Many of us deal with powerful feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, and I am no stranger to those experiences. With my depression has come an overwhelming sense of humility, to which point I think very little of myself, because of what seems to me very good reason. I know these sentiments are universal, and some people feel it more than others.
Feelings and beliefs of one’s inadequacy to live up to standards, inferiority to others, or a general sense of unworthiness can come from a myriad of experiences. Some may feel that their physical appearance, in a vain and superficial world, is not up to par with what is valued by those around them. Some may feel that their number of possessions or lack thereof in comparison to their old classmates or favorite Instagram personality is a sign of their own low worth. Some may feel lonely because their social relationships are low in number, strained, or empty of authenticity. Some may feel what I feel, and believe that their poor choices in the past rendered them damaged, soiled, and undeserving of a better life.
Comparison in my opinion is a very natural thing. We possess old brains in a new world. In the old world, our brains were tasked with sizing up each individual in our society to compare their resources, bodies, and social relationships to our own. Doing so was necessary for our survival. (‘Does this person have more food than I do? If so, how did they obtain more? Do they have a bigger tribe, a healthier body, could I compete if my livelihood depended on it?’, would be some of the questions we’d ask ourselves.
It’s okay to feel a bit inferior. There is nothing wrong with having that thought, and it is certainly not indicative of our worth as people. Many ‘positive thinkers’ argue that comparison is destructive in that it stops people from focusing on their good traits. This argument has not helped me. How we feel about ourselves in the face of someone we perceive as superior is not our choice. If our emotions were within our control, no one would ever feel inadequate, inferior, or have the slightest doubt in themselves. Ever.
But we do feel bad, and that’s okay. The thought that has helped me with my feelings of inadequacy is one of the dynamic nature of human beings. We often look back and see how much we have changed in the past 10 years. ‘I dressed horribly back then’, ‘I wish I had taken that job when I had the chance’, ‘I should have seen the signs of abuse much sooner’, are some of the things we may think when we flash back to our past. We don’t do this as often for the future. We seem to believe that who we are at this point is who we will be for the rest of our lives. We are constantly in a fluctuating state of perceived finality.
When we see someone who we believe is doing better than us, or has something that we yearn for, we compare who they are now with who we are now. We do not compare them with who we can potentially be.
Maybe, if we feel that we are not good enough for someone, or we feel ashamed of our past, or not confident with our appearance or abilities, we might feel differently in the future. Or, better yet, we might be improved, different people in the future. We are not who we were yesterday, and we are not who we will be tomorrow. The one constant in life seems to be change, and we are the vessels of that change. Not only do we ride the waves of change, but we can open our sails and hope to catch a gust of wind that can take us to where we want to go.