I used to think that worthiness was something people just “got” at some point in their lives. You know, once one makes the million billion dollars and crosses off the important things from one’s bucket list. Then, almost miraculously, one will feel worthy and live happily ever after.
And yet, even after major milestones, after I was featured in big publications and had my name splattered across the TV, I didn’t feel any more confident in my inherent belonging. I didn’t feel less of a fraud. In fact, in some cases I felt even more.
I found the same with my clients. High achieving women ranging from ages 30 to 50 who’ve overcome life changing obstacles, accomplished astounding things and ultimately gotten everything they’ve wanted, come to me feeling like something is missing.
That thing is what I now call the worthiness wound and exploring what it is, how we got it, and how we can begin to heal it has been my mission for the past few years.
The other day, purely out of curiosity, I searched for how to overcome unworthiness on google and I was inundated with, to put bluntly, bad advice.
So I wanted to break down the big three for you here, in hopes to deepen your understanding of how to navigate this space within us.
1. Worthiness comes with the right mindset
If you repeat the mantra “I am worthy” enough times, you’ll start to feel worthy and then boom! You never feel unworthy again.
Or so the theory goes.
In practice, not so much.
The fact is, I have yet to see mindset work offer any real permanent changes to women’s feelings of unworthiness.
Yes our thoughts are powerful, but contrary to popular self-development beliefs, it is our unconscious mind that plays the greatest role in our lives, and specifically in our decision making. We are simply not as aware of our internalized beliefs as we think we are, at least, not until we start making the unconscious conscious.
In some ways, our unconscious processes are extremely helpful; not having to re-learn what a table is every time we see one is a time saver for obvious reasons. But in other ways, it creates a lack of freedom in our lives as we run the same patterns and self-sabotaging behavior over and over and over again.
Mindset work has a time and a place. Done properly, it can offer us tools to begin to observe and understand our inner voice. Done excessively or exclusively, it can lead to further self-safe and debilitating inner-critic paralysis.
In a patriarchal culture that places our intellect on a pedestal, the answer to our liberation lies not in the head but in the body. Not only is the body the gateway to our unconscious mind, but it also offers us an array of knowledge and systems that teaches us belonging and presence.
Reclaiming our body is the work of radical empowerment.
If you want to know more about the limitations of mindset work, you can check out my latest post on it here.
2. Feeling unworthy is counter productive
This idea is meant to inspire you, I guess, because if you understand that feeling unworthy won’t get you to produce anything… then… you won’t do it?
There are two main problems with statements like these. One is that it implies that feeling unworthy is a choice that you are consciously making. If there’s any confusion here, see above. And two, it’s basically saying that if you’re feeling something that is not going to help you be productive, then it doesn’t have any inherent value.
Cathy* came to me feeling exhausted and burned out. She worked hard her entire life and measured her success carefully based on how much money she made and how many accolades she collected. Her internal landscape was also carefully curated to only allow in the emotions and attitudes that would keep her focused and consistent. She was the model citizen. And she was miserable. After a few gentle months of exploratory work, she began to understand in her body that by cutting out certain emotions that she deemed counter productive, she was also liming her ability to experience joy.
When we cut off parts of ourselves, we cut off our life line. We cut off our worthiness. To some degree, all women have had to self-abandon and depart from their true selves in order to navigate childhood. This survival mechanism, while protecting us when we are young, is now keeping us feeling stuck. Now, as adults, this is our invitation to bring back the parts of us we left behind. This is the work of the worthy woman.
In a world that expects us to offer up every part of our selves over to capitalism, deeply feeling, processing, tending and loving up on the parts of us that feel unworthy is the greatest act of self-love. It opens us up to the depth of our wisdom and an unshakeable safety. It helps us create a new structure of well-being, where we can be our authentically alive selves that supports all of who we are. And it allows us to belong.
*Name changed for privacy.
3. The more power you give your unworthiness, the more havoc it can cause
The sentiment underneath this phrase is something along the lines of, “what you focus on grows.” Giving power, attention, focus to the worthiness wound will only make it grow.
Given that we aren’t taught how to navigate negative emotions and experiences, it follows that we have a natural fear towards what we don’t understand.
However, we don’t have to look far for us to see how belief is erroneous. What would happen if we ignore a gash on our leg? Would it disappear? Or it would it grow? And how much more powerful would you feel if you ignored it versus taking care of it?
There is of course a fear that if we "give in" to our unworthiness, we will wallow there forever. What I have found instead is that when we have the right tools for inner exploration, wallowing melts itself into curiosity and incubation, the space necessary for transformation and growth.
Looking at and tending to our unworthiness is part of the journey of stepping into the center of our lives. Because there is simply nothing more potent than being the fully realized you. You see, this work is not just about feeling good or looking a certain way. It’s about searching for truth simply because it is your truth, it’s about experiencing what is real. And that realness includes all experiences of being human, it includes worthiness and unworthiness.
No matter how many books you’ve read, programs you’ve participated in, or workshops you’ve attended, if you have not began the journey of exploring the parts of yourself that have been in the shadows, your healing and empowerment will be incomplete. This work is the foundation, without it nothing lasting can take shape.
To survive, to fit in, to be liked, we had to dim our light and stuff down our dreams, desires, creativity, talents and more. Now, it’s time to go beyond surviving, it’s time to thrive.
As we create a new relationship with ourselves and our unworthiness, we start to create a new world for ourselves. This is the greatest adventure we can be on. And I will join you there.
To your worth,