Overcoming Unworthiness

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Dave Ursillo of DaveUrsillo.com.

“Your problem is you are too busy holding on to your unworthiness.” ~Ram Dass

For all that we are free and empowered to do in this day and age, why is it that so few are willing to take a “leap of faith” and strive to better their lives as they wish?

The culprits that cripple dreams are oft-discussed by Jonathan here on Illuminated Mind: fear, self-doubt and unworthiness.

Self-doubt is so prevalent because it is safe and secure — a cocoon of protection that insulates from risk, chance and the unknown. No matter how naturally fearful we might be of the dangers and consequence of risk-taking (it’s human nature, right?), few of us would actually choose to be protected at the cost of unworthiness, insecurity and even self-loathing. And yet few can honestly say that self-doubt and unworthiness have no influence in their lives.

Feelings of unworthiness are so common because people outside of ourselves hardly ever see or hear our own self-doubt.

If we wore self-doubt on our sleeves, we would soon find ourselves repulsing many important people and loved ones from our lives: an outward lack of confidence or belief in one’s self are incredibly unbecoming traits. Think about it like this: If you met an attractive stranger, you wouldn’t tell him or her that you have no confidence in yourself to be a worthy boyfriend or girlfriend. At your job, you wouldn’t readily volunteer to a boss or manager that you don’t believe you’re worthy of a long-awaited promotion. So, why waste the time, effort and energy harping upon self-doubt in your own head — chances that could be used to create opportunities and achievements?

Self-Doubt: A Quiet Culprit

Self-doubt is private; unworthiness is quiet. But that they are confined within our minds doesn’t mean they are docile and peaceful: unworthiness and self-doubt are powerful inner demons that with time can grow to heavily weigh upon us — so much so that our lives are wracked by fear and self-loathing.

Listen, I myself go through self-doubt, even feeling unworthy of the goals that I’m pursuing. I think just about everyone does. Indeed, there’s even a benefit to playing Devil’s Advocate within your own head; thinking about your life’s decisions and actions from a few different perspectives is a smart process. Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle to achieving our pursuits in life is holding onto unworthiness. Self-doubt is seductive: it creeps into our minds and makes itself a home. But before long, the weight of unworthiness feels like you’re carrying masses of iron upon your shoulders.

Undoing Unworthiness

There are simple methods to help us undo feelings of unworthiness.

If their prevalence comes from their very private and quiet nature, we counteract them by making them loud: what if we imagined verbalizing or publicizing our self-doubt? How would others react? When you speak your unworthiness out loud, how does it sound to your own ears?

Through verbalizing self-doubt, journaling insecurities, or even keeping a video diary, we can counteract self-doubt and undo feelings of unworthiness:

1. Imagine…

1a. Would I tell someone I love/who loves me this self-doubt? What would he/she say? — A loved one will likely be very understanding, but strongly encourage you to overcome it and convince you that you’re capable of doing so.

1b. Would I tell an acquaintance, associate, or coworker this self-doubt? What would he/she say? — As we get further away from our closest friends, lovers and relatives and extend out from our inner circle of relationships, people will start to be repelled from your verbalized self-loathing.

1c. Would I tell a stranger on the street this self-doubt? What would he/she say? — You might start to get some stares at this point. Ask yourself, is it worth wasting my own time harping upon self-doubt and unworthiness?

1d. Would I tell a mentor or someone I look up to this self-doubt? What would he/she say? — Your mentor will likely react by telling you to discard those pointless thoughts, to carry on, to persevere. And you can, without someone else telling you to do so.

1e. Would I tell someone who looks up to me this self doubt? What would he/ she say? — Someone who looks up to you wouldn’t believe his or her ears if you expressed self-loathing. Be strong and overcome it, if not for yourself, then for those who look up to you.

2. Express…

2a. Write your self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness down on paper. Upon writing it, do the feelings it dissipate — as if a building pressure within you has finally been released? If you go back in a few days or weeks time and reread what you wrote, does it look foolish or embarrass you?

2b. Video Journal yourself when you’re feeling particularly unworthy and lacking. Once when I was attempting to record an episode of my video-blog RenegadeTV, I was particularly down and frustrated. I went back and watched the video days later — and was completely shamed by how unnecessarily I was reacting to simple frustrations. The idea isn’t to shame yourself, but to realize how throwing a pity party and being entrapped by self-loathing are pointless and ought to be discarded from the start.

Self-loathing and unworthiness breeds a strong internal conflict within you — one that manifests itself in total frustration, anxiety, and even depression. It arises when the wild and free human spirit within us confronts the demons of insecurity and self-doubt that linger upon our minds. This internal clash obliges us to choose between releasing self-doubt and undoing our sense of unworthiness, or continue to be weighed down by them.

