Are we worthy?

(Photo by Sirisvisual on Unsplash)

Are we worthy because we’re famous? Rich and successful? Do we feel special because we’re good-looking or well dressed? On days we’ve “contributed,” do we sleep better? 

And when we come across someone else, how do we determine their worth?

Our ability for self-awareness, introspection, and imagination sets us apart from other animal forms. Dogs don’t worry about that time they acted like an idiot at the park. Monkeys don’t care about how infuriatingly noisy they are. And no bear has ever lost sleep over its diet and body type. All these are solely human problems, courtesy of our advanced brains and social structure. 

Evolution is overrated, don’t you agree?

I’m reading a book where the author suggests we strip away all the frills and fuss and honestly examine our concept of self-worth. He insists — page after page — that we go down this rabbit hole of “and then what”? Work down from our most significant worries, peeling away layers of prejudice and beliefs, until we turn a corner and stumble upon our most primal fear. 99 times out of 100, the author claims that our deepest, darkest worry is the same. Across races and genders and ages and ideologies. Our deepest fear is that we’re not good enough. 

An example of going down the rabbit hole using the “and then what” method: 

I’m worried I’ll be late for an appointment.

And then what?

The other person would think I’m rude.

And then what?

That would mean awkwardness and possible harshness between us.

And then what?

They might cancel my appointment and refuse to see me again.

And then what?

I would feel embarrassed and hurt.

And then what?

It would remind me of all the other times I’ve messed up. 

And then what?

Well, surely that means I’m consistently unable to do well at basic things.

And then what?

I would feel like a failure. Like I’m not good enough. 

Another example:

I yelled at my kid/partner/friend today. 

And then what?

I was so angry, and they were being inconsiderate.

And then what?

I should have stayed calm, though. Yelling doesn’t help.

And then what?

I’m worried I was too harsh with them. I apologized, but they might still be hurt.

And then what?

They might not love me. Or like me. At least for a while.

And then what?

They might not want to be around me as much.

And then what?

I would feel lonely, sad, and guilty for overreacting. 

And then what?

Isn’t it obvious? I’m not a very nice person.

And then what?

I have so many faults. I’m impatient, harried, and so quick to judge.

And then what?

I wish I was better. I just feel I’m not good enough.

As the author said, 99 times out of 100, we’re afraid that we’re somehow worthless and damaged. 

The obvious solution would be to work on building up our self-esteem. Separating our core worth from all the superficial nonsense. Something along the lines of “I’m not rich or accomplished or good looking or famous. But despite everything I am not, I am worthy. And I like myself.” 

The entire cognitive therapy premise is built on this bedrock. But how do we internalize this? Well, that would look different for everyone. 

My personal process is simple and uncluttered. I’m at a point in my life where I crave simplicity — of thought and action and emotions. I want to experience life — the good and bad parts — without feeling like I’m responsible for everything. Being a perfectionist with high standards isn’t glamorous, despite what they show on TV. It is exhausting, soul-crushing, and hard to live with. 

And since I want simplicity, I’ve kept it basic. I’ve amassed a collection of activities to nudge me along the right path. A healthy diet. Exercise. Mindful choices about where I go and who I associate with. Hobbies that enrich my soul. Reading the right books that don’t promise gimmicks or overnight success. 

And I’m doing away with nonsensical expectations. As long as my family is safe, fed, and watered, I’m giving myself the space to make mistakes and the grace to laugh or cry about them later. 

Are we worthy? Yes, we are. 

We may not always feel like it, but we are.

It’s that profound, yet that simple.

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