In my professional and personal life I constantly deal with feelings of inadequacy. It is a feeling that comes up regularly if not even daily. But over the years, I have changed the intensity of these feelings and the effect they have on me. No longer do they hold me captive as they used to.
I am going to share with your 4 practices that helped me deal with these feelings.
Reason why it happens
If you are feeling inadequate, it is mainly because of one or many of the following reasons:
- You have a habit of comparing yourself to others and focusing mainly on things that you feel you lack.
- You are surrounded by people (parents/friends/mentors) who tend to put you down instead of lifting you up.
- You are capable of much more but have restricted yourself from achieving your desires because of fear and limiting beliefs.
- You have a lack of self belief and depend too much on external validation.
- You suffer from the imposter syndrome or an inability to accept your successes.
When we feel inadequate, we are often mentally telling ourselves negative messages that work to reaffirm our feelings of inadequacy. Our behaviors then go on to mirror these thoughts and feelings.
We feel fear and self doubt and use our mind to feed those feelings. We let these beliefs limit our experiences.
4 practices that helped me
There are many things we can do to change this cycle, and learn to believe in ourselves even when feelings of inadequacy strike.
Here are a few practices that I personally found immensely helpful when I was going through a similar phase of not feeling good enough in my life:
1.) Meditate to observe your limiting beliefs
My yoga teacher always says, “If you’re not meditating, you’re a mess.”
Practicing meditation is a powerful time for self reflection and insight. When you find stillness and begin to observe your mind, you are able to understand yourself better. You are able to watch your mind from the seat of your true self – the observer. This is when truth is revealed!
Come to sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect and shoulders rolled back. Begin to focus on your breathing. Try to keep all of your awareness on your breath.
Notice the thoughts that come into your mind. You will have thoughts that come, and this is okay. Instead of following the thoughts, and feeding them as the mind loves to do, simply observe the thoughts that come. Sit in the seat of the observer and notice your thoughts float into your mind and allow them to float by. Try not to resist or judge the thoughts.
You are simply observing the mind from a curious and neutral perspective. Use the breath to anchor you back into the present moment whenever you notice your mind has wandered.
Notice your body as certain thoughts come. Observe any tension that arises, or how the breathing may change. Remain curious and unattached to the thoughts as they come while noticing how the body and mind want to react to them. Breathe and let go, coming back to the present moment.
In this practice you will begin to notice the patterns of thoughts that are predominant. You may start to notice how these thoughts are affecting you and how they can intensify if the mind is able to follow the thoughts. You may notice opportunities to intervene, first with the breath and then with alternative thoughts.
For example, maybe you notice yourself begin to worry about a deadline you have for a project. You notice the mind think about the deadline first, and then continue to think about all the other things you have to do.
You may notice the thought that you will never accomplish it on time, or that you will not do a good job. You may even be able to notice the underlying beliefs you hold about yourself. Maybe you notice that you believe you are not good enough to complete this project. Maybe you believe you are not capable to meet deadlines.
All of these thoughts can be observed, and you can use the breath and presence to disconnect your identity from these thoughts that do not serve your sense of adequacy.
2.) Use affirmations to break through limiting beliefs
After you have identified some thought patterns that seem to feed your feelings of inadequacy, you have the opportunity to stop yourself and change them. Of course this process takes time, but it can be extremely powerful.
As the observer, you are able to identify beliefs and thoughts that seem true even though you know them to be false. When we observe the mind non-judgmentally it is often easier to notice how some thoughts are fear-based and contribute to our feelings of not being good or skilled enough.
You can use these observations to select a few key affirmations.
For example, if you notice yourself thinking, “I am not a good writer. I’ll never be a good writer,” you can simply switch this to, “I am a good writer.” If that is too difficult you could try, “I am learning to be a better writer.”
If your self-defeating belief goes even deeper and you notice yourself thinking something like, “I do not deserve success,” you can tell yourself instead, “I deserve success as much as anyone else.”
Once you have identified the areas you need most affirming, you may use these affirmations throughout your daily life as positive mantras.
When you notice the unhelpful beliefs come up, you may take a deep breath and exhale to release these thoughts. You can take another deep breath to inhale the new affirmation, and slowly begin to rewire the thought pathways in your brain. With practice, you will notice the affirmation comes automatically after the opposing belief.
With time, the opposing belief may cease to come and your sense of adequacy and self-efficacy will improve drastically.
3.) Take an inventory of your time
This is a very important tool. Once you have grounded yourself using the breath, meditation and affirmations, you will be in a good place to take an honest look at how you use your time.
Feelings of inadequacy can grow beyond reason and rational thinking. However, when we are once again grounded we may be able to look at our goals and our use of time to identify areas for improvement.
For example, if you are often noticing thoughts and feelings of inadequacy within your friendships, you may look at how you spend your time contributing to those friendships. Perhaps you realize you spend most of your time with your romantic partner and do not give your friends the same amount of time and consideration.
Another example could be the feeling of inadequacy arising for a musician who plays an instrument but doesn’t feel good enough to play with a band. They may take a look at how much time they are spending practicing and determine if they need to dedicate more time to practicing and perhaps less time doing another activity.
You can identify areas that are within your control to improve behaviors, relationships, or certain skills by honestly looking at the time you spend to work towards your goals. Take an inventory of your goals and then identify how much time you really spend working on parts of those goals.
You may find opportunities to increase your sense of adequacy by working towards the milestones that you consciously or subconsciously equate with being adequate.
4.) Unlock energy blockages using yoga, rest, exercise, and diet
This is a very obvious tool that we can use! Feelings of inadequacy can stem from bouts of low mood and low energy.
It is not uncommon for negative thought patterns to escalate when the body is not properly cared for. It is much more difficult to slow the mind down and replace unhelpful thinking patterns when the body is exhausted, restless, or malnourished in any way.
Yoga helps us unite the body and mind, and create the same stillness that was described as part of meditation. It can also help to unlock and release traumas and energetic blockages in the body that are causing us to hold onto beliefs that no longer serve us.
Proper exercise can really help to regulate hormones and emotions that may contribute to low mood and unhelpful thinking patterns. Of course diet also impacts mood and overall well being in this same regard.
For years, I have felt inadequate. Still do. But I have changed the intensity of these feelings through using self inquiry in meditation, affirmations, and calling upon the breath as a grounding tool.
I’ve learned that these feelings are natural, but we can choose how much we want to feed or believe them. I have begun to see the value in learning to “Fake it til you make it!”
We can believe in ourselves despite our imperfection, remain compassionate and patient while we allow ourselves to grow and blossom into our most adequate version of ourselves. We can remember that we are always enough, we are always learning – at this moment in time everything is just as it should be and so we are always adequate.