With consequences as stark as night and day, one thing to me is clear: we ought to make the decision — right now, today — to discard self-doubt and unworthiness, to take a “leap of faith” and strive to better their lives as best we can.

What technique works best for you?

About the author: Dave Ursillo is a 24-year-old American writer from Rhode Island currently living in Boston, MA. He writes on the subjects of inner growth, spiritual enlightenment and personal development on his blog, DaveUrsillo.com, and can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Evan December 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I’m not sure if we disagree. I think our doubts and feelings are there for good reason. I think to move through them means learning why they are there – what ‘benefits’ they provide us.

I’m also in favour of safety.

Reply

Dave Ursillo December 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Hi Evan,

This piece isn’t to say that doubts and insecurities serve no purpose. They certainly have their place. Indeed, their physiological origins date back hundreds of thousands of years ago — a part of human evolution that has ensured our species’ very survival!

However, as they pertain to our everyday lives — specifically, pursuits like bettering ourselves, striving for a higher standard of living, entrepreneurial ventures, and so on — self-doubt can wrack our minds and literally hamstring us from achieving things that are quite achievable. Sometimes, it’s a matter of overcoming the limitations that we *think* exist in our minds.

Do you agree? :) Thanks for your thoughts

Contrarian December 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Dave – nice job, I appreciate your article.

Self-doubt, self-loathing and a low self-esteem, often originates with a self-destructive and neurotic inner-dialogue we have with ourselves.

What others say to us or about us we hear with our outer ear. What we say to ourselves, we hear with our inner ear, and this is most important.

Our subconscious cannot take a joke. We need to be kind and gentle with how we speak to ourselves.

I find it ironic that we would never speak to other people with the same damning, condemning, and critical language that we use with ourselves.

Food for thought …

Reply

Dave Ursillo December 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Contrarian,

I’ve come to really admire your thoughts on Illuminated Mind, so I’m very appreciative for your feedback and compliments.

That such self-doubt and insecurities can come to derail our dreams, goals, even lives… it is something, isn’t it? Like I write in the piece here, if we were to verbalize some of these doubts to others, they would think we were so self-deprecating, so hypercritical.

One memory that sticks out in my mind from years ago was a friend in high school who was getting on my case for being so down on myself. She said, “Stop throwing yourself a pity party.”

That’s always been a good way to counteract self-doubt in my mind, up to this day!

Dave

Dandy December 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Hi Dave,
I’ve struggled with feelings of worthlessness for a good part of my life. I think alot of it boils down to negative self-talk. The things I said to myself were cruel and just plain wrong. You are right about expressing the self-doubt to ourselves. I love the idea of the video journal. If we had a clue as to what we look like when we doubt ourselves, that would really help to turn things around. Once I started commiting to positive self-talk it really changed things for me. I started paying attention to my posture, tone of voice, eye contact with others. I sought therepy for my anxiety. These things helped me tremendously. It turned my life around. It is wonderful when you go from telling yourself you are worthy to actually believing whole heartedly that you are worthy of every good thing in life. Thanks for writing this important post Dave!
~Dandy

Reply

Dave Ursillo December 16, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Dandy,

I’m so glad to hear that you’ve overcome the dreadful cycle of unworthiness (or as you phrase it, worthlessness, which is even more powerful). It seems based on your comment that once you “stood up to yourself” — or, reached a proverbial breaking point where it began to seem actually counter-logical and counter-productive to be so cruel to your own self — that you started to reclaim your thoughts, mind, and body.

I just began to re-read Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” today. It is an incredibly powerful book on the workings of the mind, especially “the ego,” the voice inside our head that keeps a continuous dialogue going from morning till night. I’d highly recommend that book and would be curious to hear your thoughts on it :)

Dave

Chris December 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Thank you for this post. As a leader in business, a father, and a husband, I often ask myself what are the challenges of why people don’t dream bigger and strive to do more and set goals. Self doubt and unworthiness fall right in line with fear. Self doubt, feelings of unworthiness and fear keep us in the safe place of not failing. The recurring question I have for myself is how to help people overcome these feeling and spark a small flame of greatness in them.

Reply

Dave Ursillo December 16, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Chris,

It’s nothing short of awesome that you strive to understand how to help people overcome these destitute feelings and spark fires determination and worth within them. I suppose the “how” varies from person to person… but let’s keep trying to work on something that works for the majority :)

Dave

Nea | Self Improvement Saga December 16, 2010 at 11:59 pm

My way of dealing with self doubt is to remind my inner critic that she is not in control. If there is something very negative and discouraging that I wouldn’t say to anyone else, I don’t allow my inner critic to say it to me. That may sound a little nuts but it works for me.

