I’ve been troubled by feelings of inadequacy from time to time over the years, and sometimes quite profoundly. Have you? Haven’t we all?
Ain’t I rough enough, tough enough, rich enough, in love enough? —Keith Richards
Am I smart enough, work hard enough? Am I a good enough colleague, friend, spouse, mum or self—am I just plain good enough? I wonder.
I’ve read about how I am enough, right here, right now. And I’ve also read that I’ve always been enough. Some experts even advise fake it until you make it. What sort of authenticity mumbo jumbo is that? It seems quite inauthentic to me.
I remember years ago working with a supervisor who actually was faking it. I’m not sure how she got the job (I heard tale that her spouse was a manager at headquarters or the like), but she didn’t know much about her job let alone mine or my co-workers’.
The thing is, she just kept faking it. And whenever it was apparent to everyone that she was faking it, she’d just become angry and lash out at people, blaming them, reprimanding them, and even claiming insubordination. The faking it ruse just seemed to go on.
Looking back at it now, I realize she simply had attempted to hide intellectual and emotional deficiencies. Faking it was just her attempt to bolster her image, maybe even her self-image. I suppose that by reacting toward others, she attempted to hide these deficiencies from herself.
I suspect she would have been humiliated to admit that she didn’t know this or that, to risk her image in asking for guidance, even help. There wasn’t one of us who wouldn’t have given it early on. We actually did offer it, but it was met by psychological defenses, the faking it first, then the anger and worse.
Instead of perhaps experiencing some slight embarrassment in admitting that she didn’t know and needed help, she ended up suffering humiliations galore. In the end, her ethics were called into question, apparently answered to too, and she was removed and reassigned, and then disappeared altogether.
I can still see the look of humiliations galore as she drove into the parking lot, entered the building, and proceeded to pack up “the box” we often see depicted in films. Her humiliation was real, not faked.
This story is an extreme example, but it reminds me that we all have our shortcomings, deficiencies, and inadequacies. Sometimes they’re of little consequence and sometimes there are great, big consequences attached.
We don’t have to pretend that they don’t exist. There is no need to fake it. Acknowledging them doesn’t even have to be embarrassing. And asking for help can simply bring appreciation.
So the next time you suspect your shortcomings are lurking or even see them lurching, instead of hiding your humiliations, just take a gentle look at them.
Shortcomings, deficiencies, and inadequacies exist—they’re real, no matter how much we may attempt to ignore or hide, or fake it away. Simply being aware of our real limitations and our personal limits is a healthy practice.
Holding on to disguises and defenses, this illusionary self-esteem that comes from faking it, is an unhealthy practice. While we may temporarily fool ourselves and others, avoid the unpleasantry of looking foolish or the pain in looking deeper, symptoms will surface.
I often wonder if that supervisor ever made the connection between her outward anger and her inward refusal to show her inadequacies instead of hiding them. I wish she had known that simply admitting to not knowing is the first step in being good enough.
In other words, you must become aware of that which you are unaware. Being consciously aware of inadequacies can lead to good enough acceptance.
Accompanying our inadequacies comes the full range of emotions—anger, resentment, envy, loathing. The feelings that come from an awareness of our inadequacies can be intense because they’re often fraught with judgement.
They are painful enough, but become even more painful when we forget or even refuse to be compassionate and kind with ourselves—that’s why we sometimes hide them and continue to fake away. It seems easy-peasy enough.
But that’s just part of the illusion. Sweeping parts of ourselves under the rug, keeping parts of our(real)selves hidden results in our inner true selves just bursting to get out, getting our attention in just about any way imaginable. It’s sometimes rough and tough.
We must remember to experience acknowledging and accepting our inadequacies and emotions for what they really are, not what they become with judgement smothered on top. Just feel what you’re feeling, freely and fully.
You know that classic humorous stereotype about men not stopping and asking for directions when they’re lost? They end up wasting time, being angry, blaming the map, yelling at the navigator, and careening toward who knows where. But ask for help? They’d rather be hopelessly lost.
I think, though, we’re beginning to realize that asking for help is not weak—it signals strength. Young children are natural at this—they accept their shortcomings and simply ask for help. They observe, learn, ask questions, say thank you, and then run off to practice and play. They acknowledge, accept, and ask. And everyone is happy to help.
Their inadequacies are inconsequential, that is, until they learn to let them be of greater consequence. Why do we allow ourselves to look at our weaknesses through eyes of embarrassment, humiliation, and even shame? Why can’t we see them as young children do, simply as opportunities to learn and grow? We can, you know.
Let the ego be.
Holding on to this ego-driven desire to appear smart enough, hard-working enough, and a good enough this, that, and the other keeps us from being who we truly are. Letting go of this attachment to our self-esteem pretense, to our pretend selves is truly freeing.
We can show our strengths right along with our weaknesses by being brave enough to dare to acknowledge and accept our entire selves. And we must do so with the compassion and kindness we so easily and so often give to others. We must find the strength to acknowledge when we need help, ask for it, accept it, be appreciative, and go about our practice and play.
Daring to live life out loud, being who we truly are (all inadequacies included), is what brings each of us a life freely lived and fully loved.
In what ways have you acknowledged and accepted yourself instead of hiding your humiliations? Were you brave enough to ask for help when you needed it?