6 Best Ways for Men to Overcome Inadequacy and Build Self-Worth

What is it that sets apart men who make a difference in the world from those who spend their days rotting in front of their T.V.s drinking Mountain Dew?

Education? Family wealth? Two-parent households?

There is no doubt that these factors and many others play a massive role in the making of mighty men, but in the end, they are not the determining factors. After all, Bill Gates was a college dropout, Ralph Lauren came from a poor family in the Bronx, and Lebron James grew up in an impoverished, single-mother household.

The distinction between the world changers and the nobodies lies not in anything assigned at birth, but in drive, ambition, and eagerness to take action.

Successful men who make a difference ALWAYS have a clear sense of purpose, set meaningful goals, and actively work towards achieving them.

Let’s not stop there, though. Let’s go a layer deeper. What gives these men their drive and ambition? After over a decade of coaching men to greatness, I have realized that the answer lies in the mindset men cultivate throughout their lives.

To be a difference maker in the world, you must hold two beliefs…

  • I deserve to be a great man.
  • I am capable of being a great man.

Without these beliefs, you’ll never have the strength or the passion to face yourself squarely in the mirror and transform yourself into something you’re proud of.

Today’s article is about destroying the feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and self-sabotaging beliefs that tear you down and limit your potential.

Telling Signs of Inadequacy and Low Self-Worth

Every man suffers from inadequacy of some sort, even the best among us. And while this low self-esteem can wear many masks, in most cases, it’s not too hard to spot.

Why? Because you feel it like an iron chain around your neck. Trust me. I used to struggle every day with low self-worth. It’s an empty, hollow, worthless feeling. It drains you, turns getting up each morning into an achievement, and makes you a bad friend, lover, and father.

Here are ten of the most common signs of inadequacy complex:

  1. Constant Self-Criticism: Being overly critical of yourself, often focusing entirely on ways you screw up and being completely blind to any way you succeed. In a sea of success and wins in life, your brain will find a single drop of failure and hold it right up to your eye so it blotches out everything else.
  2. Seeking Approval: Constantly seeking validation and approval from others to feel worthy or accepted.
  3. Comparing Yourself to Others: Always comparing your abilities, achievements, or appearance to others, leading to constant dissatisfaction with yourself.
  4. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high standards for yourself and feeling inadequate or worthless when you struggle to meet them.
  5. Fear of Failure: Avoiding challenges or new experiences due to fear of failure. This act of avoiding “real life” makes you doubt yourself more than any failure could.
  6. Negative Self-Talk: You frequently call yourself names or insult yourself internally.
  7. Lack of Assertiveness: Difficulty asserting your needs, opinions, or boundaries because you’re deathly afraid of conflict or rejection. You hate rejection more than anything but in your eagerness to avoid it, you leave the back door open for it to creep in.
  8. People-Pleasing: Prioritizing others’ needs and desires over your own, often at the expense of personal well-being and self-worth.
  9. Avoidance of Responsibility: Avoiding taking responsibility for your actions or decisions because you’re afraid of making the wrong ones and you don’t want to face yourself if you do.
  10. Isolation: Withdrawing from all things social or avoiding relationships due to feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth, leading to loneliness and further reinforcing negative beliefs about oneself.

The Decisive Question: Where Do Your Feelings of Inadequacy Come From?

I’ve read through a handful of other articles on the topic of inadequacy complex and haven’t once seen an acknowledgment of this crucial fact:

Sometimes overcoming low self-esteem is just as much a matter of changing your life as it is fixing your mindset.

Feelings of inadequacy don’t always stem from imagined failure or unrealistic expectations of yourself–sometimes they are legitimate feelings that come from legitimate inadequacy.r

There are two breeds of inadequacy complex and distinguishing which you are dealing with will help you know how to tame yours. Here is what I mean:

Actual Inadequacy

Meet Dan. He’s three hundred pounds, hasn’t exercised consistently since high school, and spends more time gaming than giving his kids or wife any attention.

He’s tired of feeling like a sh*t husband, dad, and man, so he does some research and goes to a therapist. The therapist tells him that he needs to practice self-compassion and positive self-talk if he ever wishes to overcome feelings of inadequacy.

