My academic life can be summed up in 2 words: “Over-expectation” and “underachievement.”
I always aimed high only to get a result that was average. This pattern created a lot of inadequacy in me. Why can’t I do as good as that person? Why can’t I be like him? Why can’t I produce work as good as her? These are questions I still struggle with today.
But I’m not alone. Dealing with inadequacy is a common struggle in our society. My personal breakthrough came when I realised this one simple truth: It’s alright to be inadequate.
Let me explain. When I was wallowing in self–pity, I read Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The first part of the verse made something inside me click – God understands!
He knows how we feel when we fall short of the expectations. He knows what goes on in our head when it seems we can’t do anything right. When the world doesn’t seem to understand, it’s comforting to know that one person does – And He walks with you still.
Nice to know … But the inadequacy remained. So how? I went to my best friends and had a long discussion with them about my struggle with feeling inadequate. They offered me a two-step solution to feeling inadequate. There are two parts to it: The first may be painful, but the other brings relief.
1. Be honest with yourself
Take a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a straight line down the middle of your paper. Now, read on.
Be honest. If you believe you can’t accomplish a task because you don’t have the skill required for it – acknowledge it and then go and develop your skillset. Humbly acknowledge your shortfalls and ask God to help you. If we aren’t honest, but keep telling ourselves “I can do it”, we are pressuring and setting ourselves up for a crushing failure.
That was me in the lead up to my O Levels. I was insistent that I was going to meet the impossibly high standards I had set for myself at the preliminary examinations. I worked my hardest in the spirit of self–help and self–motivation. But most of my results went “underwater” – that is going below the “C” level.
The proud facade of self-help had shattered. I hadn’t merely failed to meet my expectations; I had proven to myself that every empty encouragement I held onto was a lie.
Back to the paper. On the left side of it, I want you to complete the sentence: “I am inadequate because … ”
2. Stop looking at yourself – Look to God!
It’s so easy to keep looking at ourselves and our abilities. But we often forget that our “secret weapon” when dealing with struggles like inadequacy lies infinitely beyond ourselves. We forget that we have a God who not only walks with us but also grants us heavenly resources to fulfill His purposes and destiny for us.
When we align our wills to His, there is strength, wisdom, courage and provision to overcome any obstacle. We will never be able to do it by ourselves, but we can when we let God carry us. It takes humility.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
If we stop looking at ourselves and start looking upwards to our Heavenly Father, we would be empowered to do the things we should!
Humbly acknowledge your shortfalls and ask God to help you. If we aren’t honest, but keep telling ourselves “I can do it”, we are pressuring and setting ourselves up for a crushing failure.
Look at the paper again. On the other half, complete the sentence: “But He is able because … ” List out as many attributes of God’s character as you can. If He has done a powerful work in your life before, write it down, trusting that if He has done it before – He can do it again. Find verses which speak life into your inadequacies and write them down as well.
Once you have filled your paper, talk to God. Admit your inadequacy. Be honest about your inability to do anything apart from Him. But declare that God is able, and ask Jehovah Jireh to provide you with everything you need to overcome what you must.
Ask according to His will, and He will come through for you.