How To Stop Feeling Inadequate

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Although it may be difficult to achieve when you feel inadequate, self-confidence can often be built with time. There are several causes of feelings of inadequacy, and many people feel inadequate from time to time. However, if you’re experiencing frequent feelings of worthlessness, many types of therapy are available to help you feel good about yourself. Understanding how you can build self-confidence one day at a time may assist you in getting started.

Do you want to overcome feelings of inadequacy?

What is inadequacy?

According to the American Psychological Association, feelings of inadequacy are a type of inferiority complex. People with this mental attitude can feel they do not measure up to others. These feelings can cause a person to withdraw from others or feel jealous, depending on their personality and the situation. 

Feelings of inadequacy can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Self-criticism 
  • Perfectionism 
  • Frequent feelings of envy or jealousy 
  • Adjustment of one’s persona to fit in with others
  • Self-sabotage 
  • Fear of rejection
  • Secrets 

Feelings of inadequacy can also show up as hostility. For example, one study found that bosses who feel inadequate about their job performance are likelier to bully their subordinates. 

Reasons people feel inadequate

A tendency to feel inadequate might be present from early childhood. If you don’t feel equal to others, these feelings may have developed from messages you received from caregivers or being bullied in your younger years.  

It is also possible for a mental health condition or traumatic event to cause distorted self-thoughts. Below are a few contributing factors to feelings of inadequacy and how to tackle thoughts and habits that can cause distorted self-image.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can sometimes stem from mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, which may warp your thoughts or cause you to feel as though you are worthless. If a mood disorder is a cause of feeling inadequate, psychotherapy may resolve the problem. However, a person may also feel inferior because of experiences from early life, stress, or social comparison. 

Some common causes of low self-esteem and low confidence include the following:

  • A childhood where caregivers were highly critical of performance
  • Bullying from peers, work colleagues, teachers, or bosses 
  • Poor performance in areas you are passionate about 
  • A series of stressful events 
  • An unhealthy relationship 
  • Chronic pain, disability, cancer, or another medical concern 

Avoidant personality disorder (APD) 

Some people with low self-esteem live with avoidant personality disorder. This condition can accompany an extreme fear of rejection and judgment by others, leading to avoidance of social situations to cope with feelings of inferiority. People with avoidant personality disorder often benefit from psychotherapy and social skills training. 

Entering the workforce 

Young adults might also experience feelings of inadequacy when entering the job market, accepting a promotion at work, or being a minority in a school or work situation. This type of insecurity is called imposter syndrome. Paradoxically, it can be incited by positive and negative experiences that can make you feel like you’re not good enough. In imposter syndrome, the person feels they are playing the role of someone with more skills or status than they actually have. 

How to overcome feelings of inadequacy 

Understanding where your insecurity is coming from and how you’re feeling can make it easier to figure out how to feel confident. Below are nine steps you can take to increase self-confidence in your life and avoid unrealistic expectations for yourself.  

Use positive self-talk and challenge negative beliefs

How you speak about yourself can significantly affect how you feel about yourself. For example, if you constantly tell yourself you are useless, unworthy, or ugly, you may be prone to believe it. Changing your self-perception can begin with changing self-talk and challenging negative beliefs. 

Consider speaking to yourself in your mind as you might to a close friend or person you love. In addition, replace your negative thoughts with positive or neutral thoughts about the situation. For example, if you constantly think, “I’m stupid,” when you don’t perform well on a test, you might reframe this thought by saying, “I value a high score on a test. However, I know how much work I put into this score, and I’m proud of myself for trying. Next time, I’m going to study more.”

Display positive reminders

The objects and environment around you might influence your self-perception. For example, if you constantly consume media reinforcing the idea that you are not enough, you may internalize and believe these feelings. Instead of continuing this habit, you can surround yourself with positive reminders of your strengths and determination. Consider listening to a playlist of upbeat and empowering songs, posting motivational quotes in your home, or creating artwork. 

Spend time with confident, supportive people

You may notice that you mirror the people around you. If you spend time around people who treat you poorly, it can reinforce feelings of inadequacy. Instead, try to build relationships with people who feel confident about themselves, treat you well, and encourage you. Positive relationships can be crucial for building self-esteem. 


Avoid comparison with others

You may compare yourself to others and feel inadequate if you notice differences. To increase self-compassion, try to find your positive qualities and avoid comparison with others. Excessive use of social media can contribute to feeling inadequate, and taking a break from these websites might be helpful. 

Control your emotions 

A feeling of inadequacy may arise from facing difficult circumstances causing powerful emotions. Controlling your emotions may help you respond productively to difficult situations, boosting self-esteem and confidence. One way to control your emotions is through mindfulness, which may be achieved with meditation or yoga. 

Engage in activities you enjoy

You might feel happier and more confident when focusing on activities you enjoy. Enjoyable activities can boost your mood, and self-confidence may follow. 

Set achievable goals

You may not offer high-quality work when trying to take on too many tasks. Try to take tasks one at a time and break them up into achievable goals. When you can give your best, you may feel more confident in your overall abilities. 

Make positive lifestyle changes

Exercise, diet, getting enough sleep, and other lifestyle choices can contribute to improved mental and physical health and greater self-confidence and self-esteem.  Studies show that even getting enough sleep can improve your health and well-being substantially. Adults generally require seven to eight hours of sleep a night. 

Engage your natural talents

Partaking in talents you know you have may allow you further confidence in your abilities. Try adding more of what you excel at, even if others don’t understand your hobby.  

Do you want to overcome feelings of inadequacy?

Connect with support systems 

Some people may benefit from assistance when improving self-compassion and self-confidence. An in-person or online therapist can help you better understand where your insecurities may be coming from, help you heal from adverse events, and provide you with the coping mechanisms and support to move forward. 

If you’re curious about the effectiveness of online therapy, a study has shown that online therapy can feel more personal than traditional therapy. 96% of participants reported feeling an emotional connection with their online therapists as opposed to 91% of those who saw face-to-face therapists. People who engaged in online therapy sessions also felt more invested in completing homework their therapist assigned. 

Online counseling platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with licensed, professional therapists and counselors you can talk to about feelings of inadequacy. Therapists can provide you with emotional support and a safe space to explore why you feel inadequate. If you have a hectic schedule that complicates traveling to an office for an appointment, an online therapy platform can be a convenient way to receive support. To get started, sign up with a smart device and ensure you have an internet connection. 


Feelings of inadequacy can arise for many reasons, including mental health conditions, early life experiences, bullying, and comparing yourself to others on social media sites. To manage these negative feelings, you might try positive self-talk, spending time with confident and supportive people, focusing on your strengths, and developing emotional control skills. When these strategies feel too complex, you can also reach out to a therapist for guidance.
You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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