Withstanding the Pain of Feeling Inadequate

Learn to stop feeling like a failure as a person.

Posted Jul 24, 2020

Standing on a Windy Day

With the slightest breeze…

Balanced on one leg, you may be unsteady.

Up on your tip-toes, you may stumble.

On your heels, you may stagger backward.

But set squarely on the soles of your feet,

you’ll stand strong.

You feel broken. It’s not just that you have weaknesses, but rather that you feel you are essentially flawed, deficient, and a failure as a person. The suffering this causes is deeper than words. You can feel “in your bones” that you are different from—and lesser than—other people.

According to the first Noble Truth in Buddhism, we all suffer. And it’s true. No one gets through life unscathed, no matter how charmed their life may seem from the outside. It’s just that suffering sometimes happens on the inside, away from what others can see. Objectively good circumstances don’t negate a person’s inner pain. Similarly, people who are more obviously overcome by their pain (such as by being soul-crushingly lonely or being addicted to drugs) are no less a person for it.

Many years ago, I ran a hospital program for women with histories of significant abuse. They all bore the psychological scars of their past. During one group session, a woman new to the program expressed that she felt uncomfortable sharing her struggles because her experiences weren’t as bad as those endured by the others. Another woman immediately spoke up. The stories that this woman previously shared were examples of what she plainly said to me when we first met—that she was not just abused, but was rather tortured, as a child. She compassionately expressed that this was not a competition, and that everyone’s pain is real.

That day, the veteran group member gave the newbie a powerful gift. She saw, acknowledged, and empathized with her pain. Rather than lessening its importance based on outside appearances, she validated, respected, and showed compassion for it. In doing so, she called for the woman to do the same for herself.

Healing can begin when you accept the call to be aware of and empathize with your pain. This means recognizing that your pain—that deep hurt inside—is deserving of compassion. No person deserves to feel pain. This is true for you, too. You may recognize the call for a recognition of your humanity as coming from within or from a caring other. But hearing the call does not mean you will heal, only that you can heal.

To whatever degree that you feel flawed and unlovable, you must learn to experience yourself as having worth for who you are as a whole person—not just for the things you do or for an image you project. Doing this means opening yourself to being truly seen by yourself and by caring for others (for many, that “other” includes God). This is a journey of discovering empathy, love, and compassion for the person that you are.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, check out this brief video:

Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.

Making change through compassionate self-awareness.