Safe Haven Counselling
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How’s Your Sense of Worthiness?

Have you ever paused to wonder why you don’t go after the things you want most in life? Why you hold back and accept less?

This may be tied to your sense of worthiness.

From the depth of our relationships to the heights of our ambitions, the belief in our own worthiness—or the lack thereof—guides our journey through life, influencing how we see ourselves, engage with others, and pursue our dreams.

Worthiness determines the quality of our self-esteem, the nature of our interactions, and even the manner in which we are treated by others. This deep-seated belief, so central to our being, has its roots entwined in the earliest chapters of our lives, through the bonds formed and the attachments made. Yet, as we grow and evolve through life, we discover that the narrative of worthiness is not set in stone but is a story we can author ourselves, with intention and insight.

The Roots of Worthiness: Childhood Attachment

Our journey into worthiness is founded in the relationship between a child and their caregivers. This early bonding lays the groundwork for our fundamental view of ourselves. As babies and young children we are entirely dependent on our caregivers for not only our physical development but also our emotional development. In our interactions with our parents, we learn whether we are deemed worthy of love, attention, and respect.

As Jamie Kern Lima points out in her book Worthy, “Our earliest experiences of acceptance or rejection imprint a blueprint of our worth that we carry into every corner of our lives.”

This blueprint influences not just how we see ourselves but also how we allow others to treat us. When our early experiences are positive, they give us a sense of inherent value, teaching us that we are deserving of love and respect. Negative experiences–or a lack of bonding in general– can leave us questioning our worth, often leading to a cycle where we unconsciously seek out situations that reaffirm this flawed belief. In other words, this interaction pattern becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,

Our early experiences not only set the stage for how we perceive ourselves; they also sculpt our patterns of interaction, dictating how we give and receive love, trust, and respect.

dr. gabor mate

Dr. Maté challenges us to confront and understand these early imprints, advocating for a journey of self-discovery and healing. He believes that awareness is the first step towards change, suggesting that “By understanding our past, we can step out of its shadow and begin to make choices based on conscious thought rather than unconscious conditioning.” This process of understanding and healing is not about blaming our caregivers or our past but about recognizing the power we have to reshape our narrative of worthiness.

Maté invites us to look inward, to untangle the threads of our early conditioning, and to embrace the possibility of rewriting our stories with a profound sense of self-worth and acceptance.

Building Our Sense of Worthiness

Building a sense of worthiness is a healing journey that requires vulnerability, courage, and self-compassion. Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor and storyteller, has extensively explored these themes, offering invaluable insights into the art and science of embracing our worthiness. Through her research, Brown has illuminated the path to cultivating a strong sense of self-worth, emphasizing the importance of connection, authenticity, and self-acceptance.

Practice Self-Compassion

Before we can connect authentically with others, we need to nurture a compassionate relationship with ourselves. Self-compassion is the first step towards healing and building a robust sense of worthiness. It involves treating ourselves with the same kindness, understanding, and patience we would offer to a dear friend. This can help mitigate the harshness of self-criticism and open us up to the possibility of connecting with others. When we treat ourselves with compassion, we’re more likely to believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.

Such practices can be challenging if we have adopted an unhealthy view of self and have a strong self-critical part. Therapies such as Internal Family Systems (IFS) are highly effective in helping us see ourselves differently. A key concept of IFS is that at the core of every individual is a Self that is loving, compassionate, wise, kind, creative and much more.

Embrace Vulnerability

Brené Brown’s research sheds significant light on the connection between vulnerability and worthiness, presenting vulnerability not as a sign of weakness, but as a profound strength and a pathway to deeper self-acceptance and connection with others. According to Brown, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is essential for developing a greater sense of worthiness.

Connections forged through vulnerability are more meaningful and lasting. When we share our true thoughts and feelings, we offer others the opportunity to see us fully and to accept us in our entirety. This mutual vulnerability fosters a sense of worthiness, as it reassures us that we are valued and accepted for our authentic selves. By being vulnerable, we affirm to ourselves and others that we are worthy of love and belonging, just as we are.

Cultivate Supportive Relationships

Surrounding ourselves with people who recognize and affirm our worthiness is crucial. These relationships act as mirrors, reflecting our value back to us and reinforcing our belief in our own worth. Brown states that we are hardwired for connection—it’s in our biology. “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people,” she writes. By creating genuine connections with others, we reinforce our worthiness, finding strength in our shared humanity.

Engaging in activities that align with your interests and values can lead you to meet like-minded individuals. Whether it’s joining a club, attending a workshop, or participating in community service, these shared experiences provide common ground for initiating conversations and forging new relationships.

A Journey of Worthiness

Our sense of worthiness is not a static entity but a dynamic quality that evolves as we journey through life. While our early attachments lay the groundwork, it is through intentional action—cultivating self-compassion, embracing vulnerability and surrounding ourselves with love and support—that we can build and sustain our sense of worthiness.

In the end, discovering and nurturing our worthiness is perhaps the most profound journey we can undertake—one that leads us not just towards a better sense of self but towards a more fulfilling and authentic life.