Saturday, June 21, 2014

Inferiority, Inadequacy, and Other Ways to Wrap Your Muse's Mouth in 7 Layers of Duct Tape

Recently a dear friend started a web page, called Mom Think Tank. She wanted to contribute positively to the information being put out on the internet and provide an uplifting resource for those who mother. You can read more about this wise woman and her project on her website. As we talked about it, she mentioned she would like me to contribute from time to time, and I whole-heartedly agreed to do so. I mean, I’m a mom, and we had amazing wise discussions that I’m sure I could synthesize into compelling and entertaining blog posts! I was honored and excited to contribute.

Then the site went live. The posts are wonderful. My friend sent an email out, reminding me of what we’d discussed. At the same time, a guest post went up from a mutual friend. It was one I’d read before, that had made me feel inferior and like a bad mom the first time I’d read it, and I felt even worse about myself this time around. For two days I marinated in my own feelings of inadequacy, all the while letting every negative moment in my family pile on top like freshly sliced onions. I have six kids and we’ve been out of school for almost a month, so you can imagine how many negative moments there were. Also, it was just a bad week. By the time I had formulated my thoughts into a coherent (I thought) email, I had decided that I was so unworthy to write for the “think tank” that I should probably not even read it anymore, as if I would dirty it just by clicking on it. I still wanted to be a part of it, I just felt so inadequate and terrible, I was absolutely sure I had nothing to offer. My email to my friend wasn’t an all-out declining of the idea of me writing for her, but it was as close as you can get. I had determined that while this was a great opportunity, it was out of my league. My sweet wise friend answered my email, encouraging but not pushing me to contribute, and leaving the invitation open.

How often do we give up on our dreams/goals/plans, because we suddenly get hit upside the head (and heart) with these feelings of inadequacy? We’re tooling along and suddenly: “I can’t write as well as…..” or “look at the words she uses. Such beautiful language. Why can’t I think that way?” or whatever. Insert your own personal negative talk here. We all have those thoughts. The problem is when we let them linger. We mull them over. We believe them. Whenever I get like this about writing, my muse takes a vacation. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty sure that when we start letting the negative thoughts linger (and I’m not just talking writing here, but everything), the Holy Spirit has to withdraw as well. He speaks in peace and softness, not in the blaring annoying voice that honks “You’re not ____ enough!”

A hit to our self-esteem, our feeling of self-worth, is a blow to our ability to be an effective Mormon—or Mommy—or Writer (see what I did there?) It saps our power, and puts a big wad of duct tape over the mouth of our muse.

How do we defeat our self-defeating thoughts? It can be hard, because most people suffer from something called “confirmation bias.” Once we believe something, the only evidence we tend to consider is that which confirms our beliefs.  So, if we truly feel we aren’t whatever enough, we will subconsciously minimize anything that could build us up, and magnify the evidence of our inferiority. How do we break the cycle? Here are some thoughts. It’s a work in progress and not at all a complete list.

1) Prayer. Honest and sincere prayer enlists the powers of heaven to do what we can’t alone. If you aren’t inclined to pray, or even if you are, you can also meditate and practice conscious and deliberate positive self-talk. For myself, I’ve found immense help in kneeling and telling my Heavenly Father more or less these words:  “I feel like crap. I hate the way I feel, I feel like I’m not good enough, I yell at the kids, etc.” More often than not, I can hear how ridiculously hard on myself I’m being, and I receive a testimony again and again that I am good enough, that life is all about improving, not about being perfect right now. Ether 12:27 has always been a favorite scripture of mine:
 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
In coming to the Lord, I am reminded that ALL of us have weakness; it is the human condition. Weak things can be made strong through the Lord, and He will help me as I humble myself and seek His help.

2) Get to the bottom of the problem. Journaling can help. Talking to a friend can also help you to find the root cause of the feelings and dig them out. Like a bad weed, if you don’t get the root out, it will just come back. Depending on what your particular circumstances are, you may need to talk to a counselor. There’s nothing wrong with that. Large or small, a simple confidence problem or something deeper, you have to find the weak spots, the Achilles heel, and fortify or protect those soft spots. If it’s something festering, get the infection out of there. Don’t just put a bandaid on it. Is it something external that’s dragging you down? Remove it, or remove yourself from it.

