How are you doing with recognizing your own self worth? Answer these quick questions to help determine if you struggle with feeling unworthy.
1. When something exciting happens in your life (a promotion, a new relationship, meeting a fitness goal), do you ever feel like someone else deserved it more?
2. If someone is handing out a freebie you really want at an event, do you speak up and ask for it? Or do you stay quiet because someone else probably needs it more?
- Speak up
- Stay quiet
3. It’s your birthday and someone gave you a really thoughtful gift, how do you respond?
- Wow, thank you!
- You really shouldn’t have.
- Um, this is the wrong color!
If you answered mainly Bs, you might have an underlying tendency towards feeling unworthy. How do I know? Because those would be answer I chose before putting in some work on that. In my mind I like to call it getting stuck in the Cave of Unworthiness. I’m not sure if I read that somewhere or made it up myself, but either way I really want to help you get out of the cave!
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
It’s dark in there!
Unworthiness tells us that we are somehow less deserving of things than other people. And we’re talking about abstract things like love, attention, happiness, as well as concrete things like food, comfort, sleep. When a friend says, “I’m never gonna find love, I’m just not cut out for it” what she is really saying is, “I’m worried that I’m intrinsically not worthy of being in a fulfilling relationship.”
Or if your other friend said, “I didn’t run yesterday, so I don’t deserve to eat lunch today,” he’s communicating, “I’m not worthy of a normal eating schedule just based on owning a body.” Drawing these conclusions pulls us deeper and deeper into the Cave of Unworthiness until we can’t even see the sunlight at the opening.
From time to time I think we’re all going to have moments where we feel less than adequate. Yet the way we respond internally makes a huge difference. When I’m stuck in the Cave of Unworthiness and I make a mistake, I feel that so keenly as a pronouncement of who I am. I am a screw up. Who am I to think I could succeed? Someone outside the Cave, experiencing the same set back, would probably think, “Welp, that didn’t work. Let’s try something else.” See the huge difference between the two attitudes?
Feeling unworthy can creep in unnoticed
One of my absolute favorite shows on Netflix is Queer Eye (the reboot, I’ve never seen the original so I can’t vouch for it). I love watching the Fab 5 swoop in and change the life of a deserving person. Season after season, so many of their heroes are carrying around these feelings of unworthiness.
These men and women have no energy, time, or inclination to take care of themselves after looking out for everyone else. Sometimes it manifests as personal hygiene struggles. Other times, as ignoring health or fitness needs. It also shows up as living in an messy space.
In fact, feeling like you don’t deserve to spend money or time on self care can contribute to this spiral down in the Cave. As the Fab 5 shows them what some self love feels like with a little trip to the salon or putting on clothes that fit well, the hero starts to feel human again. They realize they do deserve these things. They even learn to speak up for themselves and show their new found self worth.
Negative influences can leave you feeling unworthy
Take stock of relationships in your life too. Is there someone who you let speak negativity into your soul? Have you allowed someone the power to push you into this Cave? Sometimes it happens subtly, until before you know it, you’re stuck in the dark. I absolutely have given over my self worth to the care of unloving people before. Think about if they respect your opinion or brush your ideas aside. Without proper boundaries, this can really take a toll and leave you feeling unworthy.
There aren’t levels of “deserving”
And that’s the thing: we all deserve to feel loved, happy, fulfilled. Of course you want to provide that to those you care about. But you know who needs to be highest on that list? You. One hundred percent, no doubt about it, you have to come first. At the end of the day, you are responsible for the person who you become. Not your spouse, not your mom, Y.O.U.
They don’t deserve it more than you. You are not called upon to pour yourself out to satisfy anybody. But this work has to come from within.
Until you see your own self worth, it will be hidden from many others as well.
First steps out of the Cave are always the hardest
First I want you to forgive yourself for letting yourself down. Yes, literally say, “I’m sorry for letting you down [your name], for not always taking care of you emotionally/physically because I didn’t think you were worth it. Thank you for always being there, I’m going to treat you better from now on.” If you can look in the mirror and say that, even better. In all honesty, I had to work up to being able to look at myself while I said it.
Feel that warmth of self compassion? You aren’t bad or broken or awful for feeling unworthy. In fact, it’s possible your motives were noble, but they didn’t get you were you thought they would. As you forgive yourself, also say, “I am worthy of love. I am worthy of taking up space. I am worthy of existing and belonging.” (Does this sound like positive affirmations? Yes, yes it does! Consider adding an affirmation based on worthiness to add to your daily practice if it’s something you are working on).
You are worthy. Totally and Completely Worthy!
Did you say it? That’s huge. HUGE! How did it feel? If it’s not time to be able to say that yet, keep working on it. Feel curious about how it would feel to vocalize and believe it. My chiropractor was the first person who introduced this idea to me, and I literally couldn’t choke out the words at that point in my journey. No pressure, no stress. Keep practicing, start small, and don’t give up.
Changing this attitude, this internal conversation, has the power to change your life. Gosh, that sounded so cliche but I am completely serious right now. Once you believe you deserve a life you love, your Cave of Unworthiness will explode into a million pieces, leaving you bathed in the light of day. I challenge you to take that first step out of the dark today. You’ve got this!