The Not-Good-Enough Syndrome

Lately, most of my news comes from the radio: truth be told, National Public Radio.  Not long ago, I listened to a male reporter talk about the bias his show has toward male experts.  The vast majority of voices heard on his news show were male, according to his reporting.  When he investigated why, he discovered something curious.  Even when reporters initially contacted female subject matter experts to comment on a topic, often the women deferred to a man, as in, “who you really need to speak with is….,” naming a male expert.  Men hardly ever did this.  Sound familiar?

Deferred Success

As a group, men grow up believing they are great just the way they are. They believe this because we tell them so.  As a group, women grow up believing we need to be a just a bit smarter, more talented, taller, shorter, prettier, etc. The messages may be subtle but we hear them loud and clear.

When I hear women talking about making a change, living their dreams, they may say, “but first I need to…” The old fake it ‘til you make it eludes so many of us.  Sure, we can find exceptions on both sides of the gender divide but, for the most part, women seem to believe they have to be better than they are to live the life they want.

I’m no exception to the not-good-enough syndrome.  I’ve sometimes joked that I’m educated beyond my intelligence.  Almost every time I’ve contemplated a career change, I’ve marched myself back to school to get more training, more education, more credentials.  I’ve not trusted my innate intelligence nor my experience.

The Inadequacy Trap

I, therefore, find it painful when I see younger women struggling with this syndrome.  I want to help them see they have just what it takes in their current state to be successful.  With apologies to Oprah, what I know for sure is that stewing in your own juices is no way to get unstuck.  Connecting with others and getting feedback about your abilities, skills, and talents -- seeing yourself as others see you – are ways to stem the tide of inadequacy. 

Just Do It

Taking action is an antidote to the paralyzing effects of believing you are lacking something.  The fears and “what ifs” that prevent you from living the life you want can be challenged by taking baby steps toward your dreams.  Your action plan can be refined, tweaked and reworked after you’ve determined that a different approach is needed.  Inaction, however, will never get you where you want to be.

Waiting until everything feels right can lead to a lifetime of deferred success.  Instead, take inventory of your wins, your strengths, your resources; reach out to people who believe in you; and write down three steps you can take right now to get you closer to where you want to be.