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How to Get Out of

Feeling Inadequate

So You Can Feel


By Laverne McKinnon

· guest post,inadequate,self worth,conscious competence,incompetence

Happy 4th of July! If you're in the U.S., we are celebrating our Independence Day. It's a good day to reflect on what financial freedom means to you. One of the ways to get to true financial freedom is to increase your self worth because I truly believe that your self worth = net worth. So, today, I have a guest post by my friend and career and leadership coach, Laverne McKinnon, who teaches us how to get out of feeling inadequate to feel accomplished! I know we all want that, right?

When I was in elementary school I failed to write a book report properly and got my first “F.” I was a voracious reader – everything from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Jane Eyre and Richie Rich comic books. The essence of the assignment was to write a short paragraph about one of my all-time favorites The Phantom Tollbooth. Up until this point, my academic career was stellar: I followed the rules set up by my teachers, I showed up to school early and prepared, I volunteered to clean the chalkboards and take out the trash. But this assignment stumped me. I didn’t know what I loved about my favorite book, I just did. It took me years to learn how to articulate my thoughts and feelings.

What I was experiencing then (and truthfully right now) is the painful, awkward phase of moving from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. We’ve all been there in some form because it’s a natural part of how we learn. But man, does it suck.

In doing research around the suckiness of feeling like a failure and inadequate, I came across the Four Stages of Conscious Competence model which was created by Noel Burch in the 1970’s. It’s a kind of ladder where we move from being unaware of our lack of skill to becoming aware of our lack of skill to then achieving the skill with effort to then using the skill with no effort. Sort of like riding a bike. Here’s a graphic from Zen Tools that captures what it looks like:

broken image

The incompetence I felt in failing that book report assignment was devastating. It dampened my confidence and I stopped raising my hand. I still loved books and kept reading, but I was stuck in the place of being consciously incompetent … and didn’t know how to move past it until I had a teacher in high school who took the time to talk to me about what I loved about story, and she showed me how to turn our conversations into words on the page.

In this moment in time, I’m faced with my conscious incompetence around social media. I love being an Instagram voyeur, sending out happy birthday messages on Facebook, and reading cool article recommendations on LinkedIn. I hate the pressure I feel to use social media to promote my coaching business, and it’s also a form of communication I don’t yet fully understand how to use.

So I’ve been leaning into one of my core values of being a life-long learner. I’ve signed up for a few social media online courses and been training myself with tools like Canva. Which has been a slow process to say the least … confession: I have literally cried after I spent hours creating what I thought was a cool graphic for Instagram to have it disappear. Frantic google searches produced no helpful results and what I realized is that it wasn’t a flaw in the system, it was operator error. Here’s a great cartoon from SteinbergDrawsCartoons (follow him on Instagram!) that sums up my experience:

broken image

What typically happens when we’re in the place of conscious incompetence is we pull back because imposter syndrome or “sabouteur” voices sneak in.

“I’m not good enough. I don’t belong. No one wants to hear from me.”

Here’s the fabulous news: when those voices pop up, it means we’re on to something really really good because we’ve moved into a zone of discomfort, and all growth comes from being outside of our comfort zone.

So how to get past the suckiness of knowing you’re at a stage of incompetence?

  • Consciously choose a value to honor to anchor yourself. (For me, it’s typically around being a life-longer learner, ambition and courage.)
  • Recognize that you are not a pioneer. Billions of people have come before you and have moved up the learning ladder. Find comfort in knowing you are not alone.
  • Take agency. By that I mean, you are not helpless, hopeless or powerless. The fact that you are reading this blog post means you are naturally curious and resourceful. You can get help and support in many ways: talk to a friend or colleague, do a google search, sign up for a course, read a book, hire a coach (!)
  • Don’t give up and it’s okay to take breaks. Marathon runners don’t train by running a marathon every day. They train incrementally and slowly build. In fact, they never actually run a full marathon until the day of … and a successful training technique is to run for five minutes, walk for one minute. It reduces the stress on the body and allows the runner to build stamina.

To mix metaphors, I’m probably in mile three of my social media incompetence to competence marathon. Or maybe that’s a “saboteur” voice, and I’m further along than I think. Regardless, I’m giving myself space to have a discovery process and honoring my values of learning and growth. Why? Because I know that I don’t have to stay in incompetence. That I will move into competence and eventually, like riding a bike, I won’t even realize how accomplished I am.

Anytime you’re trying something new or in the process of change, you more than likely will be in a place of conscious incompetence. Don’t give up by identifying a value to honor! If you stick with it, over time you will move into competence and become more accomplished.  

If you’re longing to find clarity and confidence in your career, consider attending a FREE webinar co-hosted by Laverne McKinnon and Jean Leggett. The webinar teaches a great tool to help find clarity for the right job match and a trademarked resume building technique to have confidence that you will attract the right role. Sign up here! This free webinar is a preview to a two day in person workshop, Design & Align: Craft Your Career Story taking place on July 16 & 17, 2022 in Santa Monica, CA.