Why do so many people struggle with feeling inadequate? And why is it so difficult to admit? Does it mean we aren’t bullet proof if we admit it? Because I will admit it…I have struggled all of my life with feeling inadequate.
I don’t feel inadequate every day, but some days I feel it intensely. Especially if I have “messed up” with the people I love.
I don’t know when I began to feel inadequate, but I know I have felt it as long as I can remember. I think it started with my need to earn love from a father who wouldn’t give it freely, if at all. I don’t think my father was a bad guy, he loved us the way he was shown love and did the best he could, but the truth is – nothing we ever did was ever good enough for him. If he opened his mouth, it was to criticize. Period.
Loving someone well means your love is layered. It says : nothing you could ever do will make me stop loving you AND I love you enough to hold you accountable for your choices. It is a dance between unconditional love and accountability. Most of us do one or the other well, but not both.
My father held us accountable but didn’t communicate that his love was unconditional. I knew from a very young age that if I didn’t behave the way he wanted me to, he would withdraw his love and affection from me. I suspect many of us relate to that feeling…
Like so many children, we learned very early that our father’s love for us was conditional on doing what he wanted us to do, when he wanted us to do it.
Children rely on the people closest to them to show them they matter, to define their self worth, and form their identity; it is a heavy responsibility and it impacts a whole lifetime of choices.
It has taken me 41 years to figure out that I have carried my father’s shit around all my life. I have always felt like nothing I did was ever good enough for anyone – but mostly it wasn’t good enough for me and I don’t think I am alone in this.
The saddest part about the way my father loved us is that when you can’t live up to your own expectations neither can anyone else and you begin to repeat the cycle. We begin to love others in the broken way we were loved, despite craving and needing more.
There is so much truth to Maya Angelou’s statement: “When we know better, we do better.” We do the best we can with what we are taught. I can honestly say I love people the best way I know how and I bet you do too. The problem is, the way some of us were taught to love was deeply broken.
If you’re not sure if this is you, here is a clue into the brokenness: when someone tells you what they love about you, do you receive it well or will you ignore the 7 things they said they loved to obsess about the one thing they said they didn’t? Is it easier to talk about what is broken than what is beautiful about you?
Here is what I have come to know:
Nobody is perfect. We all have our shit.
Nobody has become a better person by beating himself or herself up. Ever. In the history of time.
We all do the best we can, every single day.
I have a friend I thank often for “loving me into healthy”.
She has shown me what healthy perspective is about, especially when looking at myself.
She has taught me to separate my past from my present, my thoughts from my reality.
She has taught me to see myself objectively and beyond what my father taught me to see.
She has taught me the urgency in learning to love myself because it is directly related to the way I love others…and the time we have to love others is both precious & finite.
Feeling inadequate is a waste of your time. Love yourself well & the rest will fall into place.