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Feeling Worthless

By Alison Finch

I want to get straight to the heart of this topic, because I firmly believe that there is a simple three-step approach that can cure feelings of worthlessness, even if you've felt crushed by those feelings for many years.

That's right: a cure. It may not surprise you to learn that feeling worthless is very common among women. You almost certainly know that. In fact, feeling worthless is possibly the most obvious symptom of low self-esteem. But it's also one of the easiest to overcome.

Let me provoke you for a moment by making a bold statement about worthlessness. You may want to reject it out-of-hand, but I urge you to hear me out on this point because I'm going to show you how to prove this statement is true!

Feelings of worthlessness are entirely subjective. They are all in the mind. They have no basis in reality. They do not constitute a problem that requires "fixing", and you can choose to stop feeling worthless simply by opening your mind. Fixing your self-esteem as a whole is not quite so easy, but nevertheless it is a reality for every woman.

OK, I know that some of you are now cross with me. You may even want to scream at me "it's all very well for you to say that, but I've been feeling worthless all of my life and I have no idea how to stop and it's driving me CRAZY and, and, oh I'm so sick of being ME!"

Whether you're cross or not, I'd like you to think carefully about what I've got to say next. It's about how we might assess what something is worth.

What's the easiest thing to value?
How about a ten-dollar bill, in pristine condition, uncrumpled, never having changed hands? It's worth 10 dollars, right? To you, to me, to anybody. Imagine sealing that newborn, crispy ten-dollar bill in a watertight container and dropping it in the middle of a deep lake. What's it worth now? Well, it's still got an intrinsic value of 10 dollars, but in order to hand it over to a storekeeper in exchange for some food, you'd have to rent a pretty sophisticated boat, some fancy detection equipment, and maybe a team of skilled divers to get that box back. And that would cost you far more than 10 dollars. At the bottom of a lake, your perfect, crispy ten-dollar bill is worth less than nothing.

What's that got to do with you?
You had some intrinsic value when you were born. Everybody does. You had a potential capacity to make the world a better place, to bring joy and happiness to others, to experience a sense of emotional, spiritual, and physical fulfilment. That was worth something. It still is. Because you still have a potential capacity to do those things.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us."
- Marianne Williamson -

But what if you're an exception? What if your parents, the other kids at school, your ex-husband, or the rest of society has gradually knocked all of that potential worth out of you?

Well, they haven't. I can be sure of that, because it's impossible to take away a living person's capacity to add value to the world. Only you can suppress that value. Only you can decide to hide yourself away, feeling empty and alone. Only you can put yourself in the position of a ten-dollar bill at the bottom of a lake.

Do you see what power you have, right there in your own hands?
No matter how tough your childhood, no matter how rotten your luck, you can CHOOSE to enrich the world every day simply by the way you interact with others, by the way you make caring decisions, and by the way you feel about yourself.

If you're feeling worthless right now, then I'd like to ask you a question. What proactive steps have you been taking recently to overcome those feelings? Many, many women - when I put this question to them - answer with something along the lines of "um, well, nothing really because I feel stuck in a rut."

Those women, all of them, are certainly not happy that they feel like that. But feeling like that is a habit that has become - almost paradoxically - a source of comfort to them. Why? For one of two reasons:

  1. Feeling worthless is a safe option because it reduces the amount of pain you suffer when things go wrong. If you already know that you're no good and that no one will fall in love with you, or give you a job, or even care enough to listen to you, then when a rejection wings its way towards you - which it certainly will because it happens to all of us - then you're better prepared than most. You can say: "Ah ha, you can't ruin my life because I already knew this was going to happen; I already knew that you didn't really love me/want me/value me!"

  2. Feeling worthless is an easy option; if you're worthless there's no need to try to do well and succeed in the things that matter to you because there is simply no point. Also, if you act as if your opinions and your desires are all worthless then people leave you alone. If you say you have no remarkable skills or talents then there is no need to apply them. If you say that you are a useless, hopeless nobody then people will expect far less from you. And just maybe you could get lots of sympathy and perhaps even another person (on a white horse in shining armour) coming to your rescue to sort your life out for you.
Deep down, all of us really WANT to feel valued
But, the harsh truth is, we will feel valued only if we are willing to contribute something to the world around us. And whether we contribute anything or not is a choice. OUR choice.

