Written by Nate Terrell, LCSW
Author of Achieving Self-Compassion: Giving Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Inner Peace
If you do not feel worthwhile, you may suffer from depression, torment yourself with self-criticism and/or lack the confidence you need to get where you want to in your life.
You may feel unworthy because:
1) Your parents or caretakers treated you as if you were not lovable during your formative years
As a result, you may have developed the perception that something was wrong with you, failing to realize that the uncaring treatment you received was caused by your parent’s unhappiness, emotional limitations, etc. rather than your unworthiness.
2) You do not measure up to the expectations that you or others have regarding your physical appearance, professional success, economic status and so on;
You may mistakenly believe that you need to “earn” your worth by meeting these expectations and that feeling unworthy will somehow propel you to become the person you want to be.
3) You constantly compare yourself negatively to others;
There will always be people who are more talented, accomplished, wealthier, better looking, etc. than each one of us. When we compare ourselves to them, we are left feeling inadequate and unworthy.
4) You are afraid to give yourself the gift of self-worth because you fear it will cause you to be self-centered.
I assure you – there is nothing self-centered or selfish about knowing we are inherently worthwhile. In fact, people who feel worthy and whole within themselves have no need to be self-centered and can instead turn their energies to caring for others.
However, I have great news: we are all worthy and this includes you!
This conviction is based on my Quaker belief that every human being has value and an “inner light” which can never be extinguished. This light is the source of our best qualities, such as kindness and goodwill. It also helps us maintain our spirit and find our way during difficult times.
When I work with clients who suffer from low self-worth and the unhappiness it creates, I look them directly in their eyes and tell them flat out:
“You are inherently worthy and lovable, regardless of how others have treated you, your imperfections or the mistakes you have made.”
I will always remember the response I received when I said this to a young women who had lived her entire life under what she described as a “black cloud” of depression and low self-worth. She looked at me intently as tears rolled down her cheek and whispered with a look of hope and possibility, “I want to believe it.”
“Try on Worthiness”
I then encourage my clients to “try on” the belief that they are worthwhile until we meet again.
Although they rarely come into our next session bursting with self-love, my clients almost always report they have enjoyed at least some relief from their unhappiness. It’s as if they have been sitting in a dark room all their lives and their budding self-worth has cracked open the door, letting in a highly welcome sliver of light. Our work then turns to how they can open this door wider through more effective self-care.
If you do not feel worthy, I hope you will also “try on” self-worth to see how well it fits. You can then build on the increased well-being and inner peace you will experience by:
- Talking to yourself in a kind and caring manner,
- Eliminating your inner critic
- Showering yourself with self-acceptance and hopefully even self-love
- Appreciating your good qualities
- Taking great care of yourself
- Forgiving yourself for your past mistakes
- Eliminating guilt and shame
- Ending toxic relationships
- Always treating yourself with self-compassion
If you have been haunted by low self-worth throughout your life, it is likely that it will take the persistent practice of these and other self-help strategies to feel good about yourself.
However, as you replace the shackles of inadequacy with an abiding sense of self-worth, you will experience a lightness of spirit that spreads through your entire being, bathing you in happiness and serenity. You will also have a burst of new energy to overcome the challenges you face and grow into your best self.
Finally, you will be filled with an abundance of goodwill that you can pass on to others, thereby helping to create a better world!