Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

“Who, Me?” Overcoming the Fear of Inadequacy

  • Grace Fox Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 26, 2010
“Who, Me?” Overcoming the Fear of Inadequacy


Soon after our family began attending a particular church, the pastor's wife asked me to play piano for the worship team. My heart nearly stopped. As much as I'd yearned for an invitation, I'd not told anyone that I could play an instrument. We'd just returned from living in Nepal for three years, during which time I'd had no access to a piano. I felt my musical skills were too rusty to contribute anything of value.

"I…uh…I'll think about it," I stammered. That's when I noticed my husband's guilty expression.

"Why did you tell her?" I asked when we were alone.

"Because it's time you face your fear," he said. "Say yes. You'll enjoy yourself, and you'll be a good addition to the team."

Face your fear. I hated to admit it, but he was right. I was afraid - afraid I wasn't capable of doing a good job. Afraid of making mistakes. Afraid of what others might think of me when I did. I longed to say yes, but the fear of inadequacy held me captive.

A Common Issue

Fear is rampant. We're afraid for our kids' well-being. We panic when life's storms strike. The economy scares us, and revealing our hidden past terrifies us. And then there's the fear of inadequacy. Even Moses can relate.

When God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, his first response was, "But who am I to appear before Pharaoh? How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11)

We see Moses' response and ask, "Didn't he understand God's power? Didn't he believe that God would equip him for the task?"

Apparently he didn't. Rather than say yes to God, Moses hid behind excuses. "The people won't believe me…I'm not a good public speaker…I'm clumsy with words." He answered God's invitation to holy adventure with, "Please - send someone else!" (4:13).

I can relate to Moses. Judging by the number of women who tell me of their struggles, I know I'm not alone. Where, then, does this all-too-common fear find its roots? Author Sharon Jaynes suggests that it begins in early childhood when some of us receive direct and indirect negative messages about ourselves from parents, teachers, and other significant people. These messages are subconsciously programmed into our brains and form a filter through which all information we receive passes. A false filter leaves us with an untrue, negative self-perception that causes us to believe we're unloved and incapable.

Comparing ourselves to others fuels this fear. We measure ourselves against another's abilities or appearance and feel inferior, so why put ourselves in a position that might confirm those feelings?   

The fear of making a mistake or of failing also plays a negative role. We want others to think well of us, not regard us as clumsy or incapable. The possibility of losing others' respect hinders us from expressing our opinions, learning new skills, and honing our abilities.

The fear of inadequacy carries the power to paralyze, but we can move beyond it to embrace life fully as God intends. How is that possible? 

The Remedy

Overcoming the fear of inadequacy requires changing our thinking patterns. Occasionally God nudges us to do something far beyond our comfort zone - teach a Bible study, write a book, go on a short-term missions trip, or provide foster care, for instance. Our natural tendency might be to think, Who, me? I can't do that!

The truth is, God often invites us to do things far beyond our natural capabilities so we can grow in our understanding of His character. We find courage to say yes by filling our minds with His truth: "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need" (Philippians 4:13).

Admitting our fear is another step toward freedom. The Old Testament tells the story of King Jehoshaphat feeling afraid as war approached. He admitted his feelings and dependency upon God: "We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help" (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Jehoshaphat humbled himself before God by admitting his dependence upon Him. But he didn't stop there. He took another important step by moving into battle despite those fears. And what happened? God honored him for trusting Him. He experienced God's strength at work on his behalf.

Changing thinking patterns, admitting fear, and moving forward despite that fear is the key to freedom. It worked for me when the pastor's wife asked me to join the worship team. And it's proven the key to freedom many times since.

What new opportunities lay before you? What dreams lay hidden in your heart? Don't let the fear of inadequacy hinder you from fulfilling God's purpose for your life. Take courage, move forward, and watch as fear takes flight.

Grace Fox lives in Abbotsford, B.C. She's a popular speaker and the author of four books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman's Guide to Peace in Every Situation (Harvest House). She and her husband are the national directors for International Messengers Canada, a ministry that offers short-term and career opportunities in Eastern Europe. www.gracefox.com