• Pernille Skovfoged Jensen
  • Sule Hilal Seker
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
The present thesis’ purpose is to shed light on the feeling of inadequacy among high school students by examining what the feeling entails and what factors have an impact on the feeling. The study is based on a hermeneutic-phenomenological point of view, and on a qualitative method using the qualitative semi-structured lifeworld interview of four students for the collection of empirical data. This has made it possible to capture the informants’ perspectives on and experiences with the feeling of inadequacy. Using the interpretative phenomenological analysis we identified the overall themes in the interview transcripts which could be further divided into three main themes: 1) The definition of and experience with inadequacy, 2) Relational aspects of the feeling of inadequacy, and 3) Navigating and managing the feeling of inadequacy. Overall, the empirical data indicates the fact that the feeling of inadequacy is viewed as an inner experience that could be exacerbated by external circumstances, such as the demands and expectations of others, the high school and society in general. Furthermore, there turned out to be different ways in which the student tried to deal with the feeling of inadequacy.
In order to unfold important dynamics in the understanding of inadequacy we incorporated selected theories. Alfred Adler's individual psychology points to the students’ feeling of inadequacy as a basic human condition. Arlie Hochschild's sociology of emotions deepens our understanding of how the students' feeling of inadequacy is related to feeling rules of high school and youth culture. Furthermore, Christian Hjortkjær’s critical social interpretation points out the fact that the feeling of inadequacy is so dominant today due to the experience that we, as individuals, are not able to live up to today's society's somewhat diffuse ideal of being sufficiently outstanding. Based on Zygmunt Bauman’s critical social interpretation of fluid modernity it can be seen how young people constantly and infinitely seek to become good enough but as society is characterized by constant change this becomes an addiction and a goal which can never be achieved which inevitably leads to feelings of inadequacy. Finally, based on Richard Lazarus’ phenomenological theory of stress and coping it can be seen how stress and the feeling of inadequacy can be understood as a circular and interrelated connection where coping strategies are used as a way in which young people try to deal with the feeling of inadequacy. And last but not least, based on Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, the bodily sensations the informants experience in connection with the feeling of inadequacy can be understood as a mediator between the world and their consciousness.
Based on our empirical data and the theoretical interpretations we came to the conclusion that the feeling of inadequacy involves 1) inner, personal aspects, 2) social and cultural factors, and 3) societal tendencies and dynamics. We find these interrelated, where these various factors interplay forms the groundwork for and reinforces the feeling of inadequacy. Furthermore, we have argued the fact that the feeling of inadequacy can be understood as a key concept to view and understand other related phenomena in psychology such as self-confidence, self-esteem and stress and their connection to the feeling of inadequacy. We argue the fact that stress and inadequacy can be understood as a circular movement which in the long run can lead to lack of self-confidence and inferiority.
In summary, this study contributes by shedding light on a limitation in the use of the concept of inadequacy and on the understanding that exists of the concept. The present thesis contributes with an understanding which clarifies an interrelated connection between the individual, institutional and societal level which creates the starting point for the feeling of inadequacy to arise. In this way we present a new and relational understanding of inadequacy.
Based on this, we find the institutional level is the easiest, most practical and realistic place to start making implementations. It is considered that in the work of student well-being in practice the focus should be on what high schools in general can do to help reduce the feeling of inadequacy among high school students.
Publication date30 May 2022
Number of pages108
ID: 471620422