Melle Smets, Tent Station 2007. Image: mellesmets.nl.
Hey, this is strange. This always enthusiastic client of mine just walked out of the room but didn’t rave about the session we had just had. Maybe she felt she didn’t get enough out of it? How did I do? Have I possibly overlooked anything? I’ll make sure to do a better job when she comes back for her next session. Or even better, let me send her an email with some additional tips.
Ooops. Stop the tape. Let me pause here.
I realize I’ve just run straight into the rabbit hole called unworthiness. Of course it’s perfectly fine to send her an extra email, it will probably help her. However, in this case it is not. I only consider writing my client because she wasn’t as enthusiastic as she usually was which made me feel insecure. Putting in the extra effort is motivated by a feeling of lack and the accompanying programming of not being, not having or not doing enough. And that’s a trap.
I use the word programming on purpose here, as it describes exactly what it is. This sense of deficiency exists in my mind. And it has gotten there because of the thoughts and feelings that I -like everybody else- have picked up when I was still young, from my parents, from other adults, at school, by watching the news, well, you name it. It’s everywhere.
It’s time we start to recognize this lack programming for what it is. Negative trains of thought that trigger fear in us and as a result directly influence the actions we take. Overdelivering in my case.
There is more to this issue. Do you know that the feeling of not being good enough is very widespread? And that it is one of the main causes that only a few talented professionals choose to live to their fullest potential? The vast majority simply doesn’t trust themselves enough to start to take action.
I’m not surprised by these numbers. Think about it this way: how to start acting on your desires, your inspiration and on what brings you joy -important ingredients on your way to happy working- while underneath there’s this pervasive programming of unworthiness making you feel really bad about yourself, and sometimes even causing a fight-or-flight response in you? Sounds pretty hard to me.
Truth is, it’s not. Yes you need to work on it and yes it takes some training. But this muscle that makes you mentally healthy and courageous so that you can go beyond your small brain and discover new terrain, can be exercised.
The first step is to start to recognize when the unworthiness programming is kicking in and is getting a hold on you. It may surface in many different ways. Here are nine common examples:
- Putting the bar very high for yourself and for your performance. Perfectionism and working very hard are definitely warning signals;
- Beating yourself up for not being further in your career, for not having lost those extra summer holiday kilos, for yelling at your kids while trying to get them ready for school and for many other issues, small and big;
- Pleasing the people around you, for example by being very helpful to others. You might even realize that a lot of it is motivated by the attempt to earn other people’s approval;
- Feeling that you should spend every minute of the day usefully, as if you can’t hang around without being productive at all;
- Procrastinating tasks and projects that you know are important to do;
- Thinking that there’s something wrong with you that really needs to be fixed;
- Comparing yourself to other people and with where they are at in their lives;
- Numbing your feelings by eating peanut butter crackers (my personal favorite), drinking alcohol, going out all the time, constantly checking the news, gluing yourself to your phone and social media, chain smoking or any other addictive behavior;
- Feeling that there must be something off with you. Otherwise you already would have landed that perfect job, identified your mission in life, been with the love of your life, lost those extra kilos, or … you fill in the blank for what you feel is lacking in your life.
Maybe you are recognizing yourself in one or more of these feelings and behaviors? One thing: forehead slapping is forbidden. Do refrain from blaming yourself, as this just adds another layer of self-judgement. Look at it in this way: you are in good company, as it happens to all of us, including me. And it has made a huge difference when I learned to take full responsibility for my own feelings so that I could smoothly find my way back out of the rabbit hole of feeling unworthy towards kindness. Towards embracing well-being.
Whenever you notice yourself being trapped in unworthiness, this is what you can do. First of all, you meet yourself exactly where you are, without any judgement. This is what it is, and thank God you are starting to get an eye for the underlying mechanism.
Secondly, be with yourself and with the feelings that are coming up when observing the mechanism. Do invite the feelings by asking yourself: What is my now feeling? You then allow them to be there, exactly as they are.
This includes the very critical voices that possibly tell you how stupid you are or why you hadn’t seen that one coming. Again! You listen to them, with no judgement. No need to agree or disagree as this isn’t about who is right or what is wrong. This is about you becoming the watcher of the inner conflict that is playing out within you. And for tending for that process so that the conflicting energies can change into something new.
As long as you hold the intention to stay kind to yourself, you can go through this process with confidence. There is no need to be afraid of being taken over by strong emotions, like a deadly fear or a panic attack. You won’t get more than you can handle so you can trust your process and allow for everything to come up that is present in you now.
Congratulations to you! You just got yourself out of the rabbit hole of unworthiness.
I would love to hear how you are doing with this issue. Do you recognize it when unworthiness shows up? How do you deal with it? How are you doing with becoming the watcher? Please leave your reaction in the comment’s section of this article. You will always get a response.