A few of you might be annoyed with me at this point because you're still feeling worthless but you do not agree that you are either choosing the safe, easy options or looking for a sympathy vote. If so, let's take a look at your logic.

Your annoyance can only be caused by the injustice of my suggesting you are choosing the "safe" or "easy" option. You're saying to me "Don't put me down. I'm not like that. I AM WORTH MORE THAN THAT!"

Exactly my point! Please remember, I am not the one doubting your self-worth, you are. All I'm doing is pointing out that if you're feeling worthless then it simply means that you are not doing as well in the areas that matter to you and therefore you need to invest in your self-esteem. There are no exceptions: if you want to feel like a worthwhile human being then you have to really work at it like everyone else and never give up on yourself.

It's up to you know to acknowledge the fact the all human beings are capable of adding value to society, including YOU. As an adult there are no excuses for saying things like "I'm a worthless, stupid, lazy, ugly, useless, pathetic, helpless woman" because - as an adult - you now have the choice not to be any of these things.

All you have to do is acknowledge your real value, accept it and then make a commitment to retain it and build upon it. George Bernard Shaw once said:

"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

Woolly-thinking in the Self-esteem Movement
Remember that old adage about the road to somewhere nasty being paved with good intentions? Here are just two examples.

  1. The Self-esteem Movement has attempted to wrap us all in cotton-wool for years now in the hope of protecting our precious self-esteem. It's the "self-esteem is our birthright" argument.

    Sadly, the only people who cling to this argument are people with low self-esteem who either have no idea how to improve matters, or lack the will to do so. The argument seduces them, because it appears to hold out hope that "someone else" might somehow take responsibility for their lack of self-esteem and magically confer higher self-esteem upon them, like a court awarding compensation.

    Believe me, this won't happen, and nor should it. If you've ever been even slightly seduced by this argument, try asking someone whom you consider to possess strong self-esteem whether she believes it was her birthright or whether she had to earn it for herself. You can guess what she'll tell you.

  2. The Self-esteem Movement seems to want us to believe that both self-esteem and self-worth are "binary" - that is, they exist in only one of two states like a light-switch that can be on or off. You've either got self-esteem or you haven't. Of course, this fits well with the first point, but it's simply NOT TRUE.

    Your self-esteem is more like a mosaic - made up of lots of little pieces, some of which can be damaged or missing to the detriment of the whole. You can make small improvements (baby steps, if you like) in one area, or in several areas at the same time. Either way, the overall mosaic will become more defined, stronger, and more appealing.

The best path forward
Thankfully, I sense that the world is beginning to reject the "teachings" of the Self-esteem Movement. Their good intentions have not delivered the results that were hoped for. There is a far better path to tread, and it leads to somewhere meaningful. It's a path that anyone can follow if they want to. The signpost showing the way is this:

Self-esteem = doing well x feelgood factor

The truth of the matter is that NO-ONE is worthless but some people are worth more than others. Of course it's true that some people are born with physical features that are generally considered more beautiful than the average person's physical features. Other people are more intelligent, some are more athletic but none of this is anything like as important as whether you make the most of who you are today and what you've got going for you right now. If you do this, and keep doing this day-in, day-out for the rest of your life, I can guarantee that you will never feel worthless again. You'll be far too busy adding value here, there and everywhere to stop and wallow in self-pity.

Right at the beginning of this article I promised you a cure for worthlessness. Here it is, in three straightforward steps:

  1. Acknowledge your real value by writing a list of your strengths, attributes and the good things that you do each day. If you've taken the Ultimate Self-esteem Test, then refer to your Self-esteem Profile and the Self-help Programs recommended to you to remind yourself of both your strengths and the areas you still need to work on. Accept this list as your starting point.

  2. Make a commitment now to build your self-esteem and keep adding positive things to your life every day and find it within yourself to eliminate things from the negative side. Do more smiling, share more kind thoughts and caring emotions, be curious, optimistic, and courageous, work hard and have fun. And reduce the time and energy you expend in whingeing, moaning, or feeling sorry for yourself.

  3. Be your own judge. You know yourself better than anyone and now that you're an adult it is up to you to decide your worth and to attempt to live up to realistic expectations of yourself.
When I was living and working in Australia a few years ago I heard for the first time the expression "tall poppy syndrome". It captures the notion that small-minded people often like to put down those who strive to do well because "tall poppies" make little weeds seem even smaller!

Don't be afraid to be a tall poppy and enjoy the sun shining down on you.


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