The Illusion Of Inadequacy

Inadequacy is a judgment. Therefore, it is a perception and not necessarily the truth. Inadequacy or the suggestion of it is a way to make someone or something wrong, unsuitable, a mistake, or rejectable. By making someone inadequate, we treat them like a resource, not like a person. We say they do not measure up – but do not measure in what way?

The Power Of Disappointment

We get the messages both overt and subtle, when we are young that somehow we are missing the mark, that our behavior or who we are is somehow not how it is done, or that we are not like others when we are supposed to be. It can be just a look. sometimes it is comes from the flatness of how others engage with us or the blank stare like we are living on another planet. Whatever the style of the response to us, we get the message that we are “off” in some way. 

The subtle messages can escalate and become more overt. These are messages that we are a disappointment, that we have failed those around us who support us and are entitled to have us be what they expect us to be. The suggestion is that we have failed our tribe. 

Part of this is the implication that we owe others something just for being here. There is a debt assigned to us as part of being in this world, a debt that perhaps we did not sign up for and that is not of our choosing. It is not the same as giving back out of gratitude, which is sometimes treated as a debt. Essentially, we are being told directly or indirectly that we are responsible for supporting and upholding the social norms of our social circle and culture and that it is a responsibility greater than any responsibility to ourselves. 

When we get messages of disappointment, we are being told that we are not doing our part. That doing our part looks a certain way, and that is what is required of us. What do we do, then, when doing our part means doing something criminal like stealing if that is one of the social norms? 

Messages of disappointment are only as good as the person delivering them. If the person sending the message is immature or unwise, then we are receiving poor information, but, of course, we do not know that when we are young. Furthermore,  when social norms have been established, and most people support them, they can be hard to question. So, our feelings of inadequacy can remain despite any accomplishments because we do not fit with social norms and are, therefore, likely to always be labeled inadequate. People of color and women know this all too well. 

Disappointment As Bullying

Because we are social creatures and want and need to connect with others, disappointment in the hands of authoritarian individuals can become a form of bullying. When we get this form of bullying, especially when we are young, we start to give up parts of ourselves to protect our standing in our social group. 

We internalize the demands and expectations of others as requirements for our survival, even if we have to suppress or repress important parts of ourselves. One of our biggest fears is being ostracized because we are different and, therefore, unwelcome, which also means being unsupported by our group. 

The chilling energy of disappointment hurts our hearts. Our need to survive and to get along with others overtakes our desire to be a co-creator of joy in the world. Our deep desire to connect with others in that way is shelved for what others will accept, not what is possible. 

The Dangers Of Othering

Othering is what happens when we do not fit into or acquiesce to the social norms of our group or tribe. We essentially become tools of what is in order not to be seen as defective or to feel the pain of being treated that way. Othering makes you less of a resource, which is already dehumanizing, but also expendable and more expendable than those who are willing and able to be a resource for the status quo.

Othering is a way that the status quo defends itself against people who ask questions and are willing to seek better ways of living. It is fair to say that if you do not go along you are likely to be othered and perhaps treated like a “disappointment.” It is important to understand that adequacy comes from serving the status quo, and inadequacy from not doing so.

How a Joy Practice Releases Inadequacy

A joy practice is invested in quality of life, making the best of things, the common good, and serving the good in life. None of that is about protecting the status quo and social and economic hierarchies. In fact, joy transcends hierarchies of all kinds and meets us in a human place, not a competitive place. Joy as a practice also recognizes change as natural and even helpful, so it does not fight change or try to put a harness on you to protect something from change. 

A joy practice created the flexibility and adaptability in us that is required to live in a robust and resilient way. We only served well when we embrace ways of live that make us stronger.  A joy practice wants to bring out the best in each person and our life circumstances. it has no need to keep anyone down. It does not need threats or harnesses because most people want to feel good and inviting, which makes life better for everyone. Fighting change only hurts us. A joy practice makes change easier, more natural, and more rewarding. We owe it to ourselves to let go of illusions of inadequacy created by cultural systems that refuse change. Shifting into a joy practice will help you do that. The world will thank you.

Photo by Vitalii Mazur on Unsplash

Leave a Comment