The Burden of Inadequacy

November 15, 2014 at 1:15 am

The most dangerous enemy is the one you never suspect. We can find the enemy hiding in the shadows. The one we cannot find is hiding within us – The feeling of being perpetually inadequate.


Penthrall Burden of Inadequacies

Image courtesy Wikimedia

A lot gets lost in the everyday sameness of life. Things blur past us without our notice. We are too busy or too distracted almost all the time. What was once considered normal changes a little everyday in seemingly harmless ways. Slowly. It is this slow unnoticed change that could sometimes be toxic. Unknowingly, we have grown busier. We have grown to need things that we lived without. We have changed and we have been too busy to notice.


We are a culture of excess. We are smarter, richer and better equipped than our ancestors, and yet, as privileged as we are, we are the ones who feel the scarcity. We are a generation of never enough. It is more than just a perspective, it is a disease. It spreads into every facet of our lives once it infects us. We wake up in the morning feeling like we didn’t get enough rest. Minutes after we wake up, we look at our phones and feel restless. We realize we don’t have enough time to do all that needs to be done today. We rush through the day slogging away like machines, feeling we don’t get enough rest, vacation or personal time. We get back home full of regret and resentment at not having completed all that we set out to do. We didn’t exercise again or meet a certain friend or spend enough time with the family. By the time we go to bed we are already carrying a huge burden of unfinished jobs to our pillow. We then add the final one. It is too late, and I need to wake up early tomorrow. Again. I am not going to feel rested. With this final thought we transfer the burden over. We leave it by the pillow to pick up the next morning. We live with this constant burden of inadequacy. A burden of scarcity that defines our generation.


It is important to understand where this scarcity mentality comes from because of the magnitude of the impact it has on us. Anybody in research would tell you – If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. While this old adage may send us on a mission to measure the problem, find out where it started and who is responsible for it, it is this very aspect of measuring where the problem really starts. Measuring is an act of dehumanizing. When we measure something we remove the inherent meaning out of it and bring it down to a number. We live in a time where we want to control everything using a device in our hands. Can you really control something that you haven’t first measured? We have reduced everything to numbers. We can talk at length about the problems in our country, our economy and how a movie is doing by quoting numbers. Numbers have taken the place of truth and reality. They have gained precedence over feelings. Intuition and feelings don’t inhabit the world of reality anymore because they can’t be measured or controlled. We have lost our respect for them. You can feel something is wrong but you can prove it only with numbers because numbers don’t lie.


We have even started bringing this practice closer into our lives. Log into Facebook and you get a count of everything displayed on your home page. How many friends you have. How many people like what you say. Everything is a number. Do we stop to even think why we need the number of friends we have displayed to us? When we measure the worth of something outside of us with numbers we soon start doing that to ourselves as well. There is no boundary. We have forgotten that there never was one.


As we keep measuring and numbering everything, we become more and more inhuman. We enter an abstract world where we have a number against everything. A world like that spreads thin. It exists on a horizontal plane and has no depth. Quality doesn’t mean anything in a world where quantity is king. A person with more is expected to feel happier than the one with less. This is the beginning of scarcity. It arises from our unquenchable need to measure.


Human beings are great at categorizing things. We bracket things together and separate things from what they are not. This is how we start understanding what something is. Too many times our definition of what something is arises by first understanding what something is not. This practice like the others goes inwards too. We know a lot more about who we are not than we do about who we are. We are amazed at times at how we react to situations and how deeply something affects us. Or how little something affects us. Most of us know very clearly who we are not and have carefully avoided going into the sacred emptiness to really know who we are. Knowing volumes on who we are not should make us feel inadequate. It is the logical outcome isn’t it? It shades our perspective. It’s like standing outside your house and looking at the rest of the world, thinking that all of this isn’t my house. Pretty soon we start measuring and putting numbers on them. This should make the pile of everything that isn’t ours look astronomically large. We look small in comparison. Even worse, we start seeming ordinary.


We are a society of deluded individuals addicted to overachieving. Ordinary is an insult today. Everyone wants the extra. We are continuously fed on a staple diet of “You can have everything” and “You can be everything you want”. Do we know what ordinary is? I don’t. I only know what it is not because I am constantly being shown the examples of Extraordinariness. Everyday I see examples of what someone did that should leave me shocked or make me cry. Every one of those examples adds to that large pile of what I am not. We try and project our extraordinariness to the world around us. Everyday on my newsfeed I see someone checking something off his or her bucket list. Everyday. How is that even possible?


Being ordinary is so shameful that people prefer telling each other that they are perennially busy. 80% of our society dislikes their job but a 100% of us are busy and overworked all the time. Are you now able to see why this is a disease?


At the root of all this is shame and fear. We are all scared. Everyday we read and watch things that are designed to scare us. But we think we are the only ones. We think everyone else has it figured out and we are the only ones running around to make ends meet. So we hide our fear. Instead of coming together to heal we come together and gossip. Asking for healing requires that we admit we are scared. It demands courage and compassion. It is far easier to gossip instead and during that casual chat over tea if we can see that our friends are as scared as we are, even if we catch a glimpse hidden in a joke or a swear word, we start feeling good. It is a tiny affirmation that we are not alone. A small acknowledgement of the fact that we aren’t the only ones. That is the comfort we seek in friendships.


The first step towards healing is in the recognition that everyone is just as scared as we are. All of our friends – the ones posting their bucket lists, the ones buying the newest gadgets, the ones posting selfies of themselves in every new restaurant that opens in town, all of them. We need to reach out and ask for healing. It is in that vulnerability that our friendship grows stronger. We need to be able to look at ourselves and say Who I am is good enough.


Nothing will ever seem enough as long as we continue in our dangerous habit of having everything measured. We need to stop doing that. We need to stop letting the number of friends we have, our designation and our salaries define who we are. We need to stop introducing ourselves to people through our jobs and education. When you meet someone new at a party, notice how soon you start talking about where you work or live. These are unconscious ways in which we sum them up and place them in brackets in our head. We need to remove the numbers from our lives. They are good for research but really bad in our personal lives.


One of the ways in which I started removing numbers, was by removing them from social media. Baby steps yes, but it worked. I use the Facebook demetricator. It is a nifty add-on that came out about two years ago which removes all numbers from Facebook. So you don’t know how many friends you have, or how many people liked your post. You just know that people liked it and that you have friends who want to talk with you. Ask yourself how inclined would you be to add a friend if you weren’t counting how many friends you had, or post something if you didn’t know how many people would end up liking it. It takes a little getting used to, but it works beautifully. With the same unnoticed slowness that the numbers enter our lives, they start leaving. We don’t need them, we never really did.



Penthrall You are Good Enough

Image courtesy ganeshaisis

This is how you move to quality and away from quantity. Actively reject the numbers. Choose depth in the place of breadth. A few meaningful relationships mean a lot more than empty numbers. Some things are better felt and experienced. Some things are in the realm of the heart and not the mind.



“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success.” – Henry David Thoreau


So stop looking outside your house and go back inside. Close the door behind you. Look at your house, at yourself and at your life. Soak in the small ordinariness of it all and whisper to yourself slowly. This is enough.



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