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1-min read

Do I Feel Good Enough?

If persistent feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy impact our wellbeing, it is time to seek professional help.

Parul Khanna Parashar |

Updated:August 19, 2019, 5:48 PM IST
Do I Feel Good Enough?
Image for representational purpose only (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Istock.com)

“I didn’t get that promotion I was banking on… I am worthless”

“I don’t get invited to parties… I don’t matter”

“I am fat… I feel ashamed”

“I cannot afford stylish clothes... I don’t fit in”

“I don’t get good marks... I do not feel valued”

These are statements I hear often. They are not restricted to a particular age group, gender or social class, nor is this feeling of inadequacy unusual in any way. In fact, I can recall times I have felt that I’m not good enough in some way. However, it’s when these feelings become our constant companions that we run the risk of mental health problems.

What does it mean to feel good about yourself? Is it a big bank balance, travelling to exotic places, being thin, living in a beautiful home, the latest gadgets, clothes etc.? If this is true, then people leading such seemingly charmed lives would feel on top of the world. However, we all know people, who have it all, and yet are not satisfied and at peace with themselves; whereas we may also know people who despite not checking these boxes seem content and at peace with themselves.

As mentioned above, feelings of inadequacy are experienced by everyone at some point or another. However, problems arise when such feelings — low self-worth, incompetence, helplessness, and even shame — begin to interfere with our ability to maintain relationships, succeed at work or in school, or feel happy and at peace. Exploring the deeper issues that incite such feelings becomes important. Often, feelings of inadequacy are rooted in childhood experiences, like a childhood with overly critical parents, bullying peers, shaming authority figures, or perhaps, a lack of positive, challenging experiences that help children gain confidence.

The problem, mostly, is not of intent, unless there is some strong deviance, all parents want the best for their children. However, unconsciously there may be a tendency for parents to reinforce some key, unintended, messages that a child may pick up and internalise depending on her own personality.

For instance, constant conversations around academic scores and comparison with other children may be telling a child that in order to be valued she has to constantly achieve. While this message may lead the child to work hard, it may also become a block for her in some ways. A time may come in her adult life when, for some reason, a promotion at work stalls, which makes her feel deep inadequacy and worthlessness, which further impacts her relationships and career success, setting off a cycle of mental health issues such as depression.

People may attempt to cope with their inadequacy in a number of unhealthy ways. Some of us may prefer being by ourselves and cut off others for fear of being exposed. Others may develop behaviours such as over-spending or overeating, as ways to cope. And some of us may attempt to control others in order to regain a sense of control when inadequacy makes us feel helpless. People who feel inadequate may also experience constant anxiety, prefer to remain in their comfort zone, be overly critical of themselves, have low self-worth, fear being rejected by others etc.

If persistent feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy impact our wellbeing, it is time to seek professional help. A mental health specialist can facilitate us to acknowledge our feelings, face our fears, discover our intrinsic worth and develop healthy coping strategies. An improvement in mental health pays off in many ways – improved self-awareness, increased confidence, decision making and even improved physical health due to more energy and balanced sleep and appetite. I have seen many become the best version of themselves by seeking help at the right time.

(The author is a certified psychologist from the Rehabilitation Council of India and works towards removing the stigma associated with mental health issues.)

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