The Scared One: The Part of Me That Has Feelings of Inadequacy

The Scared One: The Part of Me That Has Feelings of Inadequacy

I call the part of me that has feelings of inadequacy "the Scared One". We all have a Scared One inside of us. It's a secret we all share but don't talk about, so we walk around acting as though we know what we're doing. We learned it from the grown-ups. Now we're the people we used to complain about. We are them, the grown-ups.

It's important to talk about this secret because it is connected to how we show support, to how we form relationships. It is connected to performance issues and to learning. It is connected at a core level of the psyche to almost everything humans do.

This part of me, the Scared One, hinders me from fully unfolding my giftedness. Once I've established that I can do something adequately, I keep doing what I know. This part of me then feels safe, because in the eyes of other people I can do what I know adequately. The Scared One's motto is "Safety and security at all costs".

Are The Scared One and The Ego The Same?

Is the Scared One equal to the ego? Are they one and the same? Good question. They are both interested in survival. But I don't think you can have a healthy Scared One, although you can have a healthy ego. I think the Scared One is an aspect of the ego, but not the same thing.

Is it anything like an inner child? I don't see it that way. An inner child can be healthy. An inner child can feel radiant.

To break out of my familiar behaviors -- to break out of doing what I know, to try something new, to do something I haven't done before -- well now, it's scary. To a little kid it isn't. Novelty is engaging. It's interesting. The child's motto is "Go for it". Run, don't walk, leap and skip into every day... until we grow up a little.

The Best-Kept Secret

Talking about our best-kept secret is important for many reasons, starting with our relationship to ourselves. At this stage of our lives, as grown-ups, do we need anyone else to reinforce our feelings of inadequacy? No. We do a good enough job all by ourselves, thank you.

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Part of normal-not-being-healthy is that we learn to be our own worst enemy. When was the last time you heard someone say, "Yeah, I'm my own best friend!"

What's your self-talk like when you screw up and don't meet your own expectations? Are you kind, benevolent, gentle, or...?

For some folks, self-talk depends on whether it's in private or public. Some people feel obligated to be ashamed and embarrassed if they make a mistake in front of other people.

Alex recently said to a group of us,

"If you don't berate yourself, it means you don't really care. Because if you really cared, you'd feel like a piece of shit right now.

"There is a little kid I know. I went over to his house on his birthday. I didn't give him a birthday present that day, because what I got him for Christmas he didn't like. So I was going to talk to him about what he wanted. So I show up, and he immediately goes, 'Alex, where's my birthday present?' And his mother says, 'Joey!' and gets mad at him.

"She's usually super patient and loving and everything. But I go, 'That's okay; it's his birthday. He wants to know where his birthday present is.' But to her -- we talked about it later -- it would be rude not to get mad at him. It's crazy."

But it's absolutely logical. We are concerned with our image in the eyes of other people, because the Scared One is concerned about being exposed as inadequate. We want to project images to other people to compensate. We want to be seen as adequate or, even better, superior. Joey's behavior reflected on his mother. She didn't want Alex to think that she didn't care or that she wasn't a good mother. 

Is it crazy? No, it's logical, and it's normal for parents to correct their children on public to show that they care. That's just a good example of something less than sound thinking.

The mother doesn't know what to do except to think back to how her own mother would react. She does what her mom did with her.

Those types of parenting messages are so present in the psyche. There's a momentum that's never lost. I can go back into that psychological space instantaneously.

Let me give you an example. Early one morning, I went to visit my folks. I took one of our girls. While she crawled around on the floor with the dog, I was not paying that much attention and all of a sudden I heard my dad's booming voice, "Bad dog!"

I felt a bolt of lightning go through my body. And what do you think I flashed on? "Bad boy!" The same booming voice I'd heard decades earlier yelling at me was so present. There seemed to be no gap between hearing the voice and the memory. It was an electrical shock in my body.

I don't blame my dad. He did the best job he could do with the information he got about how to do grown-up. But I sure don't want to do the same with my children.

Regarding Henry

Did you see the movie Regarding Henry? Harrison Ford plays a Park Avenue attorney. He's married to a beautiful woman, played by Annette Bening. They have a young daughter and, seemingly, a fairytale life. Ford's character goes into one of those mom-and-pop groceries in New York City to get cigarettes. A robbery is under way. The gun-toting robber shoots him in the head.

Ford's character isn't killed, but his memory is affected. He can't remember anything. He's at the rehab place, making progress, and then it's time to go home. Does he want to leave? No. He knows that place. It's familiar, and he doesn't know the other place: his home. His memory's gone, but what does he still have?

A Scared One. A Scared One who wants to stay safe.

Ford does go home where he learns what he was like before he was shot. He learns he was a total creep. He was an unethical attorney. He was having an affair. He doesn't like what he learns about himself and decides to reinvent himself.

The scenes in the movie with Ford and his daughter are so beautiful. His daughter becomes his mentor and teaches him to read. That's a switch. There's a scene where the family is having a meal together, and the daughter knocks over her drink. She looks up at her dad, and he says, "That's okay." He knocks his drink over. "I do it all the time."

