Freud had placed envy at the centre of malign feelings, for envy destroys all that is good, including goodness itself. We are never quick to admit to being envious of others, because that would entail also admitting that we are, in some way or another, their inferiors, be that in talent, intellect, ability, skill, kindness and so on. Yet there is another feeling which is as painful and can be as destructive: that of inadequacy.
There is a tendency and desire in people both to conform and to stand out. A feeling of inadequacy implies a failure in both.
I considered leaving it at that. After all, the experience of inadequacy must be near universal. We have all believed ourselves to have come short of expectations – whether our own or others’ – at some point in our lives. Nonetheless, there is a particularity attached to each individual’s experience: sameness in difference and vice versa.
Going to the root of the problem appears a near impossible feat. I journeyed through a plethora of theories, each concluding in the terrifying image: an internal battlefield where the discrepancy between reality and an idealised version of the self are set to clash. It is a vicious cycle, whereby anger is directed inwards and creates a self-perpetuating conflict that – when left unaddressed – will result in the onset and persistence of depression.
The problem goes deep. Reaching an objective viewpoint seldom helps. Whereas with most other malign feelings, understanding and acceptance make it possible to overcome their hold, that is not the case with inadequacy. This feelings is unsupported by reason. Even when we know that there is no basis in reality for how we feel, that does not automatically allow for its power to be broken. Since reason fails us, the solution will necessitate a creative approach.
Having been reminded of Nelson Mandela’s reversal of the coin, I would like to conclude on a more optimistic note: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” If we are inadequate, the great pretenders of this world, what we are reflects the chasms and vicissitudes on an imperfect world. And since we are able to dream up perfect versions of ourselves and of the world we inhabit, then ours too is the power to let go of these imagined Utopias.