I Feel Scared and Inadequate

I was in the midst of leading a transformational change effort at the Star Tribune newspaper. I looked down the hall from my office door and saw a company consultant. I had met with him a few times to keep him abreast of our company-leading work with employee engagement.

I called out to him with a stern voice. He came toward me with a concerned look on his face. I said, “I have a bone to pick with you. You never told me at the beginning of this change effort that I would feel scared and inadequate so much of the time.” He laughed and said, “At least you are aware of it and are learning.”

That exchange took place more than 20 years ago, and I still feel scared and inadequate often. Actually, I often choose to feel scared and inadequate.  I chose to be a continuous learner and left the corporate world to use myself as my own learning laboratory and to reinvent and renew my life often, which I have done for the past 20 years.

Feeling scared and inadequate often goes with the territory of a life journey unique to each person. We imagine the path we will take, make our own rules and determine our own travel plan. We set out and learn that we must plan, act, reflect, and adapt often. We come to understand our journey is an organic process: messy, inefficient, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. We encounter surprise challenges and meet mentors along the way. We have no guarantees of where our journey will take us. We need to be brave on the odyssey that never ends.

I made major changes in all aspects of my life in the years after I went out on my own. I realized that my feelings of fear, anxiety, and inadequacy were shallow reactions to immediate realities and concerns and that at a deeper and more fundamental level I felt the confidence born of living true to my values, purpose, and vision for my life. Somehow I knew I would be okay and I always was. I’ve grown more comfortable being uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is required to live a good life.

Today, I am at a different stage of life: I am learning to live well in new circumstances and I have goals and things to adapt to. But I am experienced. I will learn, adapt, and stay true to myself as best I can and trust everything will be just fine.

2 thoughts on “I Feel Scared and Inadequate

  1. And, being vulnerable, keeps me learning. When I feel self righteous, right, and THE EXPERT – I stop asking questions that expand the conversation. (My question get more “attorney like” – where I am leading the interviewer to my point of view.) I listen differently – I listen for cracks in people’s points of view and fill it with the “silly putty” of my paradigm. And, if that doesn’t work, I stop listening… Yes, being prepared to always be surprised, is good practice for any leader, but even more so as I age.


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