There are a million complicated reasons that created our unhappiness in life. Yet if you do a breakdown and trace them all the way to the root cause, you will realise that they all come down to one singular denominator - feeling unworthy.
In a nutshell, the emotion of unworthiness is the feeling that one is not good enough and hence undeserving of anything good, great or happy.
Unworthiness can further branch out into more self-critical beliefs such as worthlessness (feeling unimportant, of no value and purpose), lack of self-esteem (feeling doubtful of one's ability), self-judgement (the constant obsession to measure oneself) and a long list of self-blame, self-guilt, self-shame and more.
I have been trapped in this unworthy mind for a large part of my life and as I began to awaken from this self-entrapment, I began to see the deceptive innerwork of this toxic emotion.
In this blog, I am going to share with you the source of unworthiness, why it makes us so unhappy and how you can break away from this unhealthy emotional pattern.
If you are unsure whether you are feeling unworthiness, here are some signs you can check-in on yourself:
You are afraid to speak your mind. The worry of how you might be embarrassed for saying something wrong overshadows the potential joy of being recognised. Hence, you often choose to keep quiet to play safe
You tend to work very hard to please others and gain acceptance but usually you do not feel appreciated in return
You often feel unwanted and unimportant especially when it comes to both love relationship and in the workplace. You often feel yourself as an outsider or low-priority person that has to fight very hard to receive love and attention
You always have many logical reasons to dissuade yourself from pursuing your dream and doing what you would love despite the obvious fact that you will be so happy going with the choice
You are easily triggered by negative remarks with regards to your behaviour, your appearance, your performance and achievements. It is hard for you to control your emotional triggers and you often end up dwelling on it over long period of time
You tend to feed on the notion of sacrificing yourself voluntarily as a way to "feel" your existence and to numb the pain inside your heart
You fall sick easily and has been dealing with all kinds of physical/mental ailments in your life, some of which have turned chronic. However, instead of active healing and self-care, you tend to just live with them in surrender mode
The emotion of unworthiness can disguise itself in many forms in our regular lives, above are just some examples. If any of these living signs ring a bell, I hope the information and insights you are about to receive in this article can awaken your heart and bring back self-empowerment into your life.
WHERE DO OUR SENSE OF UNWORTHINESS COME FROM?
Where do our pain of unworthiness come from? I looked at newborn infants, I observed the life of plants and animals, it seemed obvious to me that they were never bothered by self-worth.
At least I had never seen a baby getting depressed because her eyes are not big enough. And the Nat Geo had never filmed a low self-esteem leopard that thinks he did not sprint fast enough. Even the roses do not become angry poisonous flowers because of beauty competition.
The only significant difference I can spot between us and them, is the presence of HUMAN EGO.
Where ego exists, there is always the desire to compare. Ego cannot feel good by itself in isolation but only when there is a visible and accessible competitor. It is only through this cross-measurement, that the ego is able to find its own existential value.
However, the ego cannot be satisfied easily as there is always someone and something that comes up with a new bar to hit.
With the self-worthiness fully dependent and affected by external sources, it becomes a stock price in the market, fluctuating up and down with little predictability.
Gaining self-worthiness also becomes a relentless chase to close the gap between self and others. Like a dog chasing its own tail, the frustration kicks in and eventually bitterness sets in that developed into a self-perceived sense of unworthiness.
Yet, if this human ego is the root of all evil, why aren't the newborn and little toddlers affected? This inquiry led me to the curiosity that perhaps our ego was not born this way.
In our beginning, the purpose of ego is pure, useful and authentic. It is designed to help us with our self-identity and respect to anchor our existence. A healthy ego also motivates us to strive for excellence, so that we can be purposeful in our lives.
However, just like every part of our body and mind, growth takes place.
When we were just a little child, still incapable of taking care of ourselves, our growth is enormously dependent on our parents or caregivers. Like a sponge, we absorb everything we see, hear and feel, which will subsequently form our basis of understanding the world we are going to survive in.