Dan is given a list of things he is recommended to do daily to overcome his negative emotions. After three weeks of shouting affirmations in the mirror and shutting out the negative voice in his head, Dan feels confused instead of happy.

Why? Because most of Dan’s feelings of inadequacy stem from actual inadequacy. He doesn’t need a mindset shift, he needs a life change.

We are all inadequate in areas of our lives, and while self-compassion has its place, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is stop making excuses and become the man you know you can be.

Imagined Inadequacy

Meet Pete. Unlike Dan, from an outsider’s perspective, Pete has every reason to be proud of himself in life. He is a good husband to his wife, a present father to his children, and a hard worker in every arena of his life.

No matter how hard he works though, Pete can’t escape the feeling that he isn’t doing enough. A cloud of unrealistic expectations hovers over him all day, casting a dark shadow on his achievements and showering him with unrelenting insults and self-doubt.

Any time a positive thought knocks on the door to his brain, there are a thousand others that wait for him to open and rush in, destroying his self-confidence, drowning him in negative feelings, and feeding his feelings of inadequacy.

Pete isn’t perfect in any regard, but his mind tries each day to convince him that he’s imperfect in every regard.

This is imagined inadequacy, the second form of inadequacy complex that this article is meant to address…The unrealistic expectations, constant comparisons, and hyper-perfectionism that tear men apart.

How to Overcome Inadequacy

This article will tear into both feelings of inadequacy: actual and imagined. If you’re Dan, you’ll learn how to lay down your self-sabotaging behaviors and win back your masculinity and your life.

If you’re Pete, you’ll learn how to stop being so hard on yourself and practice self-compassion for once in your life.

I’ve been Dan and Pete and have helped hundreds of other Dans and Petes. These six points are crucial.

1. Stop being a rigid perfectionist. It gets you nowhere.

Perfectionism kills happiness. Repeat it until it’s drilled into your mind for all eternity. Perfectionism kills happiness.

A fundamental element of life is accepting that nothing will be perfect. Your marriage won’t be perfect, no day will be perfect, and you certainly won’t be perfect.

So when you screw up and things start to fall apart, learn how to shrug and move on rather than ramming your head repeatedly against a wall.

We’d still be reading by firelight if Thomas Edison hadn’t learned to accept failure as a part of growth and had instead drowned himself in a lake of inadequacy.

In a life where progress is built on a latticework of mistakes, perfectionism impedes growth.

Perfectionists spend more time thinking about where they went wrong and marinating in self-doubt and low self-esteem than they do learning from their mistakes and moving forward with a growth mindset.

Stop being so hard on yourself and take your mistakes in stride. When you stop insisting that things be perfect, you take pressure off of yourself and will often find things actually become more perfect.

Satisfaction and increased self-esteem may be waiting right outside your door. All it takes is a bit of self-compassion and acceptance of your own humanity to open that door.

2. Make your words mean something.

To overcome feelings of actual (not imagined) inadequacy, stop talking without doing.

Talking without following through has two main repercussions, the second of which is often gravely overlooked:

  1. Others lose respect for you.
  2. You lose respect for yourself.

When you don’t follow through, you essentially tell yourself that you aren’t to be trusted. And when you aren’t to be trusted, you aren’t to be respected either.

People don’t like to be around others whom they can’t trust and don’t respect but they fail to realize that the same applies to themselves.

Low self-confidence is, in its essence, losing enough respect for yourself that you don’t even like to be around yourself.

There’s no way of getting around this besides doing the dirty work and living by your word.

3. Set small goals and enjoy incremental improvements.

As odd as it may sound, for many men, overcoming feelings of inadequacy is a matter of adjusting their standards.

Most men live life as a race, viewing the finish line as success and all points before it as painful toil. Prior to their arrival at the final destination, whatever it may be, they withhold happiness from themselves by closing their eyes to the present and fixating only on the future.

They see it as a holy struggle.

And while they may understand the need for the journey before eventual success, rarely do these sorts of men consider that this road to success can be the fulfillment in and of itself.

Next time you get caught hating yourself for not being at the finish line:

  • look at how far you’ve come occasionally instead of only looking at how far you still have to go
  • set short-term goals and allow yourself the dopaminergic release of their achievement

If the emotion of the significance of the journey aspect doesn’t hit you, consider the logical, scientific side: studies of the human brain repeatedly show that while we may set out on a journey intent on unlocking the stores of dopamine at the end, we get much more chemical release from the process rather than the outcome itself.

