I’ve always struggled with inadequacy.
I didn’t win the genetic lottery and I wasn’t there the day they handed out extroverted personalities.
I’ve also missed numerous buses headed to the land of I’ve-Got-All-My-Shit-Together.
The heart of my inadequacy lies deep in my psyche where I came to believe I must be perfect.
Never mind the definition of Perfect is constantly changing and eluding me.
For most of my life I have labored under the notion I could achieve perfection and earn a sense of adequacy without ever breaking a sweat, or my composure.
Fortunately, I’ve experienced numerous setbacks in my pursuit of perfection. It’s the dark and unseemly things in life that taught me one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned:
Perfectionism is complete and utter bullshit.
There is no such thing as Perfect.
There is only a sliding scale, where today my best might be better – but it might be worse – than my best was yesterday and will be tomorrow.
Inadequacy is a burden we willingly take on and then strive to eliminate.
As children we are the most open and vulnerable of human beings.
We look to the giants around us for clues on how to live. We learn from our parents, friends, and society how to behave and who to be.
Our feelings of inadequacy aren’t innate, they are conditioned.
Women are taught to be silent, skinny, and constantly happy.
Men are taught to be stoic, strong, and always in control.
No wonder so many of us become angry teenagers, reckless young adults, and complacent middle-agers. The expectations aren’t remotely reasonable.
All the crunching and twisting we do to ourselves deforms our lives and creates unnecessary struggle.
The worst part is we also try to one-up each other by showing off how much more limber we are in our pursuit of perfection.
It’s like we’re saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m awesome because I can fit myself into a box even smaller than your box. I had to remove some of my limbs to make it happen, but it’s all worth it just to see the look of inadequacy on your face.”
I’d like to think I’m over exaggerating, and hopefully I am.
But check in with yourself the next time you walk past a socially beautiful woman and her ultra-sleek male counterpart.
Pay attention to your personal dialog. Does your self-esteem start crashing while your feelings of inadequacy flair up? Or maybe it’s not physical appearance that makes you feel inadequate but professional appearance.
How do you start to feel when you perceive that someone else is more successful than you, or is doing something you are jealous of?
It doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is you pay attention to what triggers your feelings of inadequacy.
A lawyer can feel inadequate around an artist because they’re more free and creative. An artist can feel inadequate around a lawyer because they’re more “educated” and professional.
And don’t even get me started on the inadequacy we feel as both parents and children!
We labor under the assumption there is only one right way, and we berate ourselves when we don’t live up to our delusions.
One of my favorite quotes by Rumi says:
Out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
If we are to ever heal the wounds of inadequacy we must first leave behind the notion that perfection is attainable.
More importantly, we must abandon the righteousness we feel in pursuing perfection.
No one is perfect, and no one will ever be perfect. We are all just doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.
This is not a competition. This is not a race.
If the people around you are behaving like it’s a race, go ahead and let them. Grab yourself a seat in the stands and kick back to watch the races.
After awhile others might start to see there is no end in sight and decide to join you on the bleachers.
There is no finish line. There is no prize at the end. There is only a field. Let’s meet each other there.