The case with feeling inadequate



We all felt inadequate- not good enough- at one point or another in our life and tried to compensate for it somehow. Feelings of inadequacy have different roots and can be connected to anything from being neglected as a child to workplace harassment also known as bullying. We tell ourselves stories about how bad we are or how we are going to fail anyway and we start believing them. Society, culture and the power of the media contribute negatively to our feelings of inadequacy. They paint a perfect picture about success, beauty, money, fame and power that is totally unattainable. When we compare ourselves to this image of perfection, we are bound to believe we are a failure and feel inadequate.

According to “People may attempt to mask or hide their feelings of inadequacy from themselves and from others in a number of ways. Some people may isolate themselves socially or otherwise close themselves off to the advances of others for fear of being truly “seen.” Others may develop compulsions, such as over-spending or overeating, as a way to cope with feelings of inadequacy. And some people project their feelings of incompetence onto others as a way to avoid difficult emotions, or they may attempt to control others or their environment in order to regain a sense of control when inadequacy leaves them feeling powerless. […]


People who feel inadequate may also experience:

  • Anxiety, particularly with regards to performance
  • Heightened sensitivity and self-criticism
  • Reluctance to accept or trust in the affection of others 
  • Low self-worth
  • Perception of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • The inability to accept praise
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • The inclination to conform or succumb to peer-pressure.”

Does any of the above sound or feel familiar? If it does, this doesn’t mean you need to see a therapist unless you suffer from acute anxiety or chronic depression, but it does mean you need help in understanding where all of this is coming from, what triggers you and what are some of your typical coping behaviors. A change in perspective and outlook can help you achieve more self-confidence and increase your level of self-worth. A coach can help you do that by facilitating a self-discovery process in which you uncover  your key values, strengths and talents and learn how to focus on them in order to get the most out of every situation and reach your highest potential. As long as you allow yourself to fall into the trap of shame, blame and feelings of inadequacy, you are not in control.

I am going to share with you a case where I helped a client overcome inadequacy to illustrate what it would look like from an executive coaching perspective. The name of the client has been changed to protect her confidentiality.

Rola came to see me because she was hitting a ceiling in her career and couldn’t overcome her feeling of not being good enough which haunted her and stopped her from claiming her next promotion. You see inadequacy is an energy that others around you will feel no matter what. If you don’t believe you can do it what will make your boss believe that you can?! So the key was to make Rola believe in herself and see the extent of her own potential. Some people “fake it till they make it” they may feel that they are not good enough in something but in order to fool others, and often themselves too, they at least believe that they can fake it. They may not know exactly what to do but they will pretend to know until they really learn. Rola was the kind of person who couldn’t even fake it. Her perfectionist nature made her judge herself constantly and red flags kept popping up every time she tried to do something different or get out of her comfort zone. Her fear of failure was too strong.

During the discovery session, we found her top five values, the ones that are so essential to who she is that if not honored will contribute to more inadequacy. Among these top 5 were freedom of expression, doing things right and having fun.  Next, we looked at her key strengths through the strengths finder assessment. The two that showed up strongly were achiever and ideation. Achievement is Rola’s drive and it is what she lives to see every single day. By the end of the day, she must feel like she has achieved something or she will not be happy! Imagine if she goes for weeks without feeling that she’s achieved anything, how will this contribute to her feelings of inadequacy in your opinion? Ideation means that she loves to think up new ideas. She is fascinated and energized by them. She loves to make connections through new ideas, go beyond the surface to explain difficult concepts from a simpler yet enlightening perspective. Rola is very creative and gets bored easily if not presented with the right challenges. Her strength lies in coming up with the big ideas that others get to implement. Through the Workplace Big 5 assessment, we learnt more about her personality and the FIRO B assessment allowed us to explain what her behavior says about her needs in the workplace. Her introversion along with her high perfectionism, high imagination and her medium reserve as per the WPB5 paint a picture of someone who is big on ideas, has high standards for how implementation will look like but has trouble communicating these ideas to the right people at the right time. She wants to be involved in others’ ideas but prefers to work alone and not involve anyone in hers as highlighted by the FiroB. This makes others on her team not trust her intentions because she gives mixed messages and looks like she is hiding something.

All this data helped Rola see herself through different lenses. It helped her understand where she needs to focus her efforts and what she needs to change in order to get the most out of her team and peers. They made her realize that in order to honor her value of having fun, she needs to let go of her perfectionist nature and enjoy the journey no matter what the outcome is. She can still do things well and right but they don’t need to be perfect. She is great at thinking up new ideas so this is where her focus needs to be, not on implementation. If she gets out of her cocoon and gathers the courage to present her ideas boldly, her passion will shine through and she will be convincing without much effort. She will get everyone’s buy in and will need to exercise inclusion for her team to trust her. Communication for Rola is key. She needs to work on formulating her ideas well and expressing them openly. Proof of how well this works time and time again will help her see how great she can be, and will soon enough wipe away her feelings of inadequacy. Based on all of these findings, I helped her create an action plan that allowed her to work on all these elements in a timely fashion, working with real examples from the workplace and putting in place key milestones that will allow her to see her achievements every day.

Rola finally got her promotion and was able to overcome her fear of failure, let go of her perfectionist nature and embrace her natural talents. Today, she is a confident leader who knows how to keep her triggers at bay and how to always play her winning cards to beat inadequacy every single time.




About Rawan Albina

Rawan Albina is a successful self-made Executive and Leadership Coach who has coached more than 150 individuals from 60 different nationalities all over the Middle East. She is one of the eleven Professional Certified Coaches (PCC) in the Middle East. She also served for 10 years as a manager and leader with multinationals Tetra Pak and Nestlé.

Rawan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and is a graduate of the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is certified in the FIRO and WPB5 assessment tools. She is a proud member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).



T: @RawanAlbina


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