This post is part of the Kemetic Round Table, which aims to answer some of the most common questions and provide a wealth of diverse options for the Kemetic novice to explore.
Every Kemetic can feel inadequate at times; how do you handle those feelings in your own practice?
An excellent question, and one that cuts close to home. I can be… territorial, shall we say, and along with that sense of territory is a sense of what can threaten that territory. Anyone I perceive as “bigger” (more knowledgable, more skilled, more experienced, more authoritative) can trigger an internal alarm that lets me know that what’s mine may be contested by this “bigger” entity… and, in fact, I could outright lose a showdown if one occurred.
I typically experience one of two instinctive reactions to this feeling: avoidance (if no one knows what I have, they can’t take it!) or defensiveness (it’s mine, I’ll fight for it!). Neither are particularly helpful, but my third intellectual response, which employs logic and reason and reminds my toothy animal brain that people are not actually trying to steal my shit, can only balance out the knee-jerk emotions—it can’t fully override. So I wind up in this sort of frozen state, where I consciously realize what’s going on but can’t fully win out against instinct; my emotions are flailing all over the place, beneath a thin veneer of calm.
In a word, I am graceless at handling feelings of inadequacy, even if I manage to keep myself from loosing them full-force on unsuspecting passersby.
However, having such a powerful response to the imagined threat of superior force has given me ample opportunity to practice coping. There are some tried-and-true techniques that will help, even when I’m neck-deep in emotional flail:
Step away. If I’m not going to be able to handle a situation gracefully, I’ll remove myself from it, and preferably before my internal state gets too woogity.
Once I’ve stepped away, I can distract myself. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and “out-competed,” to prevent myself from going into that downward spiral of flail, I’ll change activities, locations, or trains of thought. To give a more solid example, if I’ve been looking at too much amazing art and feeling wholly inferior about my own paintings, I’ll go read a book or pick up the guitar, rather than stay on the topic of art.
Sometimes, however, I don’t want to switch topics, so after I step away, I can do it alone. If I know I’m going to get daunted if I’m exposed to too much awesomeness from other people, I’ll go do my own thing alone, outside the realm of influence of anyone else, and once it’s done, then come back and rejoin my community. A great example of this was the last KRT post; I was a few days late in writing mine, and instead of reading everyone else’s first and despairing that I could not possibly add anything of value to the conversation, I wrote mine and published it before I read anyone else’s. I might still feel inadequate after overexposure to sheer awesomeness, but at least those emotions won’t stop me from gettin’ shit done.
In almost all of these cases, part of my coping methods is self-talk. I will frequently (and usually skillfully) be able to talk myself down from most emotional peaks with enough time and quiet enough surroundings. Just as one might coax a balking horse or fearful dog into a state of greater calmness and compliance, I coax my own reactive self into a slightly more chilled-out, reasonable state. (If you’re wholly unfamiliar with the concept of self-talk, I recommend checking out What to Say When you Talk To Yourself. There’s an enormous psychological basis for self-talk being ridiculously effective.)
Because the biggest problem with feeling inadequate—in general, but especially as a Kemetic—is that it’s a lie. No one is a “better” or “worse” Kemetic. There are certainly ways in which we as individuals can change our practices to fit our own internal standards, but that’s a personal thing, not a black-and-white thing. If I don’t do a daily rite, I am not a worse Kemetic than someone who does. Having an awful lot of books on Egyptology does not make me a better Kemetic than someone who has two—or none. There is no comparison; there is no competition. And, quite frankly, if you’re in a place where there is a lot of Kemetickier-than-thou going on, you might want to seek more peaceable pastures elsewhere. No one has a right to judge others on their worth or success as Kemetics.
We’re all wonderful, fallible people. Just because we sometimes feel inadequate does not at all change the contributions that each of us bring to the world and to our faith and to our community. Feeling inferior doesn’t make us inferior, and even when we’re immersed in the flaily emotions, we are still ourselves—still Kemetics of worth and value.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other takes on how to deal with feelings of inadequacy by my fellow Round Table bloggers!