Dwayne Johnson - The Rock, world's richest actor and the heartthrob of millions of men and women, opened up during an interview with Oprah. He described that the relationship he had with his father was a complicated "tough love". Both father and son had never been able to say "I love you" even till the last moment at the father's deathbed. Left with regrets and life lessons learned, Johnson said that he now practises affection and says "I love you" at every opportunity he gets, to his beloved wife and beautiful daughters.
Imagine a little child, nourished on a daily basis with such deep parental love and appreciation, joy and security. Being nurtured in a healthy, balanced and wholesome family environment, this baby ego grew up with the right qualities of love, trust and self-assurance.
Unfortunately, not many of us, are able to grow up in this manner where the parents have great capacity to shower love and affection.
Some parents are emotionally absent, or manipulative, and some may habitually resort to authoritative methods to keep things under control.
Some parents simply do not see the need to compliment or praise the child, believing that this will only spoil or weaken the child's ability to survive in this cold hard society. And where do they get this idea from? Well, their own bitter experience in surviving their tough life.
Some parents subconsciously carried forward their own childhood pain into their own parenthood, projecting all the abusive behaviours they had suffered from their parents into their own current experience. It is an auto-memory that has been stored in their body and now being performed in an auto-pilot mode.
These parents, just like any human being, struggle with their own emotional pain and baggage. As a result of their unconsciousness, they raise their children without adequate awareness to realise their emotional impact on the little ones.
As our little pure ego began to adapt to these treatment and experiences, our self-knowledge and self-belief are being formed at the same time.
This is where emotions of self-shame, distrust, humiliation, unloved, unsupported, loneliness and unworthiness began to take root.
Deprived of healthy love, respect and trust, these unmet emotional needs turned into pain to our ego, constantly haunted by the desire to be worthy but feeling none.
WHY CAN UNWORTHINESS MAKE US SO UNHAPPY AND UNHEALTHY?
If you recall the few examples of unworthiness at the beginning of the article, you will see that unworthiness is a progressive manifesto of unhappiness. It is not an obvious recognisable emotion like anger or sadness. But it inhibits quietly behind the scenes, creating little dramas everyday in your love life, workplace, home and anywhere else that it is able to express itself, without you even realising that it is at play.
Bit by bit, moment by moment, day by day, we follow the downward spiral of unworthiness into our own rabbit hole. If we do not bring consciousness to this subtle habit, we will find ourselves stuck in an unexplainable sense of unhappiness. And when we are unhappy, we tend to become negative and toxic in the relationships with our own selves and with others.
There are 3 key elements that constitute our basic happiness - when we feel safe, when we feel loved and when we feel free.
Well, unworthiness takes away all of them by making us feel vulnerable, unloved and stuck. That is why feeling unworthy can create so much inner suffering.
LACK OF SAFETY
To a normal human being, possessions and control make us feel safe. This is an ancestry DNA that had been passed down to us since caveman times where life is all about survival. To survive requires possessions such as food, home and tools. To control requires power, knowledge and support.
When we perceive ourselves as not good enough, it puts us into a vulnerable spot. Our modern sense of possessions these days are no longer just food, shelter and hunting tools but wealth, status, assets, fame and glory. And these standards are measured comparatively with our lover, peers, our family and relatives, our society.
The pandemic has exposed even more, the vulnerability of having lesser possessions in today's society standards. Those who can afford medical treatments and a big spacious house for quarantining are safer compared to those who struggled to make ends meet and have to risk getting infected in a compact living space.
Our mind reads this news daily and gradually form the definition of "safety".
If you have ever been abandoned by someone you loved because of your lack of wealth or status, your mind will also add this to the critical safety list.
Hence, feeling unworthy makes us feel vulnerable and disposable. That is why this emotion hurts our happiness so much.
LACK OF LOVE
Everybody wants to feel loved; this is a universal emotional need that keeps us alive.
This desire to be loved is so deep that some religions have listed it as one of the biggest karmic reasons of our suffering.
The pain of unworthiness is often found in the experiences of love. Whether it is in finding love, staying in love or falling out of love, each of these phases are entrenched in the endless judgement of worthiness.
"I don’t deserve him." "I'm sure you will find someone who deserves you more than me." "You don't deserve me!" Don't these dialogues sound familiar?