Reply

Dave Ursillo December 17, 2010 at 11:23 am

Nea,

This is the exact process of separating the inner voice, the narrator, the incessant dialogue, from our true selves. :)

Deanna Schrayer December 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Hi Dave,
I came here via The Daily Brainstorm and am glad I did. This is a great article with helpful advice and I hope many who “really need to read it” find it too. I felt the self-doubt surging a couple of days ago, and was truly astonished at how far I took it, (I normally hurry up and get it over with).

I’m a writer, so it’s natural for me to grab pen and paper whenever I feel the self-doubt coming on, (or anything for that matter). I find writing out my feelings, for as long as it takes, until I can find nothing else to doubt myself about, then tucking it away and bringing it back out a week or so later to ponder is the most helpful way of overcoming it. I also find it helpful to list the things I know I’m good at, the ways I contribute to society, etc.

In response to Evan, yes, these feelings are sometimes necessary to help us strengthen, but there is nothing at all positive about feeling “I hate myself”. Self-doubt can mean a couple of minutes for many of us, I dare say most of us, but for some, especially those who walk with depression every day of their lives, there is nothing positive about it.

Thank you for this Dave.

Reply

Evan December 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I know several people who live with depression Deanna.

Brandon December 26, 2010 at 12:03 am

Great post David. It brings up a recent I experience had facing self doubt and unworthiness. It was actually at a personal growth seminar, they made us break an arrow with the soft part of our throat! In the excercise you face your fears and doubts and break though them. Interestingly the breakthrough I had from the excercise was an observation not of my self doubt, because I charged to the stage and broke the crap out of that arrow, but that about my inability to be proud of an accomplisment. Before the arrow, my ego was aying oh crap, after it was resigned in saying no big deal. So I think a key to facing unworthiness isn’t just about pushing yourself to do great things, but also to celebrate the fact that you’ve done even simple things, because as easy as something may have been in hindsight, it’s a many accomlishment to be able to go toe to toe with our ego and subconcious and arise victorious!

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Omar December 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm

It’s funny how the mind can stop you from living a great life. We have to train it for positivity and excellence. I allowed my thoughts to cage me into incompleteness and fear. But, my friend offered encouragement and I decided to change my mindset and diet.

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Jasmine Sunshine December 30, 2010 at 1:36 am

Thank you for posting about Ram Dass…he is my hero!

I LOVE the organization that he founded called SEVA. They work with indigenous populations on health projects. They are best known for their work in preventable blindness, and have helped nearly 3 million blind people suffering from cataracts to see again in poor countries around the world. Check them out at http://www.seva.org

I particularly love their GIFTS OF SERVICE catalog. You can restore eyesight to a blind person in someone’s name as a gift. A wonderful alternative gift! Check out the catalog http://www.seva.org/gifts

Thanks Ram Dass!!!!

Reply

Etienne January 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

What you ignore persists. What you resist persists. What you hold onto persists.

Your article is great to solve these issues. By imagining it, you become aware of it. By expressing it, you can’t resist it anyone. If you’re reading this article, I suppose you don’t want to hold onto unworthiness either.

All the keys are there. Great!

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Azra September 15, 2011 at 2:37 am

I voiced my doubts about how I felt about my work whilst I was going through somee very personal stuff to my supervisor. I wish I had not voiced them because I ended up having to leave the post through insideous and very sly bullying and find myself without a job noow because my company will not supply any prospective employers with a decent reference. I feel I have lost 20 years of my career. I will be very careful with whom I share any personal feelings again. My self doubt has unsurprisingly, got worse over the past 18 months.

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Evan December 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Hi Dave, I certainly agree that we are capable of far more than most of us believe.

I guess there are a few people who believe they are a genius and superman all rolled into one – but I haven’t met many of them.

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Kindsey May 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I’m irpmesesd! You’ve managed the almost impossible.

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Deanna Schrayer December 19, 2010 at 9:02 am

Evan, please accept my apology for my tone – although I am “normally” defensive of anyone living with illnesses such as depression, it is very uncharacteristic of me to be so hateful. Apparently I was in some sort of “mood”. And there was no need for me to be defensive in this case at all.

It is so sad to realize just how many people do live with depression, but I believe, in this case, I may have read too far into the point of this post, and for that, Dave, please excuse me.

Thank you again for a thought-provoking post.

Reply

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