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Feelings of inadequacy

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#1 Yippee-Ki-Yay

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:17 PM

I came home from work tonight in tears. Crying so much I had to pull my car over twice. I’m sure some of that is just due to feeling a bit low, but I was hoping to pick the brains of the EB collective for ways to reframe my thoughts.

I spend two hours in a room with the smartest and most conscientious people I have met. They are all senior medical consultants, but in addition to that, they are all very accomplished outside of their professions. Sporting, artistic and intellectual achievements are just some of the things I’m talking about.

They often give their spare time to charitable causes and are always undergoing further training and education. They are also mostly about my age, or only a little older.

It is incredibly difficult to be among these people and not walk away from these meetings feeling grossly inadequate as a human being.

I am aware this is more about my own difficulty in feeling ok about myself and needing validation and approval. I also know I can’t be the only person in the world to feel like this.

I can’t let this continue to impact me so much. I just don’t seem to be able to get through these meetings without going away feeling like a complete loser. Help!

#2 little lion

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:25 PM

I work with people like that too. I like to think I have more down time and less stress than them. Yes, they may be naturally gifted in many areas, but honing those skills takes time that I personally don’t care to spend.

I’m now more aware that life isn’t an even playing field. I pushed myself so hard to be like my mentor a decade ago. I wondered why I never climbed as fast as she did. Only later I realised the extent of her head start (a private school ‘old girl’ from a political family with money).

#3 FoxinSocks

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:27 PM

Oh, YKY - this is called Impostor Syndrome, and is very common. I don’t have any tips, but I found that giving it a name worked enormously.

#4 xxyzed

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:35 PM

I find when I really think about their lives inevitably they are not facing the same challenges just to get through each day like I am. They typically have a supportive partner or parent or sibling, don’t have any kids with special needs, don’t have any health issues of their own etc. In reality everyone is not starting on the same playing field. It’s not fair but all you can do is keep on keeping on doing the best with what you’ve got.

#5 8mimi8

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:52 PM

Hi Op,

can i just say thank you for bringing this topic up tonight. i feel exactly the same way at the moment, due to one thing and another.

i know what i feel is not warranted and i wont see logic in it eventually, but i know how consuming it is.

#6 Dianalynch

Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:07 PM

I refuse to believe they are real people, I mean they must be holograms or robots, no one is that perfect, that’s what I tell myself...

seriously though people can live with a lot of pressures we don’t know about- including people who seem to have it all. They could be envying you just as much. I know a lot of people like that, and I wouldn’t want to be them.

#7 Yippee-Ki-Yay

Posted 21 February 2020 - 12:25 AM

Dianalynch - that may be a good approach. Observe with a mix of disdain/disbelief. Lol.probably healthier to observe with respect and admiration, but baby steps....

#8 got my tinsel on

Posted 21 February 2020 - 12:32 AM

OP, I would hazard a guess that not one of the other people in the room have lived the combination of difficulties you have faced over the last 15 years (or more!).

What are the odds that any of them have experienced the death of a spouse/partner?  What are the odds that they have experienced the violent death of a partner?  What are the odds that they have experienced the violent death of a partner and have had to fight tooth and nail through the coronial system regarding their partner's death?

And all the while supporting grieving children who have developmental and/or learning challenges?

The others in the room are not a patch on you, OP.

They just spend their time differently.

#9 Sweet.Pea

Posted 21 February 2020 - 02:28 AM

I feel the same a lot of the time.

Then I turn on the TV and see celebrities or sporting stars with various mental illnesses or 'faults' and it reminds me that sometimes life isn't always as it seems, and there is almost always something else going on behind the curtain.

#10 courtney-b

Posted 21 February 2020 - 02:30 AM

I know it is a “quieter” achievement because no one is compensating or giving awards for it, but the depth of knowledge you have on disability and educational/psychological support for children is so significant. There is no advertising it in a room of people or fancy pieces of paper, but it is real and it is so valuable. Your target audience might be smaller than theirs, but don’t lose sight of the gift you are giving your two sons.

