Challenge Inadequacy

Why do we experience low self-esteem? What causes us to experience insecurities about ourselves and what can we do to challenge the "I'm not good enough" thoughts?

by Emilie Glen Colsted

Why do we feel inadequate?

Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem can have us hide from social situations, stop trying new things, avoid challenges and even experience difficulties with relationships or at school or work.

Most people experience insecurities about themselves from time to time. It may feel like one’s person or performance is “not enough” or “not good enough”. But why do we feel that way? Here are some of the most well-known psychological mechanisms leading to feeling inadequate.

Unrealistic expectations

Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem are often related to perfectionistic behavior (Ashby & Rice, 2011). E.g. having high personal standards, making overly critical self-evaluations or trying to control things.

Perfectionism can be described as the pursuit of being flawless in order to prove our worth and avoid criticism. However, we tend to burden ourselves when we can’t live up to these expectations. Perfectionism can therefore easily make us feel bad about ourselves and our performance and have us feel like a "failure" or that we are "not good enough".


Inadequacy is related to self-doubt. Self-doubt can be described as questioning our own self-competence (Braslow, Guerrettaz, Arkin, & Oleson, 2012).

When we doubt ourselves it becomes hard to recognize our successes, talents, accomplishments, and even worth. And that’s why self-doubt can lead to feeling inadequate.

Social comparison

Social comparison is a way to evaluate and make judgments about ourselves in comparison to others.

Comparing ourselves to others can easily make us feel like we “should” be like them or that we “ought to” have and do the things they do. Social comparison is therefore a mechanism that can make us feel inadequate.

Do you want to know more about these underlying mechanisms of feeling inadequate and how to handle them, then try the tool: Challenge Inadequacy

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