How to Stop Feeling Inadequate

Feeling insecure is part of being human. Whether the whispers of “You’re not good enough” come from someone in your life or from inside your own head, here are six tips to quiet the voices and feel more self-assured.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #186

But these mainstays of pop culture and internet gurus are narrow and, truth be told, misguided. A good life comes from so much more: having integrity, being curious, a hunger to learn, doing things you love, speaking the truth, and most of all, creating and maintaining warm and loving relationships with friends and family. Don’t get me wrong—enjoy pop culture and internet gurus for what they’re worth, but don’t rely on them to tell you what makes you worthy.

Tip #4: Beware contingent self-esteem.

A term called contingent self-esteem is the tendency to change one’s self-evaluation based on feedback. It’s the most fragile form of self-esteem, as it is controlled by others and requires meeting their standards in order to earn value or worth as a person.

Contingent self-esteem doesn’t just create a shaky foundation for self-image; it puts our very health at risk. In a 2017 paper, two researchers from Stockholm University examined 122 participants and found that those diagnosed with exhaustion, cardiac issues, or immunological disease scored significantly higher on measures of contingent self-esteem than healthy controls.

Tip #5: Give your best self a rest.

Despite what every magazine cover would have us believe, it’s perfectly okay not to be your “best” self all the time. Too often, we want people to like us or want to come across as having it all together, so we end up trying too hard. But in pushing so hard to be our “best,” we subtly tell ourselves that being just as we are is insufficient. The solution? It’s okay not to push your best self out on stage all the time. Instead, just be your self.

Tip #6: Remember that perfection is boring.

It’s easy to feel intimidated and inadequate compared to people with seemingly perfect lives. But have you ever walked into a “perfectly” decorated room? They’re soulless and boring, like a hotel lobby or a furniture showroom. They’re the last place you’d want to kick off your shoes, put your feet up, and have a few belly laughs with buddies.

People who advertise their seemingly perfect lives are similar: a mix of intimidating and oddly boring. When something is perfect, it means there’s nowhere else to go. Things are finished. The story is over. And how boring is that?

Much better to be a work in progress, to let some of the crazy hang out, or, best of all, to add “yet” to your unfinished dreams.

how to be yourself ellen hendriksen bookPre-order Ellen's forthcoming book HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Get even more savvy tips to be happier and healthier by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or get each episode delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For free, helpful downloads to fight social anxiety and be your authentic self, visit EllenHendriksen.com.

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Medical Disclaimer
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. 

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