I thought that was great. In how many homes in America, when a child accidentally knocks over a glass of milk, does the parent go (splash), "That's okay. I do it all the time"?

Is It Really Such A Serious Thing?

Do we have to be shot in the head? No, but sometimes it seems like it. If we don't scold our children, what may happen? They'll never learn to drink without spilling. Do you think scolding helps a lot? And it's such a serious thing, isn't it? "Oh my God, I can't believe you spilled your drink. What's wrong with you!?" It's a serious thing.

We magnify stuff that's not important and allow it to distract us from infusing our love and warmth into our children. But this is our experience, our communal experience. And we've got it down pat. We know how to do grown-up. We know how to do things right. We know how to do things well.

But we can be doing the best job we can with the information we received about doing grown-up and not know how to be healthy. We know how to do grown-up, but we do not know how to have healthy, coequal, noncontrolling, loving, affectionate relationships. And I think the central piece, the core, of that problem is connected to how we learn to feel about ourselves.

How I Feel About Me Affects How I Act with You

My treatment of my four daughters has nothing to do with how I feel about them. How I treat them is about how I feel about me. I love them dearly, but they don't always get my best juice. And it doesn't have anything to do with them.

When I'm feeling good about me -- accepting of me with my flaws, hang-ups, and neuroses -- I treat my children well. When I don't have an "if" clause in my relationship with myself, when I give myself permission to own my humanity, my clay-footed nature, then I'm meek, tolerant, and patient with them.

When I'm not feeling so good about me, when I'm on automatic pilot -- running around doing my important grown-up stuff with never enough time to get everything done -- I can revert to what my dad did with me.

Developmentally, I've made progress. I use the number twenty-nine. I think I'm awake about 29 percent of the time in terms of being healthy instead of normal. It used to be 28 percent of the time. I've made a modicum of change. I'm moving in the direction of being awake more and therefore healthy more. But I can still access all that old material instantaneously. I can shame my own children in a heartbeat.

We Act Big and Powerful When We're Feeling Small

We don't act big and powerfully unless we're feeling small. The bully in school acts big and powerfully with the weaker children to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Domestic violence of men toward women isn't about how men feel about women. It's about how the man feels about himself. Feeling inadequate, weak, and, in some psychological sense, impotent, he acts out big and powerfully, potently, and abusively.

Well, I think it's time to talk about this secret -- that we all have these feelings of inadequacy -- because it's connected to all of our relationships. We can't shine the flashlight of our attention on something until we know it's there, until we make overt what's covert.

If something is driving behaviors, let's look to see what it is. And in terms of human relationships, I think keeping the secret of the Scared One and not talking about what's driving our behavior is a core reason why normal isn't healthy. This isn't part of the public dialog. It isn't part of the discussion, yet.

We never get rid of this part of us. Much of the material wealth in the world is the result of people being driven, unconsciously, by their Scared One to compensate for their feelings of inadequacy. The irony is that we call that wealth. Remember, the original definition of wealth meant "well-being".

Look what we've created in the United States, the land of opportunity. People come here from other countries to prove how adequate they are. To live the American dream is a material thing, and the rest of the world is replicating our model. They are looking at us and doing what we do. It is follow the leader, and we are it. Is that all we want to give them?

I don't think so. But it's time to tell our secrets. It's time to talk about what we haven't been talking about. This is simply a little nudge for the sleeping giant who is dreaming the American dream. This is a reminder that adds something of value, right now, to our lives. Being healthy isn't about going somewhere other than where we are. It's about being who we are and where we are with some awareness. With awareness, we can begin to make changes.

Definition of Health

Ashley Montagu's definition of health is the ability to work, love, play, and think soundly. What do you think we're good at? Work. We have the working part down pat. How about love and play and think soundly? Let's take love. If the way I treat my children is about how I feel about me, what gets in my way of fully loving them without an "if" clause? Me.

The idea is, if I accept that I have this scared part of me, I can pay attention to that part of me and not let it determine my behavior. Without awareness, my Scared One can drive the engine of my psyche and pull the rest of me along. And without awareness, I can have the accoutrements of wealth and not well-being.

Reprinted with permission of the author. ©2000.
Published by Hazelden Information & Educational Services.

Article Source

Why Normal Isn't Healthy: How to Find Heart, Meaning, Passion & Humor on the Road Most Traveled,
by Bowen F. White, M.D.

Why Normal Isn't Healthy by Bowen F. White, M.D. A wise book devoted to the proposition that a whole, healthy, heartfelt life is something that each of us must and can learn -- and earn -- anew. Funny, incisive, and persuasive, this doctor's prescription is as easy to swallow as it is effective: laugh, misbehave, make mistakes, and through it all discover your very own potential for health, healing, and wholeness.

For more info or to order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About The Author

Bowen F. White, M.D.

Bowen Faville White is an internationally known speaker, consultant, and clown. Dr. White is an expert in the field of preventive and stress medicine and is widely respected as an organizational physician. He combines humor and a values orientation to get his message of healing to audiences worldwide. He is the author of two audiocassette albums: Dr. White's Complete Stress Management Kit and The Cry of the Heart. Web site:

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