This week I noticed a feeling I hadn’t realized was still hanging around: that I was less worthy than...everyone else.
I had to stop and track it back to where it began: everyone in the family getting more to eat than me (and being told that’s how it should be), having to wear hand-me-down boy’s things when my brothers (even my younger brother) got things new, hearing for years that if there wasn’t enough money, only my brothers would get to go to college (with the implicit threat that if I didn’t do what I was told, there wouldn’t be), being told to wait on my brothers, being told over and over that their feelings mattered but not that mine ever did, etc.
I suspect, in one form or another, many of you reading this have gone through something similar. In one way or another you were told you didn’t matter as much as others did.
I found myself thinking of it this week talking with my friend whose brother attacked her. She is one of the warmest, nicest, most intelligent women I know and yet she, too, carries that implicit feeling that she’s worth less than other people because that’s what her family drilled into her implicitly and explicitly all her life.
It’s an insidious feeling because it’s often under the surface and we don’t even notice that it’s governing our actions (and reactions). When someone criticizes us—for any reason!—we may hear it as confirmation of what we were told growing up. We may be afraid to stand up for ourselves in relationships because we can’t believe the other person really wants to be with us. We may be afraid to parent with authority because we may think we aren’t good enough to do so. We may be reluctant to trust friendships or even if we do to turn to friends when we could use help or support because on some level we’re afraid that this is going to turn out to be the time they tell us they’re too busy or they get fed up and end the friendship completely.
So many lies grow out of that first one—that we are not as worthy as others. So many consequences. To have the lives we want to have we MUST challenge this belief!
1) We can imagine telling the child we were that those were lies—that he or she mattered and continues to matter as much as anyone else.
2) We can make a list of all the things we like about ourselves.
3) We can make a list of evidence we have that other people do see us as worthy and/or like us and/or value what we say or do.
4) We can practice tolerance toward others who do things we don’t like. Note: I am NOT saying tolerate abuse! It’s good to be able to know when something is abusive and take steps to stop the person or at the very least remove ourselves and those we care about from that person’s vicinity. But I’m talking here about everyday mistakes. I’m talking about people truly meaning well but getting caught up in their own fears or hurt and doing something that in turn hurts us. I’m talking about little day to day forgetfulness or being late or...whatever. Again, we can—and should!—decide to step away when these things become a problem for us. At the same time, IF we can accept others even when they make mistakes, then we will find it easier to accept ourselves when WE make mistakes. We can say that it’s not healthy for us to be around someone AND understand that they are doing the best they can.
To reach a point where we realize we are as worthy of success and happiness as anyone else is one of the most empowering things we can do. And it's a process--it doesn't happen all at once. But it's important that we work on feeling worthy because if we don’t feel that way, we will hold ourselves back, not take chances because our fear of rejection is so strong, and never let ourselves truly enjoy any success or happiness we do achieve. But if we can recognize that we are deserving of love and happiness and success, then we increase to an amazing degree our ability to achieve those things.
All of you out there are worthy of being loved, being happy, having success. All of you are wonderful, amazing people and I’m blessed that you come here to read my blog.
Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),
PS Once again Mother Wintermoon and I seem to be synchronized. Here's her post on self-esteem http://romancingthecrone.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/declaration-of-self-esteem/#comments .