I have struggled with worthlessness for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I believed I only had worth if I got good marks, was packed and ready to go on time, if I did the dishes and looked pretty. I used every external marker to give myself worth. If I got a B or was late, I felt terrible. My breath would get fast, my chest would get tight and I would beat myself up.
And now, as an adult, I still fall into these patterns. I rush to the meeting, obsess over my work and beat myself up if I notice a stain on my clothes or if I forget a small detail.
And the thing about worthlessness, is I often don’t realize how it’s influencing my decisions and controlling my life.
A recent example is I have been worried about money. In 2016, I went down to working 4 days a week, moved into my own apartment and went back to school part time.
All of these changes add value to my life but also consistently lower the amount of money I have in the bank. I had to borrow a small amount of money from my dad recently and am scared that it might become a pattern.
Will I be able to provide for myself? Will I end up with a big pile of debt after four years of school? How will I dig myself out?
I’d been thinking about these questions all week, so in my therapy session, I brought it up. My whole body tensed subtly when I said the word money. My therapist asked, “What is about money that makes you feel tense? That scares you?”
As we talk, I start to realize I feel like I shouldn’t borrow money and if I do I should pay it back quickly. I feel like if I don’t keep it together financially, I have failed and am worthless.
I have an image that to be a responsible adult, I need to be putting money away for retirement and anything less than that is a failure.
I feel the pain of worthlessness and begin to cry. I cry for my childhood, for the little girl who worked so hard in order to be perfect. And I also cry for myself now, for the hours I’ve spent beating myself up.
I start to see that my beliefs about finances aren’t necessarily true. Maybe investing in myself and adding value to my life are worth accruing a little bit of debt over. I am building a small life coaching business that will likely turn a profit soon. Maybe I can let myself not be perfect and see what happens.
Overcoming worthlessness looks like taking the small risks that I’ve been terrified of for years and then making notes afterwards. If I go into a little bit of debt, will the world fall apart? If I am five minutes late for the meeting, will my colleagues reject me? If my hair is not perfect, will I never be loved?
I test these questions in my mind and see that I have been running myself crazy. These untested beliefs are the ways we build our own prisons.
The prisons are not made of brick and steel, but by our own minds. They are the way we keep ourselves small and keep ourselves trapped.
The gift is that since we created them, we can open up our cell door ourselves. It was never locked after all. We can take a small risk and take notes.
And as we take more risks, we walk to a new level of freedom.
So join me in overcoming worthlessness: Take a small risk and take notes. Let me know how it goes.
We can be our own heros. We can set ourselves free.
Have a great weekend!