makes us feel soooo good (but only clean if you have the energy). You could also cook, listen to music or a podcast, do a puzzle, or literally anything that you enjoy! 

We know that working through this feeling can be really challenging, but we believe that you can do it. Look after yourself today and do something positive that makes you feel good and worthy–because you are!

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