How To Stop Feeling Inadequate And Become More Confident

Updated March 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feelings of inadequacy can make it hard to navigate day-to-day life. However, confidence is a feeling you can build with practice. In this post, you will learn about the possible sources of feeling inadequate and what you can do to overcome them.

What Is Inadequacy?

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

Feelings of inadequacy can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Self-criticism 

  • Being perfectionistic

  • Frequent feelings of envy or jealousy 

  • Adjusting one’s persona to fit in with others

  • Self-sabotage 

  • Fear of rejection

  • Hiding personal faults 

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. 

Do You Want To Overcome Feelings Of Inadequacy?

Reasons People Feel Inadequate

Sometimes, a tendency to feel inadequate might be present from early childhood. If you are feeling deficient, these feelings may have developed throughout your life.  However, it is also possible to begin feeling bad about yourself due to a mental health condition causing distorted feelings of self or due to events in the present. Let’s take a closer look at some things that can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and how to tackle negative thoughts and habits that cause this distorted self-image.

Low Self-Esteem

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

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

  • Having a childhood where caregivers and other adult figures were highly critical of your performance
  • Experiencing bullying from peers, work colleagues, teachers, or bosses 
  • Performing poorly in areas you considered important
  • Dealing with a series of stressful events that caused a significant blow to self-esteem
  • Being in an abusive relationship 
  • Coping with medical conditions such as cancer or chronic pain or ones that impact your appearance in some way

In addition, some people have an avoidant personality disorder. This disorder causes a person to have an extreme fear of rejection and judgment by others and can lead to avoidance of social situations to cope with these negative feelings of inferiority. People with an avoidant personality disorder often benefit from psychotherapy and training in social skills.

Another possible cause of feeling inadequate occurs when young adults transition into the job market, when 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 triggered by positive and negative experiences. In imposter syndrome, the person feels like they are playing the role of someone with more skills or status than they have in reality. 

How To Overcome Feelings Of Inadequacy 

Understanding exactly where your insecurity is coming from can make it easier to figure out how to move forward and how to feel confident. But what can you do after that to feel better about yourself? 

Here are nine steps to build self-confidence and stop feeling inadequate. 

1. Use Positive Self-Talk and Challenge Negative Beliefs: How we speak to ourselves significant affects how we feel about ourselves. For example, if you constantly tell yourself you are useless, unworthy, or ugly, you are likely to start believing what you are saying. Changing your self-perception begins with changing self-talk and challenging negative beliefs. You can start by speaking to yourself with kindness and empathy, as you would for a close friend. 

2. Display Positive Reminders: The objects and environment around us can influence our self-perception. For example, if you constantly consume media that reinforces the idea that you are not enough, you are likely to internalize and believe these feelings. Instead of continuing to engage in this habit, you can surround yourself with positive reminders of your strengths and determination. Ways to do this include listening to a playlist of upbeat and empowering songs, posting motivational quotes in your home, or creating artwork. 

3. Spend Time with Confident, Supportive People: We tend to mirror the people around us. If you spend time around people who treat you poorly, it can reinforce feelings of inadequacy. Instead, try to find people who feel confident about themselves, who treat you well, and who encourage you. Positive relationships can be crucial for building self-esteem. 

4. Avoid Comparison with Others: It can be easy to compare ourselves to others and to feel bad when we don’t measure up. To feel better about who we are, we have to think about ourselves and avoid comparison with others. Excessive use of social media can contribute to feeling inadequate, and taking a break from these websites can help. 

5. Learn to Control Emotions: Feeling inadequate often arises when we face difficult circumstances that bring on strong emotions. However, you can learn strategies for managing negative emotions that can help you respond more productively to challenges, which can boost self-esteem and confidence. 

6. Engage in Activities You Enjoy: When we focus on activities we enjoy, we often feel happier and more confident. Likewise, enjoyable activities can boost your mood and help you feel better about yourself.

7. Set Small, Achievable Goals: When we try to tackle too much and fail in the process, it can increase feelings of inadequacy. Instead, try to set small, achievable goals and break tasks up into more manageable units.

8. Make Positive Lifestyle Changes: Exercise, diet, getting enough sleep, and other lifestyle choices can contribute to improved mental and physical health, which can contribute to greater self-confidence and self-esteem.  

9. Engage Your Natural Talents: Doing things we are good at can help us feel more confident in our abilities and talent. Try thinking about what you excel at and squeezing more of that into your life.

Do You Want To Overcome Feelings Of Inadequacy?

Finding Help To Overcome Feeling Inadequate

These nine tips are excellent places to start. Still, some people may need assistance and support to incorporate them into their lives or to resolve past or current issues contributing to feeling inadequate. One resource is counseling. An in-person or online therapist can help you better understand where your insecurities may be coming from, help you heal from past issues, and provide you with the coping mechanisms and support needed to move forward successfully.

If you’re curious about the effectiveness of online therapy, a study has shown that online therapy can feel more personal than traditional therapy. Ninety-six percent of people using online therapy reported feeling an emotional connection with their online therapists as opposed to 91 percent who saw face-to-face therapists. People who engaged in online therapy sessions also felt more invested in completing homework their therapist assigned. In addition, if you are struggling with inadequacy, talking to a therapist online might be less stressful than commuting to an office. 

Online counseling resources connect you with licensed, professional therapists and counselors who 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 and help you find workable solutions to overcome it. For example, a therapist or life coach can teach you coping skills to deal with self-critical feelings, so you don’t feel overwhelmed and can move forward more confidently.

Some people who feel inadequate have underlying mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or avoidant personality disorder. Online therapy has a successful track record for helping people manage these types of mental health issues, and getting professional help can boost your overall confidence and self-esteem. 

If you have a hectic schedule that complicates traveling to an office for an appointment, an online therapy platform like can be a convenient way to get help for feelings of inadequacy. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and you can quickly connect with a therapist via video chat, phone call, email, or text messaging.


Feelings of inadequacy can arise for many reasons, including personality disorders, early life experiences, bullying, and comparing yourself to others on social media sites. Ways to overcome these negative feelings include positive self-talk, spending time with confident and supportive people, focusing on what you are good at, and developing skills to control unpleasant emotions in challenging situations. When these strategies are not enough, talking to a therapist can help you understand and conquer feeling inadequate. 

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