Sometimes it’s good to say a title out loud. It’s good to say any number of things out loud.
We spend so much time keeping a plethora of misshapen, silent things roiling around in the grey landscapes of our brains.
But saying things aloud ensures that certain topics occupy space in front of our eyes, wherein examining them occurs without the self-destructive inner mechanisms our psyches keep so well-oiled.
Read the title of this piece aloud.
Does the sound and feel of each word make you uneasy or defensive?
Is there something you don’t want to face because you think that, in some way, you are not enough?
That feeling? That’s where our first inkling of worthlessness crept in long ago: the feeling that we weren’t strong enough or smart enough or attractive enough or spiritual enough or loving enough or anything enough to even face turning a wrong into a right.
A feeling of weakness, of incompleteness, of wasted potential.
What Use Are You?
What use is anyone to themselves if they can’t love, find their true calling, or simply be happy and helpful to others?
That’s a daunting question, certainly one that needs an audible solution.
We’re told in a hundred different, damaging ways that we must be forever in transit, constantly moving toward something; we must be productive, we must be of use to someone, somehow, somewhere.
It’s rare, however, that we’re actually allowed to turn that notion inward towards being of use to ourselves.
Selfishness gets a bad reputation these days, but let’s concentrate here not with the inane, petty selfishness of holding onto possessions as tightly as possible, but the selfishness of actual “self.”
We may not feel that we deserve to sit in silence on a work day, but what’s more productive: a few moments of soul work? Or meeting goals established by someone else in the hope that it will be reflected in a paycheck?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with first and foremost being of use to yourself.
We stand before the universe as a sieve: that which goes into us comes out of us.
Worthy Of Love
Perhaps the longest-lasting and most pervasive feeling of worthlessness comes from feeling that we’re somehow unloveable, which at times is true: sometimes we aren’t very loveable people.
But that’s a whole different animal from feeling we aren’t worthy of love.
This is often a life thread that leads back to our parents (or other authority figures in our formative years).
Yes, everyone says, “Blame the parents!” but we’ve no interest in blaming: we’re here for analysis. Parents are excellent at making the smaller beings we start out as remain the inner children guiding our later lives.
Feeling unworthy of love is a way of punishing ourselves after giving of ourselves to a parent only to be rebuffed. It’s a crushing disappointment that says the fault must be in us, otherwise surely they would have responded as hoped.
The inner child quickly begins to think it’s not worthy of love.
The truth is (a) we’re all worthy of love, (b) none of us truly knows how to handle it, and (c) the only time you’re unworthy is when you spend a lifetime practicing being unworthy.
Take time to really connect with and talk to your inner child, find out why the wee one is in pain, and see what the two of you can do to make self-love be a priority.
Worthy Of Prosperity
There’s a notion that some of us are born to prosper, while others will never catch a break. And often the distinction is a nebulous, ill-defined word called “focus.”
From the moment we toddle upright, we’re told to set a course. “Oh, she’ll be an engineer” at the one stacking blocks. “He’s destined for the drums” to the one banging pots and pans.
Yet, even though the course changes a million times before puberty sets in, somehow “focus” is the key, bringing with it the underlying dictum that you have an innate direction or purpose that you have to fulfill, or your life will be a complete failure.
Thing is, absolutely no one else has any idea what that direction is for you. No. Bloody. One.
All those voices telling you who and where you need to be? They’re just as lost. Even worse, they’re directionless.
There’s no set, destined path that we can truly be aware of without being considered insane. At best we’re all constantly chasing “something” only to find it’s not there.
Are you worthy of a great career, financial prosperity, and the respect of peers? Without a doubt.
Life goals, career goals, they’re great… as long as one refrains from making one’s entire sense of identity contingent upon reaching them.
You can be a writer who’s never written a book; a lawyer who derives a delirious amount of joy from vertical gardening; you can be a healer whose only contribution to the wider welfare of humanity is a weekend spent as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
When you want to be a writer, a gardener, or a healer, you will be. It’s that simple.
Even better? Despite the usual panicked warnings from our psychotic media, there is time to be who you are, and do what you want to do.
Okay, so it’s one thing to state rationally that you are worthy, but how do you actually convince yourself that this is true?
Here are some habits that it’s worth adopting that will persuade you of your self-worth.
It’s worth noting that change will not happen overnight; you have to keep returning to these things until they become second nature.
Flip The Script
First, know that Automatic Negative Thoughts that cause a sense of worthlessness hit everybody, and they don’t make you weak or unworthy of your desires.
Actually, acknowledging them puts you in a stronger position to deal with them, because too often negative self-talk becomes the only actor inside our heads with a speaking part, and it often speaks in absolutes.
“Always,” “forever,” and “every time” are not your friends.
One thing about feeling worthless is we never really have the right response when the absolutes rear their ugly heads.
Actively tell yourself the good you do, the accomplishments you feel proud of, and how none of those are isolated occurrences.
Turn automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) into automatic radiant thought: gently, with self compassion, as though nurturing that inner child.
A side effect of feeling worthless is constantly flinging oneself at the future: I’ll never be a Pulitzer winner.
Really? That’s the javelin you’re going with? How about dial it back and focus on what you’re doing right now. Are you writing? Is it going well? Excellent!
Are you on the midnight shift in a parking booth? Have you made a mental game to keep yourself sharp and occupied for the duration of the shift? Good. You are alive right now.
Stop flinging yourself at the future.
No matter how worthless we might feel, there are always things that inspire us.
We might need to dig for a while to get to where the light can enter, but there are undeniable moments of connection, joy, and reverence that remind us how wonderful we find life when we actually allow ourselves to see it.
Be inspired by the billion gifts of ART (automatic radiance) around you.
Don’t Measure Your Accomplishments Against Others
“Worthless” automatically means you’re measuring yourself against someone, vaguely or directly.
Less than whom? Again, questions need answers, and if your questions don’t stand up to scrutiny, label them as automatic negative thoughts and adapt to their presence until they wither away.
Very few comedians are as quick at improvising as Robin Williams was, yet people continue to attempt comedy.
Very few scholars hold a candle to James Baldwin, yet thinkers continue to expound.
There is nothing anyone is doing that you shouldn’t be doing as well if you’re inclined to put in the work.
If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, it might as well be Batman, because he’s unreal and so is the assessment of how you stack up against others.
See how that weight just falls off?
You feel worthless because you feel stalled and stagnant, so get moving.
Exercising the mind and the body is instrumental to enjoying the vehicle your spirit gets to tool around in for eighty-to-ninety years or so.
Feelings of ownership and vitality are crucial components of feeling WORTHFUL. Full of worth.
Yes you are.
You are a universe with legs. There is so much potential swirling around inside you, it boggles the imagination. Literally everything there is for a human to do is available to you: not easily, perhaps, and admittedly not always successfully, but do move toward it.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.