Why do we habitually have to conclude our relationships on the basis of deserving?
This only happens when we see our love partners as a possession. When we treat our lovers and partners as a form of self-possession, the judgement of worthiness come into play in a toxic way.
The same goes to workplace. Being recognised by the management, well-liked by colleagues and adored by team members are a fantastic, ego-stroking feeling. Because so much love is being felt. But when none of this is happening, the pain is devastating. And once again, habitually, we concluded that we are not loved.
Someone who is suffering from physical illness or going through major life crisis or had a traumatic experience, often ended up feeling they have been abandoned by God, by the universe or by life. That is why they have to suffer such pain. Again, this perception inflicts more pain into the experience by feeling unworthy of happiness.
LACK OF FREEDOM
Finally, nothing beats the happiness of being liberated. This is not just in terms of a physical prison but to most people, it is freedom in the heart and mind.
Our sense of unworthiness is built upon critics and these voices come both from external as well as internal.
While we struggle with unworthiness, our fear of being judged makes everything worse. So much so that we find ourselves stuck in a cage where we are too afraid to express ourselves and do what we want.
We can run, hide and stay away from outside judgement but what we can't avoid is our own inner criticisms. These include guiltiness for not doing what you feel you should have done, shamefulness of what had happened to you, and constant self-blaming for failing to accomplish your duties.
These non-stop self-judgement and self-doubt, wavering between whether what you did is right or wrong and beating yourself up for making wrong choices, is the invisible iron cage that we have formed around our lives.
Our caged perception that we are useless, worthless and un-deserving can hold us back from progressing in life and experiencing joy.
This self-restriction to freedom is what causes our pain in unworthiness because our nature is in growing.
The need to constantly pro-create, survive, thrive and evolve is built into our DNA strands. Hence, when we entrap ourselves and refuse to move forward, this contradictory behaviour create immense pain within us, as it is fighting against nature.
HOW CAN WE BREAK FREE FROM THIS EMOTIONAL TRAP?
To stop feeling unworthy, we have to first redefine our understanding of worthiness.
Worthiness has become toxic because it has been turned into an earthly form of qualification for what one deserves in life. In fact, it has even become an inter-race amongst human to become more worthy than another.
Worthiness is one of the many inborn emotions that all of us carry and it was never designed in the way that we have mis-used it today.
Having a breathing life and being given a living experience is so sacred and precious. But many of us are just taking it for granted, fully absorbed in the endless judgement and complaints.
It is as if our Universe has given us a beautiful gift but all we did is busy deciding if we should keep it or throw it away. We have totally skipped the steps of deep gratitude, appreciation and simply being in the present itself to experience it.
Feeling worthy is a powerful emotional form of reminder to make sure we do not forget our real purpose and mission in our living journey.
The whole truth to living is in being and becoming what we have set out to be in this existential opportunity. True worthiness is being worthy of this life given to us.
When you shift your worthiness definition inwards and upwards, you begin to liberate yourself from the attachments to superficial recognitions.
DEPROGRAM YOUR EGO'S MEMORIES
Knowing that our ego was not born in a toxic way, we now have to take conscious actions to rewire the unhealthy memories stored in it from childhood.
The key to stop feeling unworthy is not to deny our shortcomings but to have a more balanced and reasonable appraisal of ourselves.
If your sense of unworthiness stems a lot from early childhood influence, especially in feeling insecure, unloved or restricted, take time to re-assess these memories.
Learn to identify which self-perceptions were implanted into your belief system by your parents unintentionally. Perhaps it is the idea that you are always so slow, uncreative, lazy, shy, ugly-looking or stupid, re-assess them yourself now with greater consciousness. Which one of these remarks are really true? Realise also how much of these self-labels have sabotaged or held back your life?
As a child, I was often told that I am short and that I have inherited this gene from my father's family. I saw how my uncle put himself through a lot of painful exercises to grow one centimetre taller and I always hear the adults mocking my grandfather or aunties about their small height. These remarks and memories were deeply ingrained in me.
