How to rise above the feeling that you’re inadequate

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated January 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Most people have difficulties with confidence from time to time. Even the most self-assured individuals can experience periods where they have a predominantly negative self-image. Feelings of inadequacy can impact our mental health, prevent us from pursuing our goals, and affect our relationships. But there are ways we can learn to value ourselves more highly and improve our self-esteem to avoid these effects and no longer feel inadequate.

What causes feelings of inadequacy?

Inadequacy refers to an individual’s perception of their own value in various situations. It is often related to self-image, and it can arise due to several factors, including early experiences, personality traits, comparisons with others, and mental health challenges.

Negative experiences with caregivers early in life are a common source of inadequacy. Frequent criticism from one’s parents may cause an individual to develop low self-esteem and a negative self-image. Personality traits such as perfectionism, a high level of self-consciousness, and pessimism can also lead to a person feeling inadequate. Additionally, researchers argue there may be a link between self-esteem and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. 

How to overcome feelings of inadequacy

If you’re feeling as though you’re not good enough, there are several ways you can learn to value yourself more highly and develop a healthy sense of self-confidence. Below are some helpful tips for overcoming the feeling of inadequacy. 

iStock/Kateryna Onyshchuk
Are you feeling like you aren’t enough?

Process emotions related to childhood experiences

Our early experiences often play a pivotal role in the development of self-esteem and a positive self-image. If you experienced bullying, excessive criticism, neglect, or other forms of adversity as a child, this past could contribute to you thinking you’re not good enough as an adult. 

In the childhood development phase, we constantly observe people and absorb information, and we can form beliefs about ourselves based on these experiences that persist into adulthood. For example, if you had overly defensive parents, you may have a negative view of your self-sufficiency. Recognizing how your upbringing may continue to affect your confidence in your abilities may help you cope with feeling inadequate. 

Spend time with supportive people

Research suggests that social support plays a critical role in our mental health. Surrounding yourself with friends and family members who have a positive influence on your life can help you develop confidence and avoid devaluing yourself. 

How do you feel when you are around people you regularly spend time with? Do the people around you uplift and encourage you, or are they often negative and critical? 


Ongoing exposure to negative influences can take a toll on your self-esteem. For example, being friends with someone who frequently tries to “one-up” you when you discuss your achievements may lead you you to feel like you are not good enough. Often, they are simply projecting their own feelings of inadequacy onto you, but these interactions can still lead you to question your abilities or accomplishments. If the people around you cause you to view yourself unfavorably, you may consider talking to them about how they make you feel or distancing yourself from them in a respectful way.

Try to identify the relationships in which encouragement and positivity are primary characteristics. You can develop a strong support network by nurturing relationships with uplifting friends, family members, mentors, or coworkers. A mental health professional can also be a source of inspiration and guidance. 

Avoid comparisons

Research shows that we often evaluate outcomes through comparisons with others. Feelings of inadequacy can stem from a belief that we aren’t as proficient as our coworkers, as funny as our friends, or as athletic as our peers. This comparison is a natural tendency, but it is also frequently the root of negative feelings. Comparisons can lead to low self-confidence and a warped view of one’s own skills. With the rise of social media, comparing ourselves to others has become even easier, as many details of our lives are on the internet for everyone to see.

It is hard to measure yourself against another person—someone who experiences different thoughts, feelings, and challenges. Knowing that you are enough regardless of how you compare to the people around you can be vital to your self-confidence. Remember that we are all moving at our own pace, on our own paths. Focusing on yourself and your journey, not other people’s can help you take steps toward self-improvement and a greater sense of self-worth.

Develop new skills

If negative feelings about yourself are related to your perception of your abilities, consider ways you can learn new skills or hone existing ones. Building new skills can help you feel confident in your capacity to face challenges, whether they’re related to work, school, relationships, or other facets of life. For example, feeling inadequate could keep you from advancing your career if you realize you haven’t yet developed the skills required for some positions. However, if you start working on developing those skills, you could find that your self-perception changes, helping you feel more confident in sending out applications and increasing the likelihood that you’ll land a job. 

If you notice that you’re feeling negative about yourself in a specific area of your life, think about whether there are steps you can take toward self-improvement in that area. Do you believe that you struggle in certain social interactions? Or would you like to be a better cook? Skill-building can be helpful as you work toward rising above these negative feelings.

Remind yourself of your strengths

Often, we become so focused on areas we’d like to improve that we ignore the things we already bring to the table. Sometimes, when you are feeling inadequate, focusing on your strengths can be helpful. 

Your specific strong suits may pertain to your job, hobbies, or connections with loved ones. Do you have a musical or artistic talent that can lift people’s spirits? Are you good at fixing things? Focusing on your strengths and remembering positive things about yourself can keep feelings of not being good enough at bay.

Practice self-care

Taking time to tend to yourself can reinforce the notion that you are worthy and deserving of care. Self-care—which refers to, essentially, anything that nurtures the body or mind—can help you build self-esteem and nurture mental and physical wellness. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, meditating, and engaging in other self-care activities can also help you manage mental health challenges related to feelings of inadequacy, such as stress or depression.

Are you feeling like you aren’t enough?

Self-care can encompass a variety of activities, including reading a book, taking a bath, journaling, meditating, or taking a walk. Consider incorporating several different healthy habits into a routine so that you can practice self-love regularly.

How long does it take to rise above feelings of inadequacy?

Everyone progresses and overcomes challenges at their own pace. The timeline that works for you may not be effective for another person, and vice versa. It’s also important to remember that working through these feelings is not a race. Understanding the cause of a sense of inadequacy can be critical, as can taking the necessary steps to regain your confidence and build your self-esteem.

As you address these negative emotions, remember to take things in stride. You may experience setbacks that damage your self-perception, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing enough. Taking steps to improve your self-image means you already recognize the value you bring. 

Improving self-esteem with online therapy

Whether you are working to rise above the feeling of being inadequate or navigating a similar challenge, knowing that you are not alone can make a difference. Seeking professional guidance can be a constructive step toward viewing yourself through a positive lens, an important component of personal growth. 

Studies show that online therapy can help individuals address challenges related to mental health that may lead to feelings of inadequacy. In one study, researchers examined the effects of online therapy for individuals living with depression, finding that treatment reduced depressive symptoms while also improving self-esteem, empowerment, and overall quality of life. 

Online therapy can be an available form of personalized support for people who feel inadequate and who want to develop a healthier sense of self-worth. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can work to develop a positive self-image remotely, through video calling, voice calling, or in-app messaging. BetterHelp works with thousands of mental health professionals with a wide range of specialties, so you’ll have a good chance of connecting with someone who can address your specific concerns regarding your self-esteem or similar challenges. 


It is normal to want to identify areas in your life in which you can improve. However, when this desire leads to negatively perceiving your worth or abilities compared to others, it can seriously impact your life and emotional health. If you’d like to address feelings of inadequacy, working with an online therapist can help you learn more about yourself, improve your self-esteem, and recognize your value. You deserve the happiness and confidence that come with emotional wellness and a healthy sense of self-worth.
You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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