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When is it good to feel bad about yourself?
Hopefully everyone quickly perceives this as a trick question, because the answer will always be “Never”. And yet there are times when many adults do feel and believe that they are incompetent, inadequate and question their ability to perform successfully on a day to day basis.

How do you trust that you can when you are convinced you can’t?

I doubt that the birthing experience is sufficient to create persistent self-doubt and low self-esteem. It takes years of stressful, disappointing and frustrating experiences to acquire habitual feelings of inadequacy.

Persistent underachievement and low self-esteem are traits frequently associated with adults carrying the tag of ADD. Years of inconsistent focus, poor follow-through, impulsive actions, failed efforts/expectations and negative self-judgments will lead the bravest soul into the world of self-doubt and anticipated failure. These chronic patterns will inhibit one’s ability for objective self-appraisal and will certainly impede the enthusiasm and willingness to invest in a task.

I have even witnessed this pattern in a number of professionals whose colleagues would consider them to be quite successful. Despite their numerous successes and status, these professionals frequently measure themselves as being less accomplished than their peers and walk through life feeling inadequate, incompetent and fearing and anticipating failure. Their self-perception and beliefs are often incongruent with their skills and level of accomplishments. It is not unusual for some of these professionals to give up or give in once they begin to question the value of their efforts.

Anticipated failure will dampen the spirits and activities of most competent citizens of this fair planet. How much more energy and enthusiasm would someone experience if they could identify and trust that their skills and assets will lead them to successful outcomes? Altering these destructive patterns of perception and expectation can be a slow process and yet the rewards can be well worth the time and effort.

The first step is to always challenge yourself to develop a more objective perspective and new habits of thought and action. Doing this typically requires the assistance of someone who has a more objective perspective. Most often that person is a coach, or a counselor. A close friend or family member can offer some objectivity but, often times, is more motivated to make you feel better than to develop greater objectivity and new habits.

A simple exercise that can be initiated quickly is to begin to journal accomplishments and successes each day. Add in traits and skills that you used that day, actions that you took that you can recognize as keepers and are proud of. Develop the habit of starting the day by identifying one success that you want to have that day and identify how you are going to reach that goal. Be to share your successes with someone whose opinion you trust. Ask for feedback about your efforts. Always record this feedback for those challenging days.

Negative thoughts are automatic, persistent and destructive. Rather than thinking about what you failed at, take the time to challenge these thoughts by remaining mindful of what you have achieved and how you accomplished it.