Something lacking

Some of this is distressingly familiar:

Not Good Enough. Ever feel that way? I know I do. Often. Too often. In fact, it is quite possibly the bane of my existence. Well, maybe not the bane of my existence but it is the thing that I have the hardest time shaking and always has been.

When that feeling hits me, I do a little internal search. Why? Why do I feel that way? Is there some deep, dark secret or a devastating buried memory that makes me feel that way? But then, logic never helps when it comes to things like that, does it? It seems the bad feelings, the feelings of inadequacy and non-deserving-ness (yes, I just made up a word) don’t come from a place of logic. They come from a place of feelings. Bad feelings.

Sometimes we’re our own harshest critics: we fail to live up to some obscure, possibly subconscious, criterion, and suddenly we find ourselves ready to eat worms.

I am, I need hardly point out, no less susceptible to this sort of thing. I cope by compartmentalization: my inability to deal with things is not a fixed quantity, so I try to focus on the things I do comparatively well and distance myself from areas in which I perform poorly. One reason I’ve worked at the same job for so long is that it provides no support for an inferiority complex: should I find myself feeling vaguely inadequate to some particular task, all I need to do is wait a few minutes and I will be presented with an example of true, sometimes even spectacular, inadequacy. This generally doesn’t help my mood of the moment — the transition from self-pity to disgust is not the easiest to manage — but it takes some of the strain off my sense of self.

I am at the age where the gap between where I am and where I thought I wanted to be is presumably at its widest. I console myself with the fact that I am not actually on my deathbed, and therefore things can change. “Go with the flow” is a notion utterly foreign to my nature, but there are times when I have to concede that it’s easier to swim with the current. And then I remember that I don’t swim that well anyway, and the cycle starts anew.

Once upon a time, for reasons long since forgotten, I engaged an astrologer to do a frighteningly-detailed natal chart for me. Early on, she explained some of the angular momentum, giving special attention to the square, superficially the most negative of all the aspects. “But people with no squares at all,” she noted, “never have to struggle, never have to overcome obstacles, and often as not never amount to anything worthwhile. If you have a square or two, you’re perfectly normal.”

This was before she discovered I had eleven of them, but that’s another matter.





8 comments

  1. fillyjonk »

    3 April 2008 · 7:43 am

    Yes, me too. (On the inadequacy, not on the squares…I’m not even sure what a “square” means, astrologically).

    I remember having a discussion with a friend (also female) in grad school about, “Does everyone feel as big a fraud as we do, or are they more confident? Or are they just better at BS’ing their ways through life, and maybe BS’ing themselves along the way?”

    It did make me feel better to think that someone else felt the same way. (And not someone who was visibly inadequate, either.)

    I cope with it in two ways: one, I have a good friend who will regularly tell me that I am better than I think I am and that I am being just silly to beat myself up (I am careful not to abuse that privilege lest he someday tell me, “Shut up about that already!”). Also, I have a lot of hobbies that I’m pretty good at – or can at least convince myself I’m pretty good at in the absence of anyone judging me on the quality of what I do (which is why I would never submit a quilt to a quilt show; the feedback from those things can be kind of brutal).

    Also, I take some comfort in a study that came out a few years ago that said that the only people who ever really feel 100% competent and adequate are people who are, actually, neither. (Kind of like, “If you think you’re going crazy, you’re probably still sane.”)

  2. McGehee »

    3 April 2008 · 10:52 am

    When I get a feeling like that my first reflex is to assume there’s something I’m supposed to do but it’s slipped my (conscious) mind. But when I’ve racked my brain and can’t come up with it, I figure it must be some kind of blood-chemistry flutter that might be better resolved if I stopped putting off that meal I should have eaten two hours ago.

  3. lynD »

    3 April 2008 · 5:04 pm

    Wow, does *that* resonate!
    I’ve been living with that Not Worthy/Not Good Enough voice for most of my life.

    Recently I gave my internal editor a name — Leona Helmsly, as in the late Hotel Queen — because she’s SUCH a bitch to me. It helps, sometimes, to turn around and say, “Shut up, Leona.”

    ::headshake::

    great to know I’m not so alone.

  4. sya »

    3 April 2008 · 8:18 pm

    I must be a glutton for punishment cause being a grad student is just one, big soul-sucking endeavor.

  5. localmalcontent »

    3 April 2008 · 8:59 pm

    Few things make me personally sadder, than when one of my (newest) heros, one of my daily inspirations, is feeling bad.

    Do you realize how coveted a role it would be, for most of us Okie Bloggies, to introduce you at the Fall get-together?
    I’ve already planned out exactly what I’ll say to Mike, threaten him really, to allow me to be the one, to introduce and to welcome you to your 11th straight Overall Blog Award!
    I’m ready to fistfight with liberal professors from Edmond and Guymon, them Tulsa city workers, politicians and would even take down Paul Harvey with a stranglehold for the privilege.

    For whatever shortcomings you feel personally, sir- please know that you make my day worth living, worth enjoying, among hundreds others.
    For to me, nothing, no one, nowhere else beats your offbeat, thoughtful and hilarous sense of humor, your sense of style and of words, and sense of style of words.
    As I said in a recent email to you, you are the highly-honored, and prized personification, and wordage, of childlike-ness.
    Everyone loves the child-like person, his curiosity and wonder at the world; no one likes the childish person. (And BTW, Tinkerbell confides to me that she does like you more…)

    You have honored me, my tiny blog with 5 references here at Dustbury, Charles; and with each, I made the endeavor and the effort to become better, more Dustburyesque, as I kept my chin off the floor in shock.
    Each person whom you touch, however limited or however minimal, is blessed, and thankful for knowing you, knowing of you.

    It will be my extreme pleasure, sometime soon, to invite you out to dinner; my pleasure, in that I would have briefly to myself, to share your brilliance with no one else, momentarily.

    How odd it is to envy so, three little grandkids, so lucky, cute and blessed!

  6. CGHill »

    3 April 2008 · 9:45 pm

    Um, I won one straight, which was shock enough to the system.

    And I’m not feeling bad, especially, except to the extent that we all do from time to time; I just go into a bit more detail about it because, hey, that’s why I built this soapbox in the first place.

    You should have seen me cheering at the ’07 awards when I lost. :)

  7. localmalcontent »

    3 April 2008 · 10:08 pm

    Haha, message understood.
    But I hope you understood mine, too:
    You are a wonder to us all!

    Can I still beat up Prof. Hocheweiner, for no reason? I’ll give you my bail money when we dine.

  8. CGHill »

    4 April 2008 · 7:36 am

    Hey, I like Doc Hoc. Yeah, we’re on opposite sides of the fence on most things, but the guy does know how to speak his mind.

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