4. Level up your inner circle.

If you suffer from feelings of inadequacy, there’s a good chance you aren’t hanging with the right crowd.

I was once a young man intent on justifying my existence to myself and the world. I was brimming with ideas and inspiration, but when the time came to believe in myself and do the dirty work, my feet felt heavy and I was weighed down by an invisible weight.

I spent many months struggling, until one day I came upon this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

“The future belongs to people who believe in the beauty of their own dreams.”

“Surely that’s me,” was my first thought. But then why was it so difficult to believe in myself? I did believe in my dreams, didn’t I?

I did, but after mulling it over in my head for a bit, I realized that those around me didn’t. My pillar of belief didn’t stand a chance amidst the raging storms of doubt and negative feelings. How did I overcome this?

I found people who believed in the beauty of their dreams, and when I told them mine, they saw no reason not to believe in mine as well.

You can’t hang out with negative men without eventually becoming a negative man yourself.

If you want to overcome feelings of inadequacy and level up your self-esteem, you need a crowd of like-minded men who want the same for you.

5. Stop comparing yourself to others.

“Don’t compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.” -Dr. Jordan Peterson

The world is a vicious place for a comparison addict because there’s always someone who’s ahead of you no matter how far you are ahead of most.

And yes, comparison is natural, to a degree. It places us…guides us…tells us where we may be going wrong and what we could be doing better. Healthy comparison is nothing more than inspiration.

Over-comparison, however, is paralyzing. It leaves accomplished men empty and broken, berating themselves in the mirror each night before bed.

To escape this endless cycle of self-sabotaging self-talk and spiraling self-esteem, you have to learn to allow yourself to enjoy your victories.

An obese man who’s just hit a two-hundred-pound bench press for the first time in his life can kill the joy of his achievement by comparing himself to a lifetime powerlifter.

Instead of comparing yourself to another’s today, compare yourself to your own yesterday.

6. Do things you’re good at.

Low self-confidence can sometimes have a practical solution: start doing things that you’re good at.

I’ve worked with more men than I can count who complain of negative emotions and overwhelming inadequacy. After some digging, I often discover that they are operating in environments where they don’t belong, and everything becomes clear.

As simple as it sounds, sometimes the best way to get your self-worth up is to start doing things that make you feel worthwhile.

For humans, it’s tough to feel valuable when you don’t feel good at your work or the other significant avenues of your life.

To overcome feelings of inadequacy and these negative emotions that squeeze the life out of you:

  • find work that you feel successful at
  • return to forgotten sports or hobbies that you once thrived at
  • accept that maintaining an ego is a necessary part of the human experience

Sometimes you need a complete mindset change and sometimes you need new friends, but sometimes all you may need is a return to the basics to overcome feelings of inadequacy.

Facing failure and embracing challenges is one thing, but constantly doing things we aren’t good at destroys our self-perception and self-image.


You know why you’re here. You know what it feels like to be buried alive in self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. You know that your relationships are suffering and that this can’t go on indefinitely.

But what is the answer? More affirmations in the mirror? Just more time? Perhaps you just need to work harder and prove yourself more.

It’s time to face this beast directly and move forward with intention. The first step: figure out whether these feelings of inadequacy are imagined or actual. If actual, then you have some practical work to do that starts with matching your words with your actions and turning yourself into someone you can trust.

If the inadequacy is imagined, you are facing a much less straightforward beast. To fight imagined inadequacy, you have to learn how to practice self-compassion and live life with a growth mindset that embraces failure and finds joy in even incremental improvement.

If you feel alone in this journey to discover (or rediscover) self-confidence and live your life to the fullest, I have something for you.

After a decade in the self-improvement industry, I have put together a group of the best men’s coaches on the planet to lead a group of driven men on a quest with one objective: reintroduce the world to true masculinity and maximize our existence on this earth at the same time.

This band of brothers is made up of men from all different walks of life and backgrounds who are tired of their mundane existences and ready to wake up with a fire in their hearts.

If this sounds like you, I’d like to invite you to join us. Your move!

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