Have you ever felt unworthy of something?
Be honest, it happens frequently. Unworthy of someone’s love, unworthy of some award or acknowledgement, unworthy of a promotion. What about feeling that you should have earned or accomplished something that didn’t happen?
Think about the stream of inputs that frame our thoughts of self:
- Job Interviews: You give someone a list of your experiences and accomplishments and they judge whether or not you are “worthy” of the position they are offering.
- Personal Requests: Why did he not accept my “friend” request? Why did she turn me down for a date? Ouch!
- Loan Applications: You are being judged based on a credit rating, debts, income and any other bad financial moves you’ve made along the way. It is a very personal assessment of how you live your life.
- Other Drivers: There is no shortage of drivers who are happy to remind you of the woeful inadequacy of your driving talents.
There is a steady flow of external inputs that influence our sense of self and often, they are not positive. Rejections in any of the areas above erode our sense of self. These things don’t define us yet they inform our self-talk.
Now, consider those times you won, were promoted, got the loan, got the job, got the date, got the affirmation. That felt a lot better didn’t it? What changed from the failure to the success? The negative to the positive? You may find cases where you “upped” your game and improved your performance. Certain times when you positioned yourself more effectively and made the right moves. However, there are often external elements at play. Timing. Anther person’s decision matrix or feelings. The weather – who knows? After a certain point, it was out of your hands.
This is where it gets tricky because it is a very slippery slope. If you blame the result on an ignorant outside world, then you run the risk of missing opportunities to improve or taking responsibility for your own behavior. If you blame yourself for other people’s decisions, your self-confidence can quickly spiral downward. I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for yourself, your actions and your results. I also know that external elements will persistently tell you that you are not worthyand it is critical to protect your sense of self from that poison. Let’s face it, our sense of self can be pretty fragile.
Regardless of whether you did or didn’t change behaviors between successes and failures, one thing remains: you. Your unique collection of experiences, personality traits, quirks, skills, humor and so on. There are always things about yourself that you can improve, but the core “you” is still there. Your worldview, approach and capabilities are uniquely yours and they are good enough. Good enough for what? Good enough for a great life. Good enough to contribute and make a difference. Good enough to find meaning in and give value to the world. However, even though you are innately “good enough”, you must still execute.
The secret to protecting your sense of self from negative inputs is simply doing your best; as much and as often as possible. Doing your best will enable you to reconcile your sense of self with circumstance. It will empower you to recognize what you cannot control and still love yourself when the inevitable external forces impede your desires. Doing your best will also enhance those moments when you achieve your objectives because you will feel that they were truly earned.
No, it isn’t easy. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth as you continually battle those outside forces telling you that you are not good enough. However, by controlling your effort and your attitude, you will be able to claim the higher ground that comes from doing your best. From there, the noise will lessen (just a little) and you will know your best is good enough.