Inadequacy: The Fear of Being 'Not Enough'

Everyone has been there. Everyone has felt as though nothing is going right while everything seems to be grand for everyone else. You may find yourself sitting on a bench, watching people as they walk quickly to and fro. You listen to their conversations as they pass: “I’m on my way to my awesome internship,” “My recommendation is perfect,” or “I know someone who will help me get a job this summer at a great company.” You begin to wonder how they landed those great opportunities and how you didn’t. This is where irrational thoughts come into play. You start questioning why you don’t have those ideal outcomes, yet you haven’t even applied or shown interest in a job or internship. In these situations, it’s difficult to remember that everyone starts from somewhere and each individual has their own path. It’s time to cut out the negativity and focus our efforts into enriching our lives and the lives of those around us.

One of the critical downfalls of our society is the social makeup of our education system. I have realized that from the moment a student enters the school system, they are bombarded by standards of success and exposed to the concept of always being in competition with their friends. The education system has instilled in its students the need to be better than their peers. We are taught to view our peers as our competitors and not as individuals designed for collaboration and support. Instead, young children begin to see their fellow peers as trying to steal their opportunities and success. CSR News conducted a survey asking teens whether or not they felt intense pressure to succeed. Unsurprisingly, 44% of students reported they do feel pressure to succeed, an unfortunate product of being raised to compare our success to others. Along with generating stress, we also lose our humanity. Because of the social trend found in education, we have a stunted development of compassion and tolerance. It’s time for the education system to evolve.

Now, let’s get specific. College-specific. Every moment of higher education is riddled with self-doubt and pressure to be the best. During high school, we filled up every hour of the day with rigorous courses, clubs, sports, and leadership opportunities. On top of endless piles of homework and responsibilities, we continued to seek activities that we believed would make us appear more accomplished. It was an exhausting cycle that often left us unsatisfied and overworked. Then, when you entered college you realized that the pressure you thought you were done with persist in higher education. In college, students view others as obstacles in the way of internships and extracurricular organizations. Although, I must admit that college students are much more open to helping each other and striving for communal success. However, the anxiety of feeling as though you are not doing enough to further your education lives on.

Now things are going to get personal. Besides academics, we find ourselves comparing lifestyles, material items, and even body parts with others we come into contact-either on the street or on social media. I can’t count the amount of times where I have felt discouraged or depressed because of social media posts or hearing about where people I used to go to school with have ended up. Sometimes I question my efforts and rethink my choices as a student and individual. This thought process is a rabbit hole not easily escaped. Internal questions begin to swirl and prompt further anxiety. I am here to tell you that although I completely relate to this existential dread, it’s not the end of the world.

You are unique and capable of accomplishing goals and dreams. Don’t compare your life to the lives of others. Maybe you realize you have a similar dream or goal to the person you came across. Instead of shaming yourself for not having accomplished already, focus on the journey and take tips on how the individual achieved what you wish to achieve. Don’t be blinded by what you don’t have or haven’t done, instead allow yourself to strive for dreams and dispose of disappointment when things don’t work out how you imagined. Often times, the unexpected outcome is in your favor.

The anxiety of feeling inadequate is uncomfortable. It aches and burns in the pit of your stomach and etches a frown on your face. And just like with many things, you have to experience it to be able to alter your perspective. Now I have more of a grip on what I find important and the goals I wish to pursue. By no means am I immune to  feeling inadequate, but I do find myself jumping out of the rabbit hole quicker. I have experienced the darkest depths of this anxiety and I have come back with a fresh vista on life. You too can gain this enlightened perspective. It’s time for you to stop comparing yourself to others.