Feelings of inadequacy appear when you feel like you don’t measure up to your coworkers, but these thoughts you’re having may not reflect reality. Unhelpful comparisons, self-criticism, poor coping habits, and unrealistic expectations can often play a key role in how you currently feel.

Even if there’s no reason to feel like you aren’t good enough, it doesn’t make the experience less painful. You’ll need to address these feelings in a healthy way to move forward.

Reliance on Reassurance

How to Identify:

It’s hard to feel inadequate when you’re confident in yourself and your abilities. People who constantly look for reassurance are typically afraid of sitting with bad feelings.

People who rely on reassurance are more likely to:

  • Constantly ask their boss or coworkers if they’re doing a good job.
  • Check in with their bosses or coworkers before making simple decisions.
  • Make plans with coworkers to avoid being “alone with their thoughts.”

Most experts understand that employees need actionable, empathetic feedback to better themselves. But, even at the best of times, your boss might forget to compliment your achievements, and relying on others for reassurance can destroy your confidence.

How to Solve:

Inadequacy is an awful feeling, but running away from it won’t solve the problem. You can’t rely on your coworkers or employers to make you feel good; you need to handle your own feelings. That’s easier said than done, but self-reassurance and love can go a long way.

When you feel tempted to ask for reassurance, try to challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself why you need other people to build you up. Does this stem from personal adverse life experiences, or is it your work environment? If you don’t feel supported at work, you may need to send out applications.

Dwelling on Past Mistakes

How to Identify:

Everyone makes mistakes, but healthy people are able to accept them and move on. If you’re constantly stewing over things you’ve done in the past, it’ll affect your career trajectory.

People who dwell on past mistakes are more likely to:

  • Spend hours reflecting on an error and feeling anxious all the time.
  • Avoid taking on new projects out of the fear of making a mistake.
  • Work their life around not upsetting others or “rocking the boat.” 

Thinking about your past mistakes can actually be productive if it leads to better behaviors, but if you’re contemplating past the point where it’s useful, that’s a sign of a problem. Next time you catch yourself dwelling on a mistake, ask yourself, “Is continuously thinking about this helping me?”

How to Solve: 

It will be difficult for you to excel in your career if you’re terrified of making mistakes, so you’ll need to adjust your thinking. Mistakes aren’t a bad thing, despite what other people may say. If you don’t make a mistake, you can’t learn from them, which means you won’t improve.

Everybody makes mistakes, even people who are at the height of their careers. To get to where you are, you’ve likely achieved a lot. Think of all the times you did well at work, impressed your boss, or learned something new. You can use these moments to motivate yourself. 

Unrealistic Emotional Expectations

How to Identify:

An emotional expectation is best described as an assumption you have about how you should feel about a situation. This makes the person feel ripped off or feel bad about “feeling bad.”

People who have unrealistic emotional expectations are more likely to:

  • Expect themselves or others to amount to impossibly high standards.
  • Underestimate or overestimate how long they should feel a particular emotion.
  • Get angry when others don’t consider their needs at all times.

No one can control the way they feel, so it’s impossible to hold yourself accountable for how you should operate. At the same time, you can’t expect other people to be 100% in tune with your needs and walk on eggshells around you. Lowering your expectations is what’s best for you.

How to Solve:

Placing unrealistic emotional expectations on others will set you up for disappointment. Your fellow employees have their own lives, struggles, and set of expectations. They’re running everything through their own lens, so they won’t have time to pass everything through yours.

Your loved ones, coworkers, and employers are going to disappoint you, whether your expectations are high or low. Coming to terms with this reality will stop your emotions from running wild. Feeling an emotion is fine; using your feelings to hurt yourself or others isn’t.

Unclear or Changing Values

How to Identify:

Our personal values are like a guiding compass: They help us determine our primary goals. If you don’t have a clear purpose, or if your values change readily, you’ll start to feel inadequate. 

People who have unclear or readily changing values are more likely to:

  • Work in a career they don’t enjoy or find meaningful.
  • Defer important decision-making to someone else.
  • “Go-with-the-flow” because it’s the path of least resistance.

Feeling inadequate comes from the fear that you’ll never live the life you really want to or find what you want to do and accomplish. If there’s a big discrepancy between the way you’re living now and the way you wish to live, that’s a clear sign that you’re not reaching your own standard.

How to Solve:

If you already know what you want, you can identify what you need to change. But, if you don’t have any personal values, or you aren’t sure what they are, you’ll have to do the work to find them. Start by acknowledging what you don’t want, as hate can feel more accessible right now.

Usually, when you dislike something, you’ll like the opposite. For example, if you hate injustice, you’ll love justice. However, sometimes you’ll loathe something without knowing why. If you dislike your job, is it your boss or the tedium? You’ll have to do some soul searching to find out.

When to Seek Professional Help

Therapy is a great option if your feelings of inadequacy are controlling your life. If you’ve acknowledged your feelings, but have a hard time working through them, a psychologist or licensed therapist can support you through these thoughts with talk therapy.