We can only push ourselves so far.
But it doesn’t stop us from striving constantly.
Some of us hold ourselves to superhuman standards; others hold our peers to those, too, insisting they co-opt a similar mindset. This attitude can make us a little difficult to be around as this state of mental unrest isn’t conducive to ever being at our best.
In a culture obsessed with self-improvement that posits we always need to be more productive, it can be impossible to ever cherish this self we seek to upgrade. No matter how comfortable we may be in our skin and content with our life, many of us have internalized the message we should always want and be more.
Simply put, we’ve been programmed to live in a permanent state of dissatisfaction where we fear never having enough.
Why and how did we get to this point?
The age of instant self-gratification and entitlement has a lot to answer for.
We want it all, and we want it yesterday.
When we don’t get it — whatever it is — we react either by feeling inadequate and giving in to guilt, or we feel cheated. Some of us will complain ad nauseam that life isn’t fair because it keeps short-changing us. This is what happens when we hand over agency to other people or circumstances, unwilling to trust we have it in ourselves to affect change.
In short, we’re either impatient and discouraged, or we believe we didn’t get what we deserved. It doesn’t matter whether the latter is true or not; we’re seldom unbiased when it comes to assessing our own self or the meanderings of our mind.
Both reactions are counter-productive, unhelpful, and potentially destructive as they can lead us to give up. And abort projects, partnerships, relationships because we couldn’t find it in ourselves to stick it out when the going got tough.
But what if we chose to view resistance as a sign we’re on the right path instead?
If you feel you could always do more, you’re not the only one.
For example, if you’re driven by vocation, monomaniacal dedication to your craft is the air you breathe so of course you could keep going and going.
That’s my case, and because I lost five years of my life to depression, I’ve been doing my best human impression of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland for over a year now. Even though I understand on an intellectual level that I can never make up for lost time, I’m animated by a relentless sense of urgency. I’ve been rewriting a life that works, word by word, after illness destroyed everything.
My feeling inadequate is mostly a side effect of having to relearn how to do human again after such a long hiatus and being very awkward at it. In that sense, it works as a motivator: I want rid of it for good.
Because my guilt stems from the fear of imposing my awkwardness on those who mean me well and whose tranquil and steady presence holds me together.
I feel guilty my current circumstances are too big a burden for anyone other than me to carry.
Inadequacy can be drilled into us at birth.
If you too have grown up in an abusive home then look no further for the root cause of that compulsion to apologize for existing and for taking up space.
Self-acceptance only goes so far when there’s no one around to witness it but when a fellow human accepts you exactly as you are, it may be hard to believe you no longer have to apologize for being you.
As a result, you may need frequent reassurance until your mind processes this drastic life change. This transition process is nerve-racking, slow, and painful to navigate, fraught with setbacks, and dependent on the patience of the people around you.
Please remember there’s no shame in admitting we all need a hand to hold sometimes and there’s no shame in squeezing it tight so we can feel we are enough in the eyes of someone other than ourselves for a moment or two. Despite what individualism would have us believe, we are so much more capable when we join forces than when we go it alone.
This is how you stand up to inadequacy and dispel it, or help someone else dispel theirs. The going got tough, you enlisted help, you kept going and here you are, competence made manifest.
Acknowledging and celebrating every step forward, no matter how seemingly insignificant to others, will take you further than comparing yourself to peers ever will.
Only you can be you so own it; what matters isn’t what others think of you but being comfortable in your own skin.
Wherever you want to go, trust self-inquiry to lead you there and it will.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.