The 5-Second Fix for an Inadequacy Attack

inadequacy attack

I’ve had the pleasure of coaching professionals at all levels of large organizations and I can tell you this: whether their title has had Chief, Director, Manager, or Assistant in it, every single one of them has felt inadequate at some point in their careers.

Think of the most self-assured, confident person you know. Even he or she has thought, “I’m not good enough.”

It’s not a thought that you “grow out of” either, although I notice it lessens over time. Even seasoned professionals will hit a bump in the road and suddenly their self confidence plummets. You’re never too old to have an Inadequacy Attack!


What does it mean when you feel inadequate?


I think it’s safe to assume that you are not inadequate either personally or professionally. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s focus instead on the feelings that flood us in those moments of self doubt:

  • Panicky
  • Anxious
  • Overwhelmed

Or, to put it more simply we are afraid. It all comes down to fear.

Think about when you feel this fear. Close your eyes for a moment and recall the last time you felt fearful. Chances are this feeling arose when you were about to do something. You were poised to act, or you were thinking about taking an action.

Maybe you had to do one of the following things:

  • Deal with an unsatisfied customer
  • Write a difficult report
  • Give someone some bad news

The fear would have been accompanied by your favourite flavor of negative mind-chatter. Here are some typical examples:

  • They won’t listen to me
  • I’m not as good as…
  • They won’t like me
  • I’m not smart enough to analyze this data
  • Who do I think I am?!

Sound familiar? These are thoughts that are sure to keep you stuck in the Inadequacy Attack.


The 5-Second Fix for an Inadequacy Attack


I talk a lot about attention and focus and that’s because they’re so critical to controlling fear.

Your attention is like a big spotlight at the theatre, or a large sports arena. You are standing behind that bit light and you can point it wherever you like.

When you feel an Inadequacy Attack begin, it’s like that big spotlight is shining on you and you didn’t rehearse your lines or your dance steps. You’re not ready. You’re certain everyone is looking at you and thinking “get a load of this buffoon over here.”

The problem is that you’re pointing the spotlight on yourself, but it doesn’t belong on you. Stop with the ego!

Instead, I want you to visualize yourself swinging that spotlight away from yourself and on to the activity at hand. That’s the 5 second fix: you see the big spotlight swing away from you and you feel the relief of being “invisible” in the darkness.

  • Unsatisfied customer? Swing the spotlight onto fixing their problem and away from your insecurity that you did the wrong thing.
  • Writing a difficult report? Shift your focus on putting fingers to keys, one word at a time, and not your concern that the person reading it won’t like it.
  • Giving someone bad news? You think giving bad news is hard, imagine being on the receiving end. Put your attention on their needs, not your own.


Why does this 5-second fix work?


Taking the focus off yourself does 2 things.

  1. You stop feeling inadequate in that moment, because your brain is busy doing something else
  2. You get the best result possible because you’ve given your undivided attention

The best part? That best possible result flies right in the face of the thought of, “I’m not good enough.” If you weren’t good enough, would you have handled that challenge so well! You’re building your case for why you are more than adequate.


When Inadequacy Attacks are the norm for you


If your symptoms of inadequacy last for more than 7 days, you may have a chronic case. I’m being cheeky, but if you notice you find yourself feeling this way every day for long stretches, I highly recommend you read my free e-book, 7 Guaranteed Ways to Reduce Stress, Stop Feeling Overhelmed at Work, and Get Your Life Back.  Or drop me a note and let’s see if I can’t help.


Image credit

Listen to your Mother – LA” by Flickr user Lisa Sjolund is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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