I am walking a path with a disabled child that at times feels suffocating and overwhelming and I have NONE of the other massive obstacles that you face. You are truly inspirational.

I find the fact that you keep pushing forward, keep getting up, keep fighting for yourself and your babies to be so much more noteworthy than degrees and art skills.

It is hard to not be celebrated. Everyone wants their achievements to be recognized. Our work is quiet work. But we all see and admire you.

#11 Sancti-claws

Posted 21 February 2020 - 05:36 AM

To be able to have a top career and outstanding in your chosen relaxation field, you either have no home life - or someone else to carry that thought load.

Some get to choose that, some have partners that deserve medals - and some have no other options because they cannot even contemplate the loss of control such factors will bring.

It is really hard when you are down.  I have people in my workplace who have earned far more success than I have along the way.

Some of it I attribute to the fact that they didn't go through the merde of dealing with mental illness issues in themselves, their partners/exes or others, some to not having to be a sole parent, some to not having to deal with physical issues in themselves, their partners/exes or others - and some I do have to cop it for, because I made some fairly ordinary (but right for the me that existed at that time) career choices.

But I am still good at my job, and I still stumble through the rest of it without f'ing it all up too badly (I hope).

#12 MooGuru

Posted 21 February 2020 - 06:12 AM

I have someone in my life like that. High achieving at work, socially and at sport. They are fluent in 7 (?) languages and play multiple instruments BY EAR! They are also far more attractive than seems necessary.
They'll be posting on FB about having run a marathon, played a concerta and having solved world peace in the same period of time my number one achievement was scratching my butt.

There should be a rule you can only be really good at a finite number of things. One of my school friends is brilliant academically and career wise (she could absolutely be one of the people you are referring to). But she can't open a door to save herself. If it says Pull she will definitely push every single damn time and just quietly I love that about her.

Also should the time come when aliens take over the earth and it turns out they infiltrated us and have been living amongst us for years, you can sit back and nod all "I knew them before they were famous."

#13 Silverstreak

Posted 21 February 2020 - 06:44 AM

Sounds like you are sharing meetings with some of the "pointy end" of society, who spent years becoming specialists in their field.

They would have had a certain academic aptitude, most likely lots of family support and money behind them and now have the time to invest in certain causes, which is fantastic, but these people are not most people.

If most do not come from wealth and privilege I would be most surprised. If there are single parents in the mix, I take my hat off to them. And just because they are gifted in terms of their hobbies as well does not mean they have everything together. They might be battling low self esteem, relationship woes, are quite possibly stressed due to their workloads etc. Get a drink or two into most people (or even a contemplative cup of coffee) and you'd be surprised what comes out.

TLDR, you are a wonderful person YKY and have just as much to contribute as these other people.


Edited by Silverstreak, 21 February 2020 - 06:44 AM.

#14 LadyGreyTea

Posted 21 February 2020 - 06:52 AM

We all have our own journey in life.
There's no right or wrong way to get there.
But don't let the comparisons get you down... just because people's lives seem that bit more impressive, it doesn't mean your life is inferior in any way.
The experiences you will encounter in life are priceless and uniquely your own.
Because you are the master of your own journey.
Go to the beat if your own drum.
Whatever luck or opportunities have been thrown at You, take them.
Your life is yours.

#15 jayskette

Posted 21 February 2020 - 06:52 AM

Hi Salce, I work with just a bunch of people that you describe. they all have multiple PhDs, publish papers, run triathlons... blah blah. then I realised that as a work group, they are too specialised in their training that they are unable to cope with change, unable to cop criticism, start to bully younger, newer or less academically qualified staff. so much so that we are now offering them voluntary redundancies.

