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Feeling Like You're Not Enough? (Read This)

14 min

Have you ever felt like you weren't enough? I have, too. Here's what I've learned from this struggle.

I'm not a doctor or a medical professional. I'm just a person who is as vulnerable and prone to feelings of inadequacy as anyone else. In other words, "I'm human." I experience pain and suffering, and while I acknowledge that I have lived a relatively fortunate life compared to many others, I have also had my fair share of difficult, frightening, and desperate moments.

At different stages of my life, I have struggled with the idea that I am not "enough." The rise of the "self-love" movement has brought many self-help tools in the form of books, videos, articles, and podcasts. It sounds like a beautiful idea. Believing that regardless of how low we may feel, we can learn to love ourselves at the very least.

However, being human means we are all subject to brokenness and cannot solely rely on self-love, as it is woefully insufficient. We need something more.

This is why solitary confinement is a harsh punishment—humans thrive on connection and love from others. The love and fulfillment we crave cannot come solely from within us. We must ultimately draw upon a greater power to find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in our lives.

What if I told you that we are all equally and unconditionally loved by someone beyond measure? Someone whose love is more than enough not only in this life but for all eternity?

It might sound too good to be true, but it is true nonetheless. I know that you might already have questions, but sit back and let me tell you some stories.


I yearned for acceptance from my peers, thinking that playing football would make me popular. I believed I could become the guy girls fought over for homecoming or prom. After being bullied in middle school for being overweight and unathletic, I felt I deserved it. This idea began to fuel my pride. I hoped playing football would finally allow me to prove that I wasn't a loser or a nobody.

Sporting our green, black, and silver jerseys, we felt like modern-day superheroes. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. I kept dislocating both my knees game after game, leading to two surgeries in one year, and after nearly sixty surgical staples, two screws, and over a foot of scar tissue, my sports career was over just shy of a year from starting.

Instead of climbing the social ladder in high school, I was on crutches for the remainder of my freshman year. I had to pursue other organizations like JROTC (think military club), which, quite frankly, nobody cared about. I couldn't even complete an entire football season or half of one. I wondered, why me? Why couldn't I be in the spotlight like the other players?

The answer is simple: I was not enough.

"Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished." - Proverbs 16:5


Norwich Forever

My college experience was anything but ordinary. I attended a private military college in the "middle-of-nowhere," Vermont, with my education financed by the Navy. After four years, I earned a degree and received a commission as an officer.

Although I was grateful for the opportunity to be put through my undergrad, I still sought recognition that I felt I had missed out on in high school. While in college, I was determined to have more control over my destiny this time around. I wanted to be a big fish in a little pond.

In high school, I faced disappointment when I failed in football. But at college, I excelled in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets. My pride blinded me from realizing how fortunate I was to have received such a scholarship to a school like this. Instead of being humble and grateful for the opportunities, I craved more attention, admiration, popularity, power, recognition, and a higher rank/status.

I thought my hard work and stellar performance in the Corps would guarantee me the position of Regimental Commander (the highest-ranking cadet). I was ultimately passed over for the role. I struggled to come to terms with not being chosen. Despite my good health, grades, and upcoming naval commission, I couldn't relinquish my resentment toward the young man who received the position instead of me.

I became fixated on my perceived superiority, venting my frustrations and bitterness to anyone listening. I was a sore loser, unable to appreciate my blessings because I was stuck in a cycle of pride and pettiness.

I was still not enough.

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18


Honor & Glory

While serving on the USS PRINCETON for my first tour at sea as a newly minted junior naval officer, I experienced some challenging low points. One of the most difficult periods was the record-breaking near-year-long deployment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many others deployed to the South China Sea and the Middle East, we spent long days at sea with only a few port visits, killing our ability to venture off the ship or pier. I was also working towards becoming a qualified Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), which required fulfilling numerous qualifications over several months to "earn my stripes."

A key aspect of being a qualified SWO is to be responsible for piloting the ship at the Captain's command and earning trust and confidence. Despite achieving this, I struggled with daily feelings of inadequacy. I often feared making mistakes and felt like I was "winging it" most days.

My responsibilities included launching and recovering helicopters at sea during treacherous weather conditions, navigating the ship from one body of water to another, anchoring, refueling at sea, dodging small contacts, and always remaining in position around the aircraft carrier. Of course, we also had to deal with occasional combatants from the region. There was never a school to teach us how to do any of this. We were thrown into the "fire," so to speak, and relied heavily on on-the-job training.

