[Below is a really rough draft from my upcoming book, The End of Fear Itself. It’s so rough, in fact, that I’m not sure how much of it will actually make it into the book. I wrote it this morning, it’s still warm, and I’ve read through it exactly once. I’m serving it up to you raw, because that’s the kind of crazy guy I am, and it’s about the Fear of Inadequacy, which should kick in right about now to prevent me from exposing my rough drafts to the public, but I’m gonna stare that Fear in the fucking face, and do it anyway. Here it is…]
Ever feel like you just don’t know enough, don’t have enough training, or the right tools, or skills, or knowledge, or personality to accomplish a particular task?
I do. Every day.
This is one of the most common Fears on Earth, I think:
The Fear of Inadequacy
I think this is most acutely felt by parents, at least parents who aren’t completely fucking up the job.
I constantly hear parents ask me, “Am I really screwing this up?” in regards to some decision, discipline action, or whatever, when it comes to raising their children.
My answer is almost always, “If you’re concerned enough to ask that question, you’re probably doing okay.” It’s the parents that are absolutely certain they’re the best parents in the world that are really fucking it up.
But so much of the time, that tiny concern, becomes a massive Fear that keeps us from doing what we want to do in life. It’s a blocker of success, maybe the world’s biggest success blocker.
Why does it block success?
Because it prevents us from taking the risks that are essential to achieving anything.
“Should I look for a different job, or take that job that’s been offered me?” How many times have you passed up an opportunity for a new line of work because you didn’t think you had the skills or experience to actually do the job?
I’ve done it.
How many other opportunities did you pass up? How about in your personal life?
This is the big one. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that everyone reading this book, and everyone not reading it, have passed up on reaching out to a stranger that we were attracted to, because we don’t feel adequate in some way.
Think about it hard for a moment. How many times have you been in a situation where there was a man or woman in the room that you really wanted to ask out on a date, but didn’t? Why did you not ask them out?
Was it for one of these following reasons
- “He/she is out of my league!”
- • I.e., they were prettier,
• more sophisticated,
• or more successful than you were?
Then you failed to make that connection because you feared you were inadequate. And this Fear creeps into every aspect of our lives.
It’s a particularly insidious Fear, because we actually believe the lies it tells. We don’t see it as Fear, usually; we see only the facts of our inadequacies: in other words, we actually are inferior in some way, or lacking in some way.
“I really am uglier than that person, or dumber, or less skilled.”
Occasionally, this might actually be true, well, the dumber or less skilled statements. Beauty, obviously, is in the eye of the beholder, so you have no idea what that hot chick at the bar is thinking about your level of beauty.
She might actually be into fat, old, bald guys! You don’t know, until you ask. But sure, you might not have the skills to do a particular job better than she. But again, how do you know, unless you already know her.
But the truth is, that most of the time, the person we think is in total control, has all the skills requisite for a particular job, or the knowledge to accomplish whatever it is that they’re working on, is thinking exactly the same thing as we are,
“I really have no fucking clue what I’m doing! I hope no one else in the room realizes how inadequate I am for this job. Why is Bob looking at me? Does he know I’m not good enough to pull this off?”
Or better yet, that hot redhead at the bar is thinking, “Bald guys are fucking hot! I wish I was skinnier, maybe he’d ask me out.”
Most often, this is the case. I often wonder how many relationships, be they romantic or platonic, have never happened due to this overblown Fear of Inadequacy? Trillions at least. Now, all of those wouldn’t have been successful relationships, I’m sure. But many of them would have been.
It’s one thing to pass up on an opportunity because it doesn’t feel right, or for some logical reason. “I don’t get a good vibe from that hot redhead.” or “I don’t like the attitude my new potential boss takes towards creativity in the workplace.”
But if we are passing up really great opportunities because we don’t feel good enough to do them, then we are really missing out in life. We have slipped into a stagnant mindset, a conservative mindset, in which we never grow, and success is dependent upon growth. If we aren’t growing, we’re already dead, just waiting around to be buried.
And that’s a really sad way to be.
The only way to be smarter, more skilled, more knowledgeable, is to stretch ourselves and try new things that we don’t know how to do! How did you learn to walk when you were a baby? You pulled yourself up off the floor and just did it! And you failed, over and over again. But eventually you figured it out! Every new skill is learned in this way: through failure.
“But what does that have to do with me being pretty enough, or sexy enough to attract that hot redhead at the bar?”
Every fucking thing. What we are attracted to, most of the time, is confidence! And that goes for the redhead, as well. Yeah, she might look like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine, but odds are, she has the same Fear that you do: that’s she’s not pretty enough, or skinny enough.
What she’s attracted to most is your confidence, not your waistline, or how much hair you have on your head. Beauty isn’t only skin deep; it goes all the way to the bone, via the brain. If we think of ourselves as attractive, smart, capable, then other people will feel that when we interact with them.
Don’t you feel it from others? I guarantee you, you do. You might not think about those feelings, or vibes you get from others, but they’re there. Start paying attention to them. Then pay attention, more attention, to the things you think about yourself!
Catch yourself when you say negative things about your abilities, or lack thereof. When you say to yourself, “I”m not smart enough, or skilled enough to do this new job.” Stop for a moment and say to yourself, “Hey! Is that really true? I think I have a Fear of Inadequacy here!”
And then say to yourself, “To hell with that! Why not! So what if I don’t have the skills yet? Let’s just do it, and figure it out as I go!”
That’s really all there is to slaying the Fear of Inadequacy. Sounds simple, but it is that simple. Of course you don’t always have the skills or knowledge to take on a new challenge. That what challenges are after all! If you had all the requisite skills and knowledge, it would be, by definition, not a challenge!
It would be ordinary, boring, and would not be a chance for growth. We only grow through challenges, so take them on when they feel right, when you feel that they’re good ones to tackle. And if you don’t know if it is, just try it anyway! Because failure isn’t a permanent thing; it’s the only way to learn.