#16 night jasmine

Posted 21 February 2020 - 07:42 AM

This reminds me of Jonny Kim, the 36 year old Korean American who is a former navy seal, Harvard graduated doctor and now a NASA astronaut. Good looking too.

The sort of people you’re talking about forms a really, really tiny percentage of the population. They have the right mix of brains, determination and extreme good fortune. They have probably also had struggles that you can’t see, that are perhaps compensated for in other areas.

#17 seayork2002

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:01 AM

I have worked in different work places and have worked with people at different levels in society I just go with I don't know what is going on in their life and they don't know what is going on in mine.

They may thinking the same about you OP you don't know what they are thinking or not.

We all wake up go to sleep, eat, drink and use the toilet the same (paraphrasing a quote I heard a while back)

They may be feeling 'inadequate' themselves but I don't think their life is any better (or worse) than mine just different I guess

#18 IShallWearMidnight

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:30 AM

I hear you. I work with someone, who I also studied with. The difference is that he has a wife at home taking care of their teenage children, and is able to do a year of extra work placement while studying, then be at work from 7-6, 6 days a week and then pop home for dinner.

I'm a single mum of 4 small children, who have a range of disabilities and additional needs so have to work to support us all, and do all the parenting and heavy lifting (minus 10hrs a week of fun time when their dad babysits)

So I think in my circumstances, in my life, I'm just shiny.

#19 MadMarchMasterchef

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:42 AM

Sometimes the little things in life add up. Having a small opportunity in life steamrolls into a bigger one.

OP I bet you have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of.  hugs, lots of us have felt the same way.

Edited by Backtoschoolchef, 21 February 2020 - 09:08 AM.

#20 Ivy Ivy

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:48 AM

Don't forget a few things that are basic facts.

People talk about the good stuff and their achievements, so that's what you'll hear (yes, even the "give time to charitable causes" talk, if not especially that, sometimes).  You are not hearing about their past episodes of depression,  or the time they were suicidal (both so, so common for doctors), or their 1st marriage breakup, or the miscarriage etc.  You are maybe not hearing about their own children with special needs, or their dementing parents.  You are just seeing the good.  Everyone has bad, everyone.

For people with high IQs and academic ability, doing medicine at uni and becoming a specialist doctor just ... isn't that hard.  I'm not saying it's easy, but for someone who can read a textbook once or twice, and listen in lectures, and quickly understand the material, then regurgitate that information clearly in exams without much extra effort, the degree is in the bag, and similar (but harder) for the specialist training assessments/exams.  (Dealing with the BS through training is another matter entirely.)

For people who are personable and socially able, succeeding in their specialist field, once they've passed the exams etc,  isn't that hard.  Ending up in the room with you, talking about their hobbies and extra things they now have time to do, now all the training and exams are behind them, is just the next stage in their life.

Some people are really driven.  They get bored not pushing themselves to achieve the next milestone, whether that be fitness, music, study, career.  A specialist doctor's life goes at a breakneck pace until they qualify during their 30s (at earliest), and it's hard to turn that off and do little thereafter.  These are people who feel unsettled and bored if they're not challenged by a few somethings at once.

YKY, maybe focusing on what you are talented at, when you find yourself comparing, would make you feel better?

#21 MadMarchMasterchef

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:53 AM

Another silly thing... one of my colleagues who I felt the way you do about in your OP,  I recently found out doesn't know how to swim.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, at all, but it made me realise nobody is 'perfect' at everything :)

#22 KittyTsui

Posted 21 February 2020 - 09:11 AM


I understand how you feel. I felt the same way in university here in Australia and at the US in graduate school.

This is what I did to re-frame my thinking. I focused on the fact that the smart, articulate, confident people asked me to join them in study groups / group assignments etc. If told myself 'that must mean I have some value'.

So, maybe re-frame like this: "I'm in a meeting with Vulcan-esq super humans and they listen to me, value my input and take on board what I have to say. That must mean I'm pretty amazing too!"

