Feeling “Less Than,” Part 1

Have you ever felt that you were less valuable than others? Or less talented? Or less attractive? Or less . . . well, everything? In my last blog post, I referred to my feeling of being “less than” in many circumstances. I am going to warn you that this blog post is going to be personal—all about me in a way. I am going to be vulnerable and share some things that have impacted my life in significant ways.  

In all honesty, I have been struggling with seeing myself as not as important or less than others for most of my life. Looking back at my blog posts, I realize that as far back as 2017 I wrote a post about this very subject. For me, as it may be for you, some times are better than others.

I recently realized (again) I have been letting the fear of not being good enough stop me from doing some things I really enjoy. I love to write. I write my blog somewhat routinely and started writing it because even though I am an ordinary person, I have an extraordinary God and I want to share that. I have things I have written that I have never submitted because I always feel like someone else out there can say it better than I can. I have a novel I have been writing forever and need to complete, but sometimes struggle working on it because I let my doubts get in my way. Somewhere along the way, I have convinced myself that what I have to say or do is not as valuable as what someone else says or does.

I had to ask myself, why is that? What has happened to me that makes me lack confidence in my abilities. So on my quest to better understand myself, I recently called my oldest sister. She is one of those wise people who has learned many lessons by facing difficult situations in life. She is a hypnotherapist and frequently works with clients in a variety of areas.

As I shared with my sister, I realized some of the reasons for my feeling inadequate are easy to pinpoint. She also gave me some great feedback and asked hard questions about things that occurred in my life that I would rather not think about. Some of my background is easy to understand, some more difficult.

I had a perfectionist mother. While I loved her, her expectations definitely impacted me and my siblings. It was hard to grow up in an environment where nothing was done to her standards. So it was easy to fall into a trap of feeling that nothing I did was good enough. As an adult I understand how my mother’s past shaped her perfectionist tendencies, but it did not help me as a child growing up.  

Maybe some of you can identify with that feeling of never measuring up to someone’s expectations. If you grew up with a perfectionist or critical parent or sibling, it makes an impression on that inner voice which says you are less than.

I was sexually abused as a child. My sister and I talked about the impact of my sexual abuse as a child. I internalized questions like, why did he choose me? I always told myself there must have been something about me that made an easy target. Like many childhood victims, I buried my feelings about what happened to me and never shared that part of my life with anyone until I was an adult. But my experience reinforced my feeling of being less valuable than others.

I was the middle child. I had an aha moment when my sister mentioned that my being a middle child may have impacted how I see myself. I was the fourth daughter in our family (although one of them died at one-month old), and after me came the only boy. If we had been living in earlier times, he would have been the long-awaited heir. Then I had two more sisters. While some people believe that there is no validity to birth order, I am not one of them. Sometimes I frequently felt lost in all of the chaos of having so many siblings. Now when I look back on things, it is easy to see that I felt unseen many times. That is probably one of the reasons I was such an avid reader. As soon as I learned to read I could go to places and have adventures that I could get lost in.

I was the last one picked. Once you start to go down that path of feeling less than, it is easy to take every little thing and turn it into a negative voice. You are the last one picked for the recess and PE sports teams and you internalize how much of a klutz you are. You hear someone make fun of the way you sing and you tell yourself you should stop trying. Your skinny aunt tells you that you are fat (when you weigh 115 pounds) and you think your body is awful. There are a million little lies you let yourself believe when you think you are less than others. And EVERY single criticism you hear just reinforces that in your mind when you buy into the lie that you are “less than.”

The fact is that I am not alone in thinking I am less than others. Almost every woman I know (and most men, although it is not as statistically high with men) has dealt with these thoughts at one time or another. I recently watched a TED talk* on YouTube and the speaker noted that she asked a group of teen girls to name something good about themselves. It was heartbreaking that initially none of them could think of a thing.

I can say with confidence that over the past few years I have become better at hushing that negative voice that says I am less than. But occasionally it rears its ugly head again and I find myself struggling with all the negative thoughts it brings.

The fact is there are some things I do well and, quite frankly, I give all the credit to God for the gifts he has given me.

I am a Bible study leader for our Home Team from my church. I enjoy it and I do a good job. I put in time studying and preparing lessons and work at guiding discussions so that everyone in the group can contribute.

I speak one Sunday each month at an assisted living facility and speak well—at least that is what everyone assures me. And I occasionally speak for women’s events. Even though many times I am nervous before speaking, I enjoy it, and I learn during the time I take to prepare my talks.

But it has taken me time to allow myself to say I am a good teacher, and I am a good speaker without putting a qualifier with it.

In my next blog I will talk about ways we can overcome the lies that Satan tells us when he convinces us that we are “less than.” Believe me, I have heard the lies in my head many times over the years. And I bet at times, you have too. So tune in to the next blog post and I will talk about some positive ways to shut out that “less than” voice that has you so convinced that you can never be enough.

* Here is the link to the TED talk I referred to earlier.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOrzmFUJtrs&t=67s

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