In subconsciousness, I grew up becoming very inferior about my shortness. For the next fifteen years, as soon as I started my working life, I had worn high platform shoes and high heels all the time despite the pain. I avoided going for sports activities because I fear that I would look short in my sports shoes. Even going on a park walk or short hiking, I wore heels. Heels were my protective shield in facing the world.
I never realise how deeply insecure I was about my own appearance until I went to a 7-day silent retreat at a Zen center. It was 7 days of hell for me as I struggled with the most absurd pain of feeling "naked" and vulnerable - no make ups, no nail polish, no heels, only plain white baggy t-shirts and pants.
This acute awareness woke me up overnight and I began to analyse my behaviour and emotional reaction. It was a liberating moment when I realise that my childhood memories had trapped me in this self-critical mode.
This conscious awareness kickstarted my deprogramming and the rest was simply adapting to a new way of appreciating myself.
Today, I am still in the same physical state, not tall and slender like actresses and models but I am totally at ease with my body and myself. I looked at my height and realise that at 152cm, it fits completely well with my overall body shape and proportion. I rarely wear heels now and am a fan of comfy shoes and yoga outfits that my body feels so happy in.
BUILD A HEALTHIER SELF-WORTH PORTFOLIO
After you have redefined what worthiness means to you and deprogrammed unhealthy ego-damaging memories, the final step is to build your very own self-worth portfolio.
This is a pyramid framework that I personally use.
The first layer consists of your self-worth anchoring and foundation.
The second layer is intention-driven actions to deepen worthiness in meaningful ways.
The top and third layer is the core purpose of your worthiness.
#1. FOUNDATION: Anchoring your worthiness in body-mind-heart
Our foundation of worthiness should be built on our innate being. To me, having a healthy body, a balanced and intuitive mind and a kind loving heart are the three anchoring points of my worthiness of life.
Hence, I focus on taking good care of my body, that includes unconditional love without judgement. I stopped criticising it is too fat or too short. I accept my body shape but also take ownership to keep it nourished and well-rested.
For my mind, I dedicate myself to acquire more life knowledge, healing studies, philosophies and world views. I spend time to master intuitive skills, to expand the mind ability beyond analytical logic. I practise mindfulness and meditation to help my mind stay calm and joyful.
For my heart, I make sure that I take healthy care of my emotions through self-regulation and learning the art of living. I no longer allow or permit toxicity to enter my heart space. I gave 100% trust to my heart and allow it to empower me.
I believe that our body, heart and mind are precious gifts to us from our life and Soul. My duty is to take good care and make good use them, to make my existential living worthy.
#2. INTENTION: Pursue your goals based on soulful intention
To solve a problem like unworthiness, we cannot simply do it through cognitive works. We will need to get ourselves into the motion of actions but in a meaningful and holistic way.
Most of us can get easily skewed in finding our worth in only one place such as love or work. This over-investment of our energy and time can push us out of balance, especially when the responses we see do not make us feel worthy.
Always make sure you cover the 6 key aspects of your life with equal love and attention - Love, Work, Family, Health, Wealth and Spirituality.
Set a common intention towards these 6 aspects - such as Success, Harmony, Positive Growth or Abundance.
Then list down what conscious actions and choices you would take to make these 6 aspects of your life worthy.
#3. PURPOSE: Transcend your worthiness through living your life purpose
Living our life purpose is the ultimate reason we have chosen to exist on this planet. All our sense of worthiness comes to this tip of the pyramid for full self-actualisation.
Identifying and living your life purpose also help to keep you in balance and focused in acknowledging your real self-worth, instead of being pulled away by external demands, which may not be meaningful to you at all.
Our greatest worth will be deeply felt when we become useful and purposeful in our life, able to use our inner gifts to serve and make a difference in this world.
By completing your portfolio with a solid foundation, action-packed intention and life purpose, you re-establish a new relationship with worthiness.
Worthiness now becomes your helpful life engine instead of self-sabotaging machine.
If you find this article useful and would love to explore how these steps can help your current state of emotional needs, I will be happy to chat more with you. Check out how my therapy and coaching programs can support your self-transformational journey by simply booking a free 30 min exploration call with me.
Love & light to you always.
Silvia Siow | Emotional Healer & Coach | Certified Emotion Code™ Practitioner
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