Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. -Marianne Williamson
In my last post, I talked about my feelings of inferiority and how they get very close to the core of many of my issues. But I was left with the question: Is there a cure or a resolution for my feelings of inferiority?
Of course there is always hope. But how do you unravel years of believing that you are “less than” most people? I know what the answer is not. The answer is not to deny these feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are. So I have to figure out a way to work through them.
This is nothing new. I’ve talked about working “through” feelings before (as opposed to working around them, jumping over them, or completely avoiding them). This is a good first step. However, if I go a bit deeper, I believe these feelings are triggered by comparison.
Instead of simply noticing and observing; I am constantly comparing my own status to others. It goes something like this: I observe someone else’s status or a situation; make a judgment about their status or situation (i.e. the other person, situation is better or superior to mine); and then compare it to myself or my own situation.
Observation + Judgment = Feelings of inferiority
Understanding the process helps me to find a resolution. The observation isn’t the problem. We are constantly observing the world around us. I think the issue is the judgment. Can I find a way to subtract the judgment from this formula? Perhaps if I found something to replace the “judgment” part of this equation with, I would be okay. There are a few options I thought about:
Observation + gratitude = Acceptance
Observation + self-compassion = Connection
These are both good options. I just have to continue to be mindful of when the comparison thing is happening. Mindfulness and awareness are wonderful tools in this healing and recovery journey.
I had to put this into practice recently when I attended an educational conference. The conference was attended by scholars and doctoral students that are studying the human-animal bond. I’m working on my own dissertation about this topic and was looking forward to learning and networking. However, prior to the start of the conference I kept thinking to myself, what am I doing going to this conference? I am going to feel really stupid compared to all of these people who have been doing research in this area for years. Oh and the doctoral students…they are all probably from “important” schools. I study online. I won’t be able to measure up.
As the day of the conference got closer, those feelings of inferiority were blaring loudly in my ear. But I knew they were there. I talked it over with my therapist, and she encouraged me to connect with the other people at the conference based on our shared experience…animals. The likelihood that people who study the human-animal bond actually love animals…well, I’m thinking it’s quite high.
So that’s what I focused on. Animals. The first night of the conference came, and as I was walking into the venue those inferior feelings came up. I didn’t deny them, but I was determined not to let them overpower me. I acknowledged them, and then said quietly to myself,
I belong here.
I kept saying “I belong here” over and over again to myself as I walked to the venue. Long story short, I wasn’t a social butterfly, but over the course of the time at the conference, I connected with some wonderful scholars and doctoral students without feeling “less than” any of them. I truly felt these people were my colleagues.
Is there a cure for my feelings of inferiority? Perhaps not. Like everything else, this awareness just gives me an opportunity to feel what I’m feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. And maybe through this process, I will wake up one day, and truly feel that my life is just as important as everyone else.