I often am witness to a client’s deep feelings of unworthiness as they explore possibilities in their lives. Feelings of unworthiness take the joy out of life, zap our energy, and create barriers to happiness and success. Unworthiness takes many forms. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
• Considering your needs last when making small and big decisions
• Experiencing anxiety or discomfort when being complimented or recognized
• Not thinking to care for yourself in times of stress
• Comparing yourself negatively to others
• Freezing up when it’s time to take action
• Basing happiness on others’ approval
Unworthiness is a limiting belief that can have its roots in our upbringing or from past experiences that we interpret as “failure.” I think of unworthiness as a “ghost” from the past that can haunt our present.
Unworthiness can cause shame, but since it appears to be a part of our humanity, there is nothing to be ashamed about. If you notice that you feel “less than” the people around you or feel undeserving of happiness or success, congratulations! Noticing is the first step to seeing unworthiness for what it is. The second step is to take necessary actions to recognize, feel, and live out of your real worth as a human being.
There are simple, daily practices that can help you appreciate who you are and what you contribute to your world. They can also build your confidence to step into your best, deserving self. Here are just a few:
• Pay attention to what you feel unworthy about – get clear about it.
• Pay attention to what triggers feelings of unworthiness. Do they come from others’ words, your own thoughts, or external events? How do these triggers impact your moods, feelings, attitudes, body, and actions?
Spend some time with the following questions:
• Who am I when I feel unworthy?
• What am I holding back?
• What am I resisting?
• What can I let go of?
• Who do I want to be? Am I ready to claim that for my life?
• Make a list of characteristics, strengths, and values you appreciate in yourself. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust to help you with this exercise.
• Write down any compliments you have received – practice saying “thank you” to anyone who recognizes your positive aspects and contributions.
• Think about what you do well. How have you improved over time?
• Remember a time when you felt comfortable about yourself. What was happening? What were you doing? Focus on how it felt to feel good about yourself whether the event was big or small.
• Take a moment to focus on your strengths and talents each morning. Make a conscious intention to use them and to be grateful for them throughout the day.
• Each evening, look in the mirror and tell yourself what you appreciate about yourself – “I appreciate helping my customer with that paperwork – I cared that he got it right and he seemed really grateful.” “I appreciate my patience with mom today when she got forgetful.” “I appreciate my ability to cook the meal I prepared for my family tonight – they raved!”
• Notice and appreciate others for their contributions – how we treat others impacts how we treat ourselves: “I loved your idea in the meeting and the way you presented it – it showed real creativity.” “I appreciate the kindness you showed my family – you have a really big heart.” “Thank you for listening – it made a big difference for me.”
• Pay attention to what you want when big and small decisions are being made. Take a chance that it will be considered if you say it out loud.
• Notice what pulls you away from what is good for you. Consider what you really want and notice how that affects your choice.
• Celebrate accomplishments, big and small.
• Attend workshops and read books that can expand your awareness about who you are becoming.
A few suggestions: Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson; Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams; Charge Up Your Life Workbook by Ellen M. Diana, PhD and Connie M. Leach, EdD
With regular practice, you may notice a shift in how you feel about yourself, and you may experience a positive impact on the choices you make and your ability to act on them with courage and commitment. Over time, with practice and patience, you can replace the limiting belief of unworthiness with a sustaining belief in your own self-worth.
About the Author:
Peg McQuarrie is a certified professional coach and the owner of WellSprings Consulting. Her passion is to support others as they step into the successful, meaningful, authentic lives they are meant to live! For almost 20 years, she has helped individuals and work groups maximize their potential and achieve personal, business, and organizational success. Her services include individual coaching, specialized coaching for facilitators, team coaching for work groups, and organizational consulting.
Peg earned her Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University and received her coach training through the Adler School of Professional Coaching. She is certified by the International Coach Federation. Learn more at www.wellspringsconsulting.com