The pressure was intense, knowing that even the slightest mistake could have serious consequences. This was a challenging period for me, and at times, I doubted my abilities and strength to fulfill my role as a SWO in the Navy. For the first time, I was in a place that tested my pride. No matter how hard I tried to outperform the other junior officers on board, I no longer felt I could be the "top dog." I wasn't as proficient at ship driving as others, and it bothered me (more than I care to admit).

During that time, I felt a strong sense of divine protection and guidance, which helped me overcome my challenges. It felt like something beyond myself was watching over me, offering wisdom and occasional strokes of luck when needed. Despite the hardships, I kept moving forward, constantly pushing through my fears and doubts. I often wondered why things weren't going as I had hoped after joining the Navy and why I didn't feel like I was excelling despite my hard work. It felt like I had put in much effort and made sacrifices only to fall short of my expectations.

To be honest, I replaced my overconfidence with fear of failure. I was too concerned with what my peers thought of me, and instead of being humble, I tried to appear like I had everything under control and ignored my feelings of shame and inadequacy. I couldn't show anyone I was struggling because I thought it would make me look weak. I tried to convince myself I was "good enough" and couldn't admit my weaknesses because I wouldn't swallow my pride.

I was still not enough.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James 4:10


Newport, Rhode Island

After leaving the USS PRINCETON and completing a record-breaking deployment, I began my second-division officer tour on a new ship, the USS MANCHESTER, in San Diego. This new ship required me to learn to pilot a different type of vessel with a newer and different propulsion system. To achieve this, I had to attend a rigorous training course that included simulator assessments, something I hadn't experienced during my previous tour of duty. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, this course had a reputation for being very difficult, with a historic 50% failure rate.

I was determined not to fail and pledged to do whatever it took to succeed. I remember coming close to completing the two-month course without any issues. Each student was allowed a maximum of three failures, whether in a written exam or a simulator practical. Students who failed three times were dropped from the course and reassigned to a different ship. I faced a daunting challenge when I failed twice in the same scenario, leaving me with one final chance the day before graduation.

The simulation involved navigating heavy weather within a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS). Passing this simulation on my third and final attempt was required, or I would have failed the course. After successfully crossing the traffic scheme in challenging weather conditions, I made a careless decision to turn towards a random fishing vessel just beyond the TSS, putting my ship in a risky situation. I mistakenly assumed that the simulation had ended and let my guard down too early when I should have remained vigilant.

Regrettably, I squandered my final opportunity by making such a foolish mistake. I couldn't help but feel like an imposter, doubting my ability to perform my duties as a ship driver in the Navy. I felt like a failure, especially when I learned that the rest of my class unanimously passed the course despite the historical 50% failure rate. I was the only one who failed... or so I thought.

After my instructor reprimanded me for not being more aware of my surroundings, he ultimately chose to pass me and allow me to graduate. Despite feeling like I narrowly escaped failure, I couldn't shake the shame that plagued me. I found myself falling deeper into imposter syndrome. My self-image was extremely important to me, and feeling insufficient and unreliable was unbearable. After completing the course, I carried the weight of my shame and fear of failure back to my ship to begin my second tour of duty at sea.

For months, I felt inferior compared to the other officers on my ship, who had passed the course without any issues. This experience left me feeling like the worst ship driver and SWO despite having the most hours at sea (on paper) due to my previous year-long deployment. Yet again, instead of using this experience to humble myself, I hid my shame further because I didn't want to believe I was a failure.

My pride was still too important to me, so I tried to focus on the fact that I made it through the rigorous course and that, in turn, I could convince myself that I was still good enough.

But in my heart of hearts, I knew I was still not enough.

"One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor." - Proverbs 29:23


Labor Vincit

Several months passed since the previously mentioned school, and my crew was preparing for USS MANCHESTER's maiden deployment in the upcoming months. We had to fulfill our Basic Phase requirements to meet deployment readiness, which meant going underway for various certifications. I was assigned to be the first person to drive the ship and crew out of the shipyards and further out to sea following numerous months of repairs to test how the ship held up.

This was my first time driving a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in real life, and my Commanding Officer was also experiencing her first time as a Captain underway on this platform. I remember how nervous we both were and despite the shame I had carried with me for all these months, I knew that I had to maintain my resolve for the sake of our team.

My Captain was visibly anxious, and I couldn't blame her. She had a lot of responsibility and many unknown factors to consider. Despite not being the CO or the highest-ranking person in the pilothouse, all eyes were on me. After all, I was on the “wheel,” and everyone knew I was taking the ship where it needed to go (hopefully safely).

