7 Deadly Fears Explored: Inadequacy

This post is part of a 7-article series on the fears of writing. You can find all other articles here:

I’m waxing philosophical tonight. Maybe it’s because of the rain that has been coming down all day; rainy days in the desert have that effect on me.

I’ve been thinking for a few days on inadequacy, after reading about it in Jurgen Wolff’s book, Your Writing Coach. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an illusion, much like many other restrictions we place on ourselves.

Inadequacy and rejection seem to go hand in hand. One feeds the other. The more you are rejected, the lower your self-esteem and the more inadequate you feel. The more inadequate you feel, the more you seem to be rejected. It’s one big mind game and the goal to winning is outsmarting yourself.

Ah, but easier said than done.

I think half the battle is recognizing when you’re boxing yourself in with a self-defeatist attitude. I head in that direction when I have a tough graphic design project that keeps coming back to haunt me like a bad penny.

At first I face the revisions with determination. It’s okay; I can make it perfect the second time around. The client will love it.

After the third or fourth attempt at reading a client’s mind and achieving his vision, my resolve begins to wear away like chrome flaking under the jet of a power washer. Although I know my designs or my articles are well above standard, I begin to second-guess myself. The ideas are harder to come by because I’m trying too hard.

When I reach the breaking point on the F**k It scale, the client leaps up. “That’s it! Perfect! I love it!”

Go figure. Such is the Zen of Creativity.

Inadequacy is all about the standards and expectations we set for ourselves. Some of us, like me, have very high standards. We’re our worst critics. Other people don’t expect as much of us than we do of ourselves.

Free your mind and just do what comes naturally. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to achieve this state of creative nirvana. Here’s how you can help yourself get over feelings of inadequacy:

  • Distance. When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a step back. Sometimes putting distance between you and the problem helps keep it in perspective. Let it sit and come back to it later.
  • Life or Death. Most problems are really very small in the greater scheme of things. Think about it: Will it really matter 100 years from now? Probably not. Let go of perfection; it’s not a matter of life or death. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try for perfection from the start; just don’t be disappointed if you don’t achieve it the first time around.
  • Now Is The Moment Of Power. Overcoming inadequacy requires you to be “in the moment”. The Hawaiian spiritual philosophy of Huna has one principle called “manawa”, which means that now is the moment of power. Everything you do in this very moment is shaping your reality for the future. When you live in the moment, the worries of the past and the future cease to exist. I know it all sounds like a bunch of hippy-tree-hugging-granola-loving BS, but it’s true.
  • Flexibility. The tree that does not bend in the face of the storm breaks. The same goes for you. Trying to fight against pressure, whether it’s from an outside source or within yourself, will only break you. Allow some flexibility and roll with situations.
  • Eye Of The Storm. Be the center of the hurricane, stay calm and let the storm around you blow itself out. It can’t go on forever. Even if you have to take shelter in your mental root cellar for an hour or two, do it. You’ll be better off for it.

Overcoming inadequacy takes time. Go easy on yourself. You’re not so bad – honest! You’re human; you’re allowed to make mistakes and have a few imperfections.

Just don’t beat your head against the wall over things you can’t control.

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