3) Have patience with yourself. Be forgiving of yourself. Realize that we are ALL works in progress. Each of us is in a different place on the path, and what’s important is that we are moving in the right direction. When it comes to writing specifically, realize that this is a CRAFT, and that all the raw talent in the world will not make up for learning and growing and sorry folks, EDITING. I think one reason that self-doubt is so damning, and such a great tool for Satan, is because it tends to make us stop practicing, striving, etc. when it is exactly that practice that will help us improve in all aspects of our lives. It’s a paradox… practice makes perfect, but because we aren’t perfect, we reeeeeally don’t feel like practicing.

4) Just say no to comparing yourself to anything. EDIT on that. Comparing yourself to where you were before, to how far you’ve come, can be empowering. Comparing where you are now to where you want to be is called goal setting. It’s the “I’m not as _____ as ______” that always brings us down. Just don’t do it. It’s a game no one can win.

5) Power through. The trite saying “fake it ‘til you make it,” applies here. As a mom, I just have to put my doubts on the shelf and change those diapers, hug those little bodies, and kiss those boo boos. I have to pick myself up off the ground when I cuss at my kids stumble and just try to do better tomorrow. As a writer, I have to UNcrumple the wad of paper that had my last chapter in it, and try to edit it and fix what made me suddenly hate it. As a Christian, I have to lean on Jesus, wipe away the sweat and tears, and take one more tiny step up that steep ladder to heaven.  Satan wins if we stop trying—and this goes for all aspects of our lives, even the writing role. We have something positive to offer the world, and if the Big Bad can keep us from contributing positively to counteract all his grossness, he will. We can’t let that happen.

The stakes are high—but we ARE up to the challenge. If you don’t feel that you are, it’s time to find out the truth for yourself. Or, you could just trust me when I say YOU ARE. If you don’t trust me, trust God, who put you here on this crazy planet to make a difference in every role you play. HE knows you are worth it, and He gave His Son to prove it. He won’t let you fail if you rely on Him. At the end of the day, if we can all remember that simple fact, we can erase 95 percent of the self-doubt in our mortal, self-critical brains.

(Someone remind me of this next time I’m whining about my inability to do ANYTHING right, k?)

What do YOU do to overcome feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and inferiority? 


  1. Leann, this was perfect for me today! As I read your article, I was reminded of something I once read by Sister Marjorie Hinckley. She was trying to write a talk and was trying to write something as amazing as Sister Pat Holland, because she admired Sister Holland's style. After a very frustrating time, she realized that if the Lord had wanted a talk given in that style, He would have had Sister Holland do it, not her. He wanted Sister Hinckley to give that talk in HER OWN WAY. That example has always stuck with me.

  2. SUCH a great post today, Leannn. “Satan wins if we stop trying.”

    My favorite word is “yet.” I like to tack it on to all my negative statements: “I’m such a lousy writer. I’m not as good as [fill in the blank. YET.” “Ugh, why don’t I ever work out? I’m so not in shape. YET.”

    Yesterday I came across a video that demonstrated a (supposed) scientific experiment which examined water crystals after they had been exposed to certain kinds of emotion- both negative and positive. The negatively treated crystals looked like misshapen blobs, like they’d been stepped on. The positively treated ones looked like intricate works of art, like snowflakes or stars. The scientist’s point was that our attitude can actually physically affect our environment- especially our bodies. I reminded my son of this today when his archery tournament started out somewhat rocky (he had watched the video with me) and he had a majorly sour attitude. I told him that he needed to buck up or his whole shoot would be ruined. He took some deep breaths and got himself together and his shooting improved dramatically. Funny, huh? ;-)

  3. Excellent post, very encouraging. Seems we're always harder on ourselves than we are on others. Prayer helps me remember my true identity is in Christ, and therefore I am valuable in his eyes. The opinion of others needs to remain secondary.



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