I remember it vividly. Amidst the aggregate feelings of inadequacy, I realized the need to surrender to that higher power buried deep in my heart. I was no stranger to prayer, but this time, my prayers to God were more humble and less self-righteous. Instead of asking for specific outcomes, I prayed for God’s Will to be done and for me to be a vessel for His purpose.

It all went off without a hitch. I proved to myself that I was capable of handling the ship. After doing so, I had hoped I wouldn't have to pilot the vessel through the narrow channels of San Diego harbor the next time we set sail, but I was mistaken.

During the eventual six-month deployment, I either took the lead or intervened if someone else encountered difficulty steering the ship. This included piloting the vessel in and out of ports, refueling alongside oilers, landing and launching aircraft, or dropping anchor. Despite initially struggling through the course, I gained valuable experience and became the go-to person for piloting the ship during difficult and dangerous maneuvers.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." - Psalm 23:4


Our ship had never before been deployed or operated in the places we ventured into, and those adventures took us through many stressful and challenging situations. In these moments, I had to perform as an elite ship driver. In about a year, I went from being a slightly above-average mariner to something greater. God took control of my heart, mind, and hands numerous times.

Because of this, I could not only do my job and keep everyone safe but also pilot our ship in ways that few other officers in the fleet could manage. I enjoyed passing those skills along to younger, greener officers onboard. I can't take credit for anything I have just described; no human being ever could. It was all God, plain and simple. I realize this now.

God was with me during my deployments just as he was with me at every other stage of my life. His Son Jesus was knocking on the door of my heart; all I needed to do was answer it. While onboard the USS MANCHESTER, I became much better at driving a ship than I ever thought possible. It wasn't easy, but I overcame my shame and initial fear of failure.

Now more than ever, I have realized that I'm still not enough, and that's okay because Jesus is.


In modern society, the concept of "self-love" is frequently mentioned. People often discuss their experiences with shame and the pain it brings. I understand this well. Shame can be overwhelming, making us feel like we are being dragged to the depths of a deep lake, unable to break the surface.

However, the idea that "self-love" is a necessary milestone for living a prosperous, shame-free life can be destructive and misleading.

The phrases "Live your truth," "Tell your truth," "Trust in yourself," and "Learn to love yourself so that you can love others" are becoming increasingly common. I used to find this advice appealing when reading self-help books during various stages of my life. However, I have realized that the actual truth is far more profound and beautiful than these simple statements suggest.


I am not enough, you are not enough, the people in our favorite movies and shows are not enough, our friends are not enough, our family isn't even enough, nor are those who fight in wars or cure illnesses, and neither are the impoverished nor oppressed.

No one on this earth is enough because only Jesus is enough. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Sent by God, His Heavenly Father, to cover our sins. The only reason we have the ability or capacity to love anything or anyone in this world is because God first loved us. He is the original lover, and mankind is the original sinner.

"We love because He first loved us." - 1 John 4:19

He loves us so much that he has spent thousands of years pursuing mankind so that He may deliver us from suffering, pain, and evil. He loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, who was perfect in every way, to die as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind.

We are all born into brokenness and need a savior to rescue us from the bad things that only humans can cause in this world. Jesus is that savior. He willingly and lovingly gave His life for humanity. This perfect man, who was without sin, died a death that all of us deserve because we were born with hardened hearts and a readiness to sin against one another.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:4-9


Pride ultimately connects all of these vignettes that I have just shared from my life.

Pride is "a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired."

Through God's grace, I have learned from my mistakes. We should all be cautious of pride, as it is one of the seven deadly sins and leads to a mindset that seeks admiration and idolization for one's own self. This world is meant for Jesus, not for us to be glorified.

Jesus desires a relationship with us because nothing else in this world is sufficient. He is the only path to attain the salvation we seek.

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6


We are all inadequate in God's world because we are flawed sinners in need of a savior, and that's why we are not enough. Jesus's sacrifice for us was more than sufficient. We were born incomplete. When man insisted he was enough, the world fell as it did. When we turn away from God, destruction follows, not vice versa.

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." - Romans 5:12

Jesus, through God's mercy, wisdom, and grace, paid the price of sin in full. Without Jesus, we are woefully insufficient, but our hearts become whole with Him.

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." - Romans 5:10


Born and raised as a Christian, Jesus has always been knocking on the door of my heart. But it took me nearly three decades to truly appreciate God's genius and design for a spiritually prosperous life. Once I answered the door and began to let go of my pride, I realized how God could use me for all sorts of things. I'm just like all of you - broken, imperfect, and born with a readiness to sin. However, being insufficient in God's world doesn't mean that all hope is lost, because Jesus is always more than enough.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5



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