In all seriousness, having read your post... the fact you are in the same room on a regular basis as these people says it all. I don't care if that sound elitist or not.

At least in my experience, professionals spend a very substantial amount of their work time collaborating with their peers and equals. So if you are spending this time in meetings with them regularly, that says as much about you as it does about them.

Be proud.

#23 CallMeFeral

Posted 21 February 2020 - 09:51 AM

I think there's a few angles here, all of which will be true of some of the people

1) You only see the the highlights reel. Unless you deeply know these people and the ins and outs of their personal relationships, you don't know their weaknesses, only their strengths. The quote I liked was "Don't compare your behind the scenes footage to someone else's highlights reel". You don't know their skeletons.

2) The majority of people have impostor syndrome. And everyone is looking at everyone else thinking "they are supposed to be here and I'm the impostor" but in truth very few of them will ACTUALLY feel like they are supposed to be there, and the ones that do might feel like they are hanging on by a thread and one failure away from dropping out. Everyone compares to people they see 'above' them, not below, so everyone feels inadequate.

3) Some people have advantages that others don't. It's taken me a while to accept this, because my identity at school and some time after was that I was smart. And I wasn't threatened by successful people for a long time because I didn't value success as much as smart, and they often weren't any smarter than me. But it was confronting after I started meeting people who WERE. People whose minds would go at a pace I couldn't keep up with, or who I knew from various things they mentioned were intellectually higher than me. That really shook me and made me feel inadequate because that area was my point of pride. But I've had to (and am still working on) accept that I am not the top person in the world at the things I value. Most people aren't. We will always come across people smarter, prettier, kinder, and sometimes people who seem to have a package of a number of desirable things, and that seems really unfair. But it is what it is, and realistically there are so many people in the world it's bound to happen. I'm not at the level they are at. And that's ok. I'm doing the best I can. I have constraints that they don't, maybe social (e.g. wealth and family support) or maybe inherent (like ADHD, or a certain level of mental capacity), and I'm doing the best I can with what I've got, and some people don't have those constraints and will be 'better' than me on things I value. And that's ok. I'm just normal.

#24 Yippee-Ki-Yay

Posted 21 February 2020 - 10:32 AM

I feel the need to clarify. I am NOT saying I think their LIVES are better. I am saying I feel like THEY are better. I know no one has a perfect life. Thats what makes their achievements so amazing.

Its also definitely not lip service. My work is paid but their involvement is voluntary. Meetings are outside of work hours. I coordinate their charitable efforts so I see the time and money they put in.

As for respecting and including me, thats not always the case. My work is often dismissed with being accused last night of not communicating something to the group, three minutes after which every group member found said communication. I asked for additional hours at work as membership of the group has increased significantly and activities have done the same and was told I simply needed to manage my time better.

I came away last night feeling ineffectual, inadequate and not very valued. All issues which wreak havoc with my BPD.

Obviously not everyone is rude or dismissive and the work is interesting and in all honesty I need this job to work out as the flexibility is a must for me. So I need to find way to cope without feeling as though I am simply wasting their oxygen.  Obviously I need to seek some counselling to help me work through this, but I thought it worth asking for advice here.

I am currently going with the alien idea.

#25 Ozquoll

Posted 21 February 2020 - 10:47 AM

Honestly, it IS hard to spend time with people who, from your description, are way over on the right-hand side of the bell-curve in terms of brains, drive, athleticism, altruism, etc. There's a couple of people in my life who are SO far ahead of me in most aspects that I'm simultaneously proud of them, and deeply envious. I haven't made a success of my life in many respects, and even if there are *reasons* (and there are), it still hurts to accept that.

I don't want to try to make you feel better by dragging down your colleagues, but I am guessing none of them have had the personal challenges you have experienced - coming from a deeply dysfunctional family, losing your husband tragically, having two children with special needs, and your own on-going medical issues.

Edited by Ozquoll, 21 February 2